In the US diverticular diseases have become very common, especially among the over-50 set. Diverticulosis is a condition characterized by small, pouch-like herniations called diverticula in the lining of the small intestines, esophagus, large intestine, or stomach. These pouches seldom cause problems, when not inflamed, so many with diverticulosis don’t even know they have the disease. But when bacteria get caught in the diverticula, the resulting inflammation causes fever, nausea, severe abdominal pain, and significant changes in bowel habits—usually constipation alternating with diarrhea—and the condition becomes diverticulitis, the more advanced stage of diverticulosis.
In the early 1900s doctors first noticed diverticulosis and diverticulitis —about the same time processed foods entered the American diet. Today, experts know that low-fiber diets full of processed foods, animal products and refined foods, which can be constipating, are the main contributors to diverticular diseases. When constipated, your bowel muscles must strain to move excessively hard stool, which increases pressure in the colon, causing weak spots in the gastrointestinal linings to bulge out and become diverticula.
Surgery to remove the infected bowel and prevent against sepsis (whole-body infection) often remains the only option if an infection goes undetected or spreads, so it’s imperative that diverticulitis be diagnosed swiftly and appropriately by a healthcare provider. Although many doctors prescribe antibiotics, you can cure—and even prevent—diverticulitis naturally and without drugs.
Eat, Prevent, Heal
In both staving off and treating diverticular diseases food plays a huge role. Aim to get 30 to 35 grams of insoluble and soluble fiber each day to prevent these woes. Soluble fiber, found in foods such as root vegetables, oat bran, and freshly ground flaxseeds, adopts a jelly-like consistency in the intestines, feeding good bacteria and soothing digestive-tract muscles. Insoluble fiber, from fruit skins, whole grains, nuts, dark leafy vegetables, absorbs water and passes almost unchanged through the intestinal tract, easing bowel movements.
Switch to a menu packed with soft, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, including beets, bananas, peeled potatoes, applesauce, along with soothing foods, such as cantaloupe, baked squash, and sea vegetables to treat diverticulitis. Freshly ground flaxseeds—thanks to the thick, gooey consistency they assume when mixed with water and stomach acids—can help soften stool, increase transit time, and soothe inflamed tissue; I recommend 2 tablespoons per day. Avoid potential irritants like larger seeds and raw or dried fruits and legumes, while you heal, all of which can stick in the diverticula and cause greater irritation.
Support Your GI Tract
Nutritional supplements can jump-start the healing process in addition to diet, . Probiotics support beneficial gut flora, prevent further infections and help treat any underlying infections. I recommend a blend of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
Try Nature’s Way Probifia Pearls, Nature’s Way Primadophilus Optima or Enzymatic Therapy Acidophilus Pearls, , which delivers more than 35 billion colony-forming units.
Glutamine, an amino acid is vital to healing infected and inflamed tissue. I suggest taking 500 mg of L-glutamine three times a day that serves as a crucial fuel source for intestinal cells. Anti-inflammatory fish oil also helps—find a clean supplement that provides a balance of the omega-3s docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), totaling 2 grams per day. Try Enzymatic Therapy Eskimo-3 or Nordic Naturals ProOmega.
Power Up with Plants
Botanicals help to treat diverticulitis like wild yam is very useful because of its antispasmodic and antibacterial properties: 500 mg three times a day should suffice.“Use your beverage as your medicine,” I often say, and there’s no better example than marshmallow root. Drinking 1 cup of marshmallow root tea three times a day can help relieve and repair tissue. Steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried leaf or dried root in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes, strain, and cool.
Live Your Best Life
Finally, stress can aggravate diverticular diseases due to the profound mind-gut connection, . Stress-reduction techniques, such as yoga, regular exercise, meditation, daily 30-minute walks, and t’ai chi, can help ease your mind and give your gut time to repair.