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Diverticular disease is a condition of abnormal pouches in portions of the colon.
High pressure inside the intestine may cause these outpouchings (called diverticula) to develop in areas of weakness within the wall of the colon.1 The development of these pouches is called diverticulosis. Rarely, diverticula may also occur in the stomach or small intestine. When the pouches become inflamed (often as a result of bacterial infection), symptoms such as cramping pains, fever, and nausea can result.2 Such an infection (called diverticulitis) is potentially life-threatening and requires immediate medical intervention. Diverticular disease becomes increasingly common as people age and is a malady of 20th-century western society, primarily due to the consumption of a low-fiber diet.3
People with diverticular disease may or may not have abdominal cramps, bloating, constipation, and tenderness or pain, especially along the lower left side of the abdomen. When there is an active infection, there may also be fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.
Obesity may be associated with increased severity of diverticular disease.4 Studies have yet to be conducted to determine if weight loss decreases signs and symptoms of diverticular disease in patients who are overweight.
Physical activity, specifically jogging or running, has been reported to protect against symptomatic diverticular disease.5 While the reason for its positive effect is not known, exercise is associated with reduced symptoms of a variety of other diseases of the colon.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.