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General characteristics

General characteristics

Diverticulosis is a condition affecting the inner lining of the digestive system but much more commonly affects the walls of the large intestine.

The walls of the bowel become weakened and small pouches of the wall balloon outwards. It is possible to have diverticulosis and rarely have any symptoms or problems. However these pouches (divirticula) can become filled with waste material that is difficult to expel and can lead to infection, inflammation (diverticulitis) or rupturing of the bowel wall. If these pouches become inflamed it is called diverticulitis which can give symptoms of lower abdominal pain, blood in the stools, fever, nausea, tiredness, bloating, gas, chills and diarrhoea.

Causes include getting older (it is more common in the over 50's), regular constipation (straining and faecal impaction increases the pressure on the bowel walls), poor diet lacking fibre and immobility. The incidences of diverticular disease has increased alongside the regular consumption of refined and processed cereals. It is common in countries that consume a 'western diet' but rare in countries that eat unprocessed, natural foods.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Avoid constipation, if food is sitting too long in the bowels then the walls eventually become weaker and predispose them to the onset of diverticular disease.

For diverticulosis obviously plant based fibre needs to be increased, both soluble and insoluble forms need to be eaten daily. Fibre is present in all fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds but the best and most health giving sources include apples, grapes, pears (ripe and unripe), carrots, oats, flaxseeds, pulses and raw or lightly cooked green leaves. An apple a day, a large raw carrot, a green salad, a bowl of muesli with a few seeds and nuts added will go a long way to reducing constipation, providing both soluble and insoluble fibre.

Go easy on the fibre during an inflammatory episode as the harsher, more insoluble fibre (such as fruit skins, nuts and seeds) can cause pain and griping. Opt instead for the fruits forms such as steamed and pureed apple and pears (without skins) and powdered oatmeal or linseed. Be aware though that avoiding fibre altogether will lead to more constipation and the cycle will continue.

Cut back on red meat and processed meats like sausages.

Make fresh vegetable juices to boost mineral and vitamin supplies if eating normal foods aggravates during an inflammatory episode.

Use plenty of ginger and garlic in your cooking.

Avoid fried and fatty foods, especially during an inflammatory attack as they are more difficult to digest and can aggravate the bowel.

Drink several glasses of water each day to help reduce constipation.

Avoid processed white flour and grain products such as white bread, processed cereals, pasta, pastries, cakes, crisps and chips, biscuits and similar baked foods. They provide little fibre and add to the sticky bulk that leads to constipation and straining.

Make sure you exercise regularly, even a brisk walk will help to move the abdominal area and may reduce the likelihood of diverticula forming.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Herbs that will act as gentle bulk yet also soothe, heal and draw toxins include slippery elm powder, arrowroot, marshmallow root powder and psyllium husk powder. Mix them with water and steamed and pureed apples for instance and eat as a paste every day for breakfast while inflammation is active and painful.

Herbs such as raspberry leaf, agrimony, yellow dock root, hops, wild yam, elderflowers, yarrow, meadowsweet and chamomile when taken in tea form can help to tighten and strengthen the bowel wall, increase digestive juices, ease constipation and relieve inflammation. Use equal parts as a tea 3 times daily for diverticulosis, to help prevent inflammatory attacks and during active inflammation to alleveiate symptoms.

Chamomile is an excellent anti-inflammatory and pain reliever that can be taken as a strong tea (2 teaspoons per cup) 3 times daily during diverticulitis.

Fenugreek seeds are also excellent during active pain and inflammation. Use 2 teaspoons of the seeds, simmer for 20 minutes and drink the liquid throughout the day.

A pich of chilli/cayenne powder to herbal teas can also help.

Plantain leaf tea can help to draw toxins from the intestines.

When you suspect infection has taken hold use echinacea, garlic, myrrh and goldenseal to help boost the natural immunity.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Put a drop or two of peppermint essential oil into a glass of water or add to a herbal tea for its cooling, antispasmodic and pain relieving properties. Start with 1 drop initially as some can be sensitive to the oil.
Chew your food thoroughly as this will aid the digestive process.
Grapefruit seed extract has had very positive results for many suffering from diverticular disease, especially useful during an inflammatory attack.
Papaya tablets taken before meals helps to increase digestive enzymes and has proved beneficial to many.
Cider vinegar, honey and cayenne ( chilli powder) combined has shown some good results for those suffering from diverticulitis. The dose is 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, the same of honey and half a teaspoon of cayenne powder in a large glass of water (10floz). Sip after each meal during an attack of pain and inflammation.
Probiotics can help by increasing the population of helpful bowel bacteria.

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