A Western disease — this is how diverticulitis and other forms of diverticular disease are often described. This is not surprising, as the rates of diverticular illnesses are noticeably high in European and North American countries, and low in Asian and African countries.
But what exactly causes diverticulitis, and why is it such a prevalent condition today?
Defining Diverticulitis: What Causes This Disease?
To know more about how diverticulitis forms, you must first become familiar with the colon — the area where this disorder occurs. The colon is the part of your large intestine responsible for removing waste from your body. As you age, the walls of the colon, and the large intestines, weaken.
When too much pressure, such as from passing hard stools or straining during bowel movements, is placed on your colon, pouches called diverticula (singular: diverticulum) protrude from the intestinal walls. This is called diverticulosis.
By age 50, at least 50 percent of people are believed to have diverticulosis, while 70 percent are likely to have it when they reach 80 years old.1
Diverticulosis is usually harmless. The sacs can exist in your system without exhibiting any symptoms at all. Sometimes, only very mild symptoms are felt. However, when the diverticula become infected with bacteria from fecal matter, diverticulosis becomes diverticulitis — an entirely different medical condition.
Diverticulitis comes with discomfort and hallmark symptoms, including abdominal pain, constipation, cramping, bloating and, in some cases, rectal bleeding — this occurs when a blood vessel near a diverticulum bursts. If not addressed or treated, diverticulitis can lead to complications.
Diverticulitis Is Becoming a Prevalent Health Condition
While still less common than diverticulosis, it cannot be denied that the incidence of diverticulitis is steadily rising. A study suggests that it has become more common in the U.S. from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, with the rates increasing as much as 50 percent.2
What’s more, cases of young people getting diverticulosis and diverticulitis are also increasing. People aged 20 years old are now reporting symptoms of diverticulitis. Since these patients are often obese individuals, this confirms that there is a likely link between obesity and diverticulitis.3
There is also a link between diverticulitis and low-fiber intake. People in Western countries, where diverticular disease is more prominent, consume a diet that’s mostly composed of low-fiber foods and processed products.
If this trend does not stop, then expect that the cases of diverticulitis will increase more and more. In fact, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) report says that the cost of digestive diseases in the U.S. has now grown to more than $141 billion a year. The good news is, there is a way for you to reduce your risk of diverticulitis, and all diverticular diseases in general. And if you already have diverticulitis, there are ways to control the symptoms and reduce your risk of flare-ups.
Read these articles and educate yourself on diverticulitis — its symptoms, risk factors, causes and recommended diet for people afflicted with this ailment. You can also get reliable prevention tips and methods on how you can control the flare-ups. Diverticulitis can be a painful and uncomfortable condition, but with the proper knowledge, you may be able to spare yourself from this illness.