Diverticular Disease

What is diverticular disease?

Diverticular disease involves inflammation and infection of the abnormal pouches that form on the intestine wall. This is called diverticulitis. Symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating and constipation. The Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA) reports that one third of Australians over the age of 45 years have diverticular disease, whilst two thirds over the age of 85 years have this condition. Thus, this condition is very common and many are unaware they have it. 

There is no clear cause for developing diverticular disease. However, a low fibre intake is an important risk factor for developing diverticular disease. This is because constipation can arise with a low fibre diet, resulting in harder stools that require more pressure to push them along the intestine. It is this added pressure which may cause these pouches to develop. Regular exercise and a high fluid intake may also be of benefit.

Symptoms do vary in severity from a mild attack to hospitalisation and can include:

- Nausea/ vomiting
- Fever
- Constipation and/or diarrhoea
- Frequent/urgency to go to the toilet
- Stomach pain including bloating
- Bloody stools
- Nutrient deficiencies e.g. iron deficiency

How Can I Help?
My fundamental goal will be to prevent and manage nutrient deficiencies. This  will also involve identifying ‘trigger foods’ that may worsen symptoms. I can then help with recommending supplements that may prevent nutrient deficiencies, reduce symptom severity and/or ensure adequate energy intake. Furthermore, I will be  assessing fibre intake, particularly soluble fibre.

Particular focus will also be given to times when a high fibre diet versus a low fibre diet is suitable. To help you plan your meals, I will provide you with practical strategies to increase or decrease your fibre as needed. This is particularly important in times of a flare-up. Generally, a low fibre diet is only required during symptom flare-up, as a gradual transition to a high fibre diet is advised once inflammation has subsided.

Book an appointment to learn more about how a qualified dietitian can help you manage diverticular disease.
- Better Health Channel
- The Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA)

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