Yes, it's time to talk about pouches in your colon. Diverticula as they are called are common, especially after age 40, and on their own seldom cause problems. But, and that's a big but, if these pouches become inflamed watch out. Inflamed pouches are called diverticulitis and can cause abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and digestive issues. That’s not pleasant! Read on to learn more about how you can prevent and treat diverticulitis with fiber.
What Exactly are Diverticula?
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You may be asking what exactly is diverticula and do I have them? According to the Mayo Clinic, “Diverticula are small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of your digestive system..." These pouches bulge form in weak spots in your colon. It turns out these diverticula are common in those over the age of 40. (Welcome to health conditions you learn about in your 40s.)
Not so fun fact, the rate of diverticulosis increases with age and affects the vast majority of those over 80.
What is Diverticulitis?
As mentioned, diverticula are common and usually do not cause issues. The problem is when these pouches become inflamed and become diverticulitis.
OK, you are thinking how do I avoid getting these pouches inflamed? Well, this is the kicker, experts aren't really sure. They hypothesize that waste and bacteria get stuck in the pouches and cause inflammation.
What they do know is constipation contributes to pressure on your colon. Think about all the energy and concentration you direct towards making something come out on the toilet. That straining makes these pouches bulge out in the colon which can become inflamed. (A high-fiber diet helps to prevent constipation but we will get to that.)
Tell me More About the Symptoms of Diverticulosis
One symptom is pain usually on the lower left side of your abdomen (yes that's pretty specific in location). This pain is known to be severe and can come on without warning (like the horror movie villain who pops up on screen out of nowhere). That being said, the pain can also start mild and progress over days. In short, the pain can fluctuate, but any pain is too much pain.
Where Does Diverticulosis Occur?
Diverticulosis, the presence of the pouches, most commonly occurs in the lower part of your colon called the sigmoid colon. This is the last part of the large intestine going into your rectum and is S-shaped. (The sigmoid colon sounds like it that would be an answer on Jeopardy. Diverticulitis in the sigmoid colon, rememeber that for your trivia nights.)
What Causes Diverticulitis?
Lack of Fiber in Diet
According to the Cleveland Clinic, experts are not 100% sure what causes diverticulitis, but they believe it's linked to a low-fiber diet. Fiber has the ability to clean out your colon by eliminating the buildup of waste (constipation) there. Constipation can contribute to the pouches forming and the waste buildup causing inflammation. We have been shouting from the rooftops about how amazing fiber is so we are not surprised.
Also case in point - diverticulitis is rare in countries such as Asia and Africa where the population eats more fiber and more vegetables than the United States.
Other Possible Factors
Another cause may be hereditary. Some people may be more predisposed to developing diverticulosis (pouches) and diverticulitis (pouches inflamed) but experts are still conducting more studies to better understand this and evidence is conflicting.
Please Explain How Fiber Helps with Diverticulitis
First, What Is Fiber?
Fiber is actually a carbohydrate. Not like bread and pasta though.
Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate. Most carbohydrates are broken down by the body into sugar molecules, but not our good friend fiber. Fiber instead, passes through the body undigested and this is extremely important as you will soon discover.
How Many Types of Fiber are There?
What’s your fiber type? There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber loves absorbing water and turns to gel in your gut. This is amazing because it slows digestion making your feel fuller longer. In contrast, insoluble fiber isn’t into absorbing water and instead adds bulk to the stool. This is great because it helps get things moving if you are constipation. With insoluble fiber, food passes quickly through the stomach and intestines then out to your lovely porcelain toilet. So in short, your fiber type is both, you ideally want both fibers in your life because they both have amazing health benefits.
How Fiber Helps with Diverticulitis
As discussed above, soluble fiber becomes a gel that moves things through the digestive tract speedily. These pouches form because of pressure on the intestinal walls from the strain of constipation. If things are flowing out smoothly there is no pressure. Deeper dive by the Mayo Clinic here.
Fiber also helps direct waste aka poop through the intestines and to the toilet. No diversions in between so waste doesn’t have a chance to get trapped in the opening of these pouches which can cause infection. Fiber is really a gut health wonder!
What Else Helps Prevent Diverticulitis?
As you may have guessed, drinking more water and staying physical activity will also help avoid pouches from developing and becoming inflamed.
Drink Plenty of Water
Water is amazing for you! And if you want to make the most of your fiber supplement, you need to hydrate! Water acts like a magnet for fiber. In order to make the most of your fiber and aid your digestion system, aim to drink at least eight glasses of water throughout the day.
Increase Physical Activity
Getting your body moving can also get your bowels moving. There are studies directly linking exercise and improved gut health. A recent study found that exercise can potentially alter gut bacteria composition and functionality.
Diverticulitis Flare-Ups and Fiber
If fiber and diverticulitis flare-ups were in a relationship on Facebook, it would be classified as “it’s complicated." Doctors used to believe one should avoid taking a lot of fiber during a flare-up to minimize colon contractions, which can be painful during that time. They instead recommended a low fiber diet or a clear liquid one until the flare-up had passed.
However, doctors today have revised their thinking instead pointing out that everyone is different when it comes to their body and fiber. If you have any questions, it's best to consult your doctor.
Again, a high fiber diet helps to prevent constipation and reduce the strain that can cause pouches to form in weak parts of the colon (diverticulosis) and flush the system of waste that can get trapped in the pouches (diverticulitis).
How Can I get more Fiber in My Diet?
There are many fabulous fiber sources to incorporate into your diet. You can get your daily fiber fill from fruits, vegetables, and grains. Fruits like raspberries, pear, and apples are rich in fiber. Cauliflower, turnip, broccoli, are examples of fiber-rich vegetables. You can easily create a fiber-rich breakfast just by switching your sugary cereals to oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and later opt to snack on almonds, pistachios, and baked beans.
How Much Fiber Do I Need?
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The USDA dietary guidelines recommend 25 grams of fiber for women and 38 grams of fiber for men daily. We know sometimes it’s hard to hit your daily fiber targets through diet alone. That is why there are all-natural, plant-based fiber supplements that can help support your gut. Look no further, friends, let me introduce you to Bonny
Say Hello to Bonny
Bonny is a prebiotic fiber supplement that’s great for gut health. It is a custom fiber powder blend containing psyllium husk powder and inulin for a crafted combo of soluble and insoluble fiber, perfect for making sure everything moves through your bowels without issue.
Bonny fiber supplements are plant-based, all-natural, research-backed and contain adaptogens that help you body combat stressors in your day naturally.
Bonny comes in four delicious flavors that you will crave daily: Amplified Apple Pie, Berry Beauty, Strawberry Serenity and Matcha Magic.
If you believe you have diverticulitis, please consider visiting a doctor for their expert medical opinion.
As always, we wish you pleasant poops.