What are Diverticulitis Causes?

M.C. Huguelet

Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula, or abnormal, pouch-like growths on the digestive tract, become inflamed or infected, resulting in symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting. The circumstances which cause diverticula to form and then become inflamed or infected are not yet fully understood by medical researchers. Evidence suggests, however, that pressure in the colon area may be chief among diverticulitis causes. This pressure may in turn result from factors such as poor nutrition and lack of hydration.

Lack of proper hydration can cause abnormal bowel movements.
Lack of proper hydration can cause abnormal bowel movements.

The most basic of all diverticulitis causes is the formation of diverticula. These pouch-like growths can occur throughout the digestive tract, but are most common to the walls of the colon. It is believed that diverticula form when pressure causes weak spots on the walls of the digestive tracts to buckle outward, forming dime-sized pouches. While diverticula are fairly common in individuals over the age of 40, however, many of those with diverticula never develop diverticulitis, and may only become aware of the growths when the digestive tract is examined due to an unrelated issue.

A computed tomography (CT) scan can be used to diagnose diverticulitis.
A computed tomography (CT) scan can be used to diagnose diverticulitis.

As with the formation of diverticula, it is thought that pressure in the colon area may be one of the chief diverticulitis causes. In the case of diverticulitis, this pressure may cause already-formed diverticula to become inflamed and irritated. It may also cause the diverticula to tear, making them susceptible to infection and allowing waste to escape the digestive tract.

Growths on the digestive tract result may result in abdominal pain, nausea or bloating among diverticulitis patients.
Growths on the digestive tract result may result in abdominal pain, nausea or bloating among diverticulitis patients.

This pressure in the colon area often arises when the fecal matter is abnormally hard or dry, causing compaction and constipation. Thus, factors which lead to abnormal bowel movements may be also be considered diverticulitis causes. Poor diet and lack of hydration are common causes of abnormal bowel movements.

A poor diet, especially one which is low in fiber, is a principal cause of hard stool. Lack of proper hydration can also cause stool hardness and dryness. This abnormal stool forces the colon to work harder than usual, raising the risk of both the formation of diverticula and the irritation and infection of existing diverticula.

Bouts of diverticulitis which involve infection may require treatment with antibiotics. Should the diverticula simply be inflamed, however, gradually increasing one’s fiber intake and improving one’s hydration habits can often be all that is necessary to calm abdominal irritation. In fact, diverticulitis is a rare occurrence in nations whose citizens generally consume a diet heavy in fiber-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

In order to prevent diverticulitis, it's important to regularly consume vegetables and other foods that are packed with fiber.
In order to prevent diverticulitis, it's important to regularly consume vegetables and other foods that are packed with fiber.

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