Preventing diverticulitis attacks
If you’re age 60 or older, there’s a 60 percent or greater chance that you have diverticular disease (diverticulosis). This means that small pouches (diverticula) have developed along the walls of your large intestine (colon).
For most people, diverticula never cause a problem. You may only learn of the disease as a result of a colon exam done for another reason. However, up to about 15 percent of those with diverticula experience a painful attack caused by inflammation or infection of a diverticular pouch (diverticulitis). A similar percentage of people may experience nonpainful rectal bleeding.
It’s generally felt that lifestyle improvements can reduce the risk of a first or a recurrent diverticulitis attack. Steps include:
- Gradually adopting a high-fiber diet — In one study, a high-fiber diet resulted in about a 40 percent decreased risk of diverticulitis attacks compared with a low-fiber diet. It’s recommended that men older than 50 get 30 grams of fiber daily and women older than 50 get 21 grams of fiber daily. This can be done by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, beans and legumes. Seeds, nuts or popcorn can also add fiber — and importantly, there’s no evidence that these increase diverticulitis risk, as was once commonly believed. A fiber supplement such as methylcellulose (Citrucel, others) or psyllium (Metamucil) may also be used to boost your fiber intake.
- Exercising regularly — Vigorous exercise such as jogging or running appears to reduce the risk of diverticulitis.
- Maintaining a healthy weight — In one study, obesity was associated with about a 50 percent increased risk of diverticulitis attacks, particularly in those who carry more of that extra weight in the abdominal area.
Digestive issues are common, and you can learn from others who are dealing with the same digestive health questions that you have at the Digestive Health group.
Great health advice from top to bottom is available with a subscription to Mayo Clinic Health Letter.