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March 2023

Digest These Facts About Diverticulosis

Even if you have no symptoms, you could be among the many older Americans who have diverticulosis. More than 30% of U.S. adults between ages 50 to 59 have the condition, while more than 70% of Americans older than age 80 have it.

Diverticulosis occurs when small pouches develop and push out through weak spots in your colon’s wall. Genetics and straining on the toilet are possible causes of diverticulosis. A low-fiber diet might also be a contributing factor.

Many cases go unnoticed

Diverticulosis usually causes no symptoms. Some people discover they have the condition after undergoing tests for other reasons, such as a colonoscopy or X-ray. When symptoms do occur, though, they may include abdominal pain, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.

If you often experience any of these symptoms, talk with your healthcare provider.

Healthy habits offer hope

Diet is one way to prevent—and treat—diverticulosis. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises eating 25 to 38 grams of fiber daily, which can be found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and seeds. Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking may also help deter diverticulosis.

A word about diverticulitis

A high-fiber diet can also lessen the risk of developing a condition called diverticulitis. Diverticulitis occurs when the pouches become inflamed or infected. However, it affects fewer than 5% of people who have diverticulosis.

Pain on the left side of nthe lower abdomen is a common sign of diverticulitis. It may also cause fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, and constipation or diarrhea.

Providers usually treat mild diverticulitis with a liquid or light diet and antibiotics. Serious cases may require hospitalization and/or surgery.

Do you need more fiber?

To learn how much fiber you should get each day, and for help finding good sources of it, see the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/23/2023
© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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