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Risk Factors for Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is a disease which affects the large intestines. It results when pouches form along the colon (diverticulosis), and then become inflamed. Risk factors include age, lifestyle, and insufficient fibre in the diet. About half of elderly Americans develop the diverticula pouches, but most of these people will never suffer the inflammation common to diverticulitis.

The Mayo Clinic has identified four major risk factors for diverticulitis. First, the disease is most common in people over 40, possibly because of changes to the bowel wall which occur as part of the normal aging process. (Men are also somewhat more at risk, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.) Second, people who are obese are more likely to suffer from diverticulosis, as are people with minimal or no regular physical exercise.

Finally, and most importantly, a diet too low in fibre is known to increase the risk of a number of medical complications in the digestive tract, including diverticulitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, diverticulitis is statistically rare in parts of the world where traditional diets are very high in fibre, but common in places where fibre is often lacking, including in today’s typical North American diet. The Mayo Clinic even states that the rise in diverticulitis is historically linked to the drop in fibre content caused by the introduction of steel-rolling mills to process flour.

To reduce the risk of diverticulitis, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends eating 25-35 grams of fibre per day, reducing red meat and fatty foods, eating plenty of vegetables, and getting an adequate amount of physical exercise.

If you are concerned about diverticulitis, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor, who can offer professional medical advice tailored to your specific situation. Diverticulitis can cause lower left abdominal pain, fever, and sometimes nausea or constipation. Blood tests usually reveal increased white blood cell production, and the disease is then confirmed with a CT scan. Dietary changes, antibiotics to treat infection, and surgery are all potential treatment options, depending on the severity of the disease. In some cases the inflamed pouch can rupture and cause an abscess or an abdominal infection. Once treated, diverticulitis can return one or more times, requiring further treatment.

– Sources and More Information –

Mayo Clinic. “Diverticulitis: Risk Factors.”

National Institutes of Health. “Risk Factors for Diverticulitis: Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia.”

University of Maryland Medical Center. “Diverticular Disease.”