Diverticulitis is a condition where parts of the bowel get inflamed or infected. The bowel is a muscular tube with a smooth wall that stool can pass easily along, helped by muscle contractions. As we age, our bowel can develop small outpouchings which are known as diverticula. If these pockets get inflamed or infected, this is known as diverticulitis. People with a sudden flare of diverticulitis will suffer from tummy pain, usually in the left lower side, that comes and goes but is usually worse after eating, and gets better after passing wind or stool. Other symptoms include constipation or diarrhoea, mucus or blood in the stool, and a fever. You can become quite ill. Diverticulitis is diagnosed by your doctor after examining you, or seen on either a CT scan or a colonoscopy (camera in the back passage). Occasionally, if you have no relevant symptoms or only mild tummy pain and occasional bleeding from the back passage, diverticula may be seen if you have a scan for another reason, and is of little significance.
A high fibre diet can help reduce the possibility of developing diverticula in the first place. If you do develop diverticula, fibre can help to bulk up your stool to keep it moving along, reducing the chance of diverticulitis developing.
A high fibre diet can often ease symptoms. There are some high fibre supplements such as Fybogel available at pharmacies, which can help to increase the amount of soluble fibre in the diet, in addition to a well-balanced diet. For pain relief, paracetamol can help. It’s less likely to cause stomach upset than anti-inflammatories such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and is unlikely to cause the constipation that codeine-based painkillers can.
If you have symptoms of diverticulitis, you should urgently see your doctor. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, especially pain in the left lower side, fever, change in bowel habit with either constipation or diarrhoea, and mucus or blood in the poo. All blood and mucus in your poo should be discussed with your doctor.
Diverticulitis will usually leave you feeling too unwell for work.