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A diverticulum is a hollow or fluid-filled sac within the body. Diverticula (the plural form) generally develop in portions of the colon that have become weakened over time from the pressure of passing waste. The process is akin to blisters forming on the side of a tire when air is forced into it and tries to escape through a weak spot.

In the case of a colonic diverticulum, the sac is located within the colon and can become infected in a condition known as Diverticulitis. A person may have one diverticulum or multiple diverticula in his or her colon. In most cases, more than one of these lesions develops. If the multiple lesions develop into Diverticulitis, they can perforate or burst and surgical intervention would be required.

Causes of Diverticular Lesions

Although the exact cause is unknown, most researchers believe diet plays a significant role. Specifically, a low fiber diet may lead to the development of a diverticulum. Also, older individuals seem more likely to develop the condition than younger ones. In fact, over half of Americans aged 60 or older have developed at least one diverticulum.

Most individuals suffering from the condition don’t realize it, because it rarely presents symptoms. In some cases, however, this disorder can cause additional problems such as Diverticulitis to develop. Diverticulitis occurs when a small, hard piece of waste becomes trapped within a diverticulum. As a result, that section of the colon becomes inflamed and may entropy.

Complications of Diverticular Disorder

Even if the multiple diverticulum lesions do not lead to Diverticulitis, it is possible to experience the symptoms. For example, a diverticulum may bleed when the vessels overlying it become stretched out and eventually break. This vascular damage can result in significant blood loss within the gastrointestinal tract or colon. The lost blood most often appears in bowel movements.

If a burst diverticulum leads to bleeding or full Diverticulitis, it may be necessary to undergo corrective surgery involving the removal of the affected section of the colon. This surgery requires being placed under general anesthesia while a surgeon makes an incision into the abdomen to access the colon.

After the section of the colon containing the diverticulum is removed, the two healthy ends of the colon are reattached.  If a significant amount of inflammation occurred, it may be necessary to implement a temporary colostomy. After the inflammation resides, the colostomy can be removed to connect the healthy ends of the colon back together.

Preventing Diverticula

To help prevent the development of this digestive disorder, it is important to follow a high fiber diet, which makes it easier for the colon to function. As a result, the colon does not have to strain to pass waste through the digestive system. By preventing this extra work, the muscle fibers do not become weakened and ultimately lead to the development of a diverticulum.

Fiber can be easily added to the diet by consuming more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. A number of fiber supplements can be purchased and sprinkled onto foods to give the daily fiber consumption a boost. A regular colon cleansing is also beneficial for helping to prevent the colon from being overworked. An enema, water colonic, or all-natural organic health supplement may also be used to help cleanse the colon.  For most people, organic supplements (especially those based on oxygenation) are the most attractive option because they cleanse the entire colon, do not create a mess, and do not risk accidentally causing damage to the digestive tract.

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