DIVERTICULOSIS

Whereas only one in 10 Americans has developed diverticulosis by the age of 40, about two out of three does so by age 60. Most people with this condition, fortunately, never know that there is anything wrong, Drug Therapy (17#6:53) reports.

That is not surprising since diverticulosis is nothing more than a series of little pouches hanging from the wall of the colon. These are really just hernias from the lining of the colon which become pushed out after the colon has repeatedly strained to propel hard stools.

If symptoms do occur, they include tenderness of the left lower abdomen, cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and constipation (sometimes alternating with diarrhea). Problems arise when the content of the intestine cannot easily be moved along the colon, and some of it is forced into the pouches, which then become plugged and infected.

Once diverticulosis has developed, nothing can be done to reverse it. Nevertheless, plenty of fluid and enough of the right foods (e.g., oat bran, whole meal bread, fruit, and vegetables) in one’s diet will usually prevent constipation. A dietitian could give helpful advice. Exercise, too, for reasons that are not well understood, is definitely helpful. Lastly, laxatives and enemas, because they irritate the colon, tend to do more harm than good for people with diverticulosis.

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