If you are in the medical line of work, then you would have seen occurrences of patients coming into the ER with severe abdominal pain. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill ‘I ate something spicy and have stomach pain’ pain, but a ‘get me out of this misery and get me morphine’ pain.
What is happening here?
While there are many gut conditions that can cause abdominal pain, one of the suspects include diverticulitis.
What Is A Diverticular Disease?
Diverticulitis is a condition that is contained in a broad range of conditions known as diverticular disease. One other condition in this same group is diverticulosis. Let us break them down:
It is the creation of several sac-like protrusions along the colonic wall. Imagine a long, slender inflated balloon representing your colon, and if you squeeze the balloon just enough you can make bubbles protrude on the side; this is what diverticula or small pouches are that stick out on the side of the colon.
The acute inflammation of diverticula is associated with pain, possible infection and fever. Usually, it is the diverticulosis that occurs first, and in most cases, it flies under the radar until the patient is subjected to a colonoscopy. Diverticulitis comes after this, and this is when people end up in the ER. A good quarter of the affected individuals with diverticular disease have symptoms like an irregular bowel movement, bloating, signs of bleeding or infection and abdominal pain.
Such diseases are most common in industrial cities and nations, with an unprecedented 60% of the population over the ages of 60 falling prey to it. There are certain researchers who also call diverticular disease the “disease of the western civilization”—The USA and Europe have the highest rates of diverticular diseases anywhere in the world, and it is usually rare and unheard of in developing nations.
What Causes Diverticular Disease?
The cause for diverticular disease is still in the midst of being decoded and there is mounting evidence showing that a low-fiber diet plays a key role in its development. If you link it to the fact that it is more prominent in western nations, it all ties in together.
The western diet is comprised mainly of animal-based and processed foods. Animal foods are completely devoid of any form of fiber and you won’t find any in eggs, dairy or meats. Foods that are processed have also been stripped of most of their benefits and fibers are one of them.
Compare the western diet to the diet that is followed in developing countries/continents, such as Asia, Africa, South America—they eat food that is unrefined and traditional. They have very little to no processed foods in their diet, and relying on many plant-based recipes is what prevents chronic diseases in most of the population.
What is the role that fiber has in this?
Most if not all of it.
Fiber is essential in ensuring the formation of healthy bowel movements. Without fibers, constipation becomes a chronic issue that ends up compacting and hardening stool that requires excess strain to force it out.
Over time, this constant straining puts immense pressure on the inside walls of your colon. The body gets back at you, by rewarding you with small, sack-like pouches called diverticula. These bubbles are formed in those locations that are points of weakness in the intestinal wall. The size of these sacs is no more than a centimeter or two—but it is more than enough to give you a trip to the ER.
Treating Diverticular Disease
As you may have guessed: the right course of action is to include more fiber in your diet. A high-fiber diet will ensure that such a diverticular attack doesn’t happen. The risk of diverticular diseases went up with the consumption of cookies, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, French fries, and white bread. If you are gung-ho on getting your colon irrevocably damaged for time untold, then by all means stuff yourself with more junk food and enjoy the ensuing mind-numbing pain that will leave you eating gruel for the rest of your life.
It has been found through studies that physical exercise such as running and jogging, has shown to vastly reduce the occurrence of diverticular diseases. Another study has evaluated the effects of implementing a high-fiber diet in close to 100 patients with acute diverticulitis. After 6 years, it was found that 915 of the patients did not feel any new symptoms and in most cases, the disease receded.
This speaks volumes of the importance of adopting dietary changes that are nourishing and healing to the body. Modern medicine is not the safest way when it comes to treating a majority of chronic diseases, which is why age-old habits of a healthy plant-based diet can help you to turn the tides in your favor…