Only 20% of those with diverticulosis experience symptoms, which can include intestinal cramps, pain sensitivity, and irregular bowel movements. Some may experience symptoms of irritable bowel, such as alternating diarrhea and constipation. The disease can lead to complications, however, including the development of a stricture (narrowing of the intestine) at the site of the inflammation or a fistula (narrow channel) connecting one part of the intestine to another).
What is Diverticular Disease?
From Modern Western Medicine
Diverticulitis is a condition in which pockets, called diverticula, form in the large intestine. Diverticulitis is a more advance condition in which inflammation and, in some cases, perforation of the pockets or sacs occurs, along with tenderness, hardness, and rigidity of the abdomen; pain; infection; and fever.
In rare cases, the infection can lead to an abscess in the lining of the colon, eventually causing peritonitis (inflammation of the lining).
The main cause of the disorder is consumption of meats and the absence of fibrous foods. Red meat passes into the large intestine as a small-caliber wad. The large intestine is lined with muscle. In order to move waste through the intestine, these muscles expand and contract (an action called peristalsis). The small caliber of meat requires the intestines to contract significantly to move the mass through the intestinal system. This contracts with fibrous foods, which fill up with water and become a wide mass that is easily moved through the intestinal tract. Diverticulosis is also associated with herniations of the intestinal wall and can lead to diverticulitis, a condition characterized by inflammation (often due to obstruction) and, occasionally perforation (the formation of a hole) in one or more diverticula.
When patients with diverticulosis have muscle spasms that cause cramps, a high-fiber diet, fiber supplements, and antispasmodic drugs may eliminate the symptoms. A high-fiber diet has also been shown to reduce the incidence of complications.
Diverticulitis, the more severe condition, usually subsides with bed rest and antibiotics. If the symptoms are severe, treatment may also include a liquid diet or intravenous fluids. Surgical treatment may be needed if perforation causes a large abscess or peritonitis, if a tight stricture develops, or if a hemorrhage cannot be controlled.
From Traditional Medicine
A diet low in fiber, high in red meat is the central cause. High-fiber foods increase intestinal transit time and support coordinated, healthy bowel function. Also, fibrous foods cleanse the intestines by moving old waste matter out and keeping the intestinal tract clean, thus reducing the likelihood of infection and inflammation. In addition to maintaining a high-fiber diet, the liver and spleen must be supported (see Part IV), since these are essential organs in supporting the overall health and function of digestion.
While low-fiber diet is the major cause, often the initial stages of treatment require lower to moderate amounts of fiber, especially if diverticulitis exists. Those w/ inflamed intestines should gradually increase fiber after inflammation is reduced. The bowels must be come accustomed to foods that are high in fiber than was previously consumed.
Gradually include fibrous foods by combining brown rice with white rice; boil grains using plenty of water so that the grain is soupy and soft, rather than glutinous; boil vegetables till they are soft; eat less fibrous vegetables, such as onions, squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and roots (carrots, rutabagas, parsnips, and turnips). Eat lesser amounts in the initial stages of treatment, of the high-fiber greens, such as collard greens, kale, and mustard greens. Include vegetable juices (see below).
Who Gets Diverticular Disease?
It is rare in Third World nations and Japan, where the traditional diet of whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruit, and ferment products are the main sources of nutrition. More than half the population of the United States and Western Europe suffers from diverticulosis by age of 80.
Foods to Eat
- Whole grains, boiled or pressure cooked with plenty of water to make grains wet, soupy, and easy to digest
- Root vegetables, boiled till soft, such as carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips
- Leafy greens, boiled until soft and run through a food mill (such as Fowley food mill) if the greens are too fibrous for your intestines or you suffer from a flare-up of diverticulitis
Choose any of the following during the acute stage, consume only one type of liquid at any single meal:
- Water (6 – 8 glasses)
- Carrot juice
- Carrot and lettuce juice
- Celery and lettuce juice
- Beet root juice
- Watercress juice
- Grape juice
- Apple juice
- Chlorophyll liquid
- Spirulina liquid drinks
After all painful symptoms have subsided, add semi-solids slowly and carefully, watch for a reaction:
- Mashed banana
- Steamed carrots
- Baked yams or sweet potato
If the above can be tolerated, begin to add more high-fiber foods:
- Raw, grated apple
- Raw, grated carrot
- Brown rice, well cooked and masticated
- Steamed fish
After about six weeks, continue with high-fiber diet. This will help heal the intestinal walls and prevent further severe attaches of diverticulosis.
Foods to Avoid
- Fruit skins and fruit
- Fruit and vegetables with small, hard seeds such a tomatoes, cucumber, figs, strawberries, raspberries, and guavas
For regeneration of the liver, be sure to avoid:
- Oily foods, especially poor-quality oils
- Dairy products
- Spice foods
Herbs to Treat Diverticular Disease
- Slippery elm tea
- Comfrey tea
- Marshmallow tea
- Fenugreek and comfrey tablets, 2 tablets every two hours
- Myrrh/goldenseal capsules: 2 capsules every two hours when there is inflammation
- Follow the herbal treatment for Colitis
- Alternate hot and cold sitz bath
- Hot, moist compress for pain relief
- Hot sitz bath for pain relief
- Beta-carotene: 15 – 30 mg per day
- Vitamin B complex: 25 – 5- mg per day
- Vitamin E: 100 – 400 IU per day
- Vitamin C: 100 – 500 mg per day