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Diverticulitis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Diverticulitis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Diverticulitis is a digestive condition that can affect the large intestine. It manifests in the form of small bulging inflamed or infected pouches that can form in your intestines, particularly the lower part.

The pouches themselves don’t pose any general harmful effects, if there is no infection, with the condition called diverticulosis.

The presence of infection or inflammation in these pouches rebrands the condition to diverticulitis, the focus of our article today.

Diverticula, as the pouches are known, are quite common after the age of forty and don’t often cause any serious problems.

When severe, the diverticula will be seriously infected or even cause a perforation of the bowel. These are extreme cases but are still important to be aware of.

In the hopes of allaying any fears or concerns you may have about this digestive condition, we are going to use this article to delve into the symptoms of diverticulitis, explore possible causes and explain several available treatments.

Before we do that, let’s quickly rule out any ambiguity when referring to diverticulitis as it is not to be confused with diverticulosis.

The distinction is quite simple though:

The presence of diverticula is known as diverticulosis. When one or more of the diverticula become infected or inflamed, the condition is then known as diverticulitis.

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Symptoms of Diverticulitis

The pouches, or diverticula, can be fairly innocuous. It is highly likely for someone to have them, but not be aware of this fact due to their relatively pain-free existence.

Rather expectedly, they result in very few symptoms.

This being said, you might notice the following if you have diverticula:

  1. Consistent pain that can persist for several days. The lower left side of the abdomen is usually where the pain occurs, however, the right side of the abdomen can be more painful sometimes.
  2. So persistent pain in the lower abdomen warrants a trip to the doctor to rule out possible causes.
  3. Constipation or diarrhoea accompanied by bloody stool may be a sign of infected diverticula although it may also be indicative of a more serious problem like a form of irritable bowel disease.
  4. Several symptoms are associated with inflamed or infected diverticula (diverticulitis) such as presenting with a high temperature, having constant and severe
  5. stomach pain.In general, however, symptoms associated with the mere presence of diverticula are insignificant, if even present at all.
  6. If, at any time, symptoms turn up that have you feeling worried, avoid self-diagnosing and consult your doctor to figure out what the root of the problem may be.


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Causes of Diverticulitis

 

The direct cause of diverticulitis is not entirely known but there are several possible causes and risk factors that increase the chances of developing the disorder.

The diverticula formation is a result of naturally weak places in the colon giving way under pressure. It’s this “caving in to pressure” that results in small pouches, or diverticula, protruding from the colon wall.

Some doctors think that muscles spasms or strain caused during a difficult bowel movement may result in a build of pressure on the colon which pushes against the lining.

Others have thought in the past that not eating enough fibre may be a cause but this is still speculative as a clear link has not been shown, as found in more recent studies.

So while the diverticula can be fairly harmless in terms of symptoms produced, there are risk factors that can increase the chances of them developing and then becoming inflamed or infected.

The risk factors for developing diverticulitis increase with age with “over 40” being the most common age of onset.

Typical risk factors are similar to what predisposes one to an increased risk of developing other intestinal diseases and problems.

  • Obesity.  Being overweight poses an overall risk to your health system in general. It also increases the chances of your diverticula becoming inflamed and causing harmful symptoms.
  • Smoking is harmful to your body in almost every single way. The health of your diverticula is also not immune to the damaging effects of tobacco smoke.
  • Diet.  Due to diverticulitis being a disorder of the intestine, what you ingest can play a large role in its health. A diet rich in fat and red meat and low in fibre can put unnecessary stress on the intestinal system. A lack of fibre leads to increased bowel wall strain to move the stool through the colon. This increased pressure is what can result in the formation of pouches on weak points in the colon wall
  • Certain medication such as steroids, opioids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can also increase your chances of developing diverticulitis. In cases such as this, where medication may increase the occurrence of a particular disorder, it is always best to consult with one’s doctor to find out the risk in one’s particular case.
  • A lack of regular exercise can increase the resistance to developing diverticulitis due to the overall health benefits that routine exercise imparts on one’s health system.

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Treatment Options for Diverticulitis

Diverticula, once formed in the colon, are there to stay unless they are surgically removed. 

There is a range of degrees of severity with most people exhibiting uncomplicated diverticulitis. In these cases where symptoms are only mild, the condition can be treated at home. 

One’s doctor will prescribe a number of things such as antibiotics, if deemed necessary, to treat any infection. 

One may also be put on a liquid diet to reduce any strain on the bowel thereby allowing it time to heal. Solid food is normally phased back into one’s diet as the bowel heals. 

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By just using rest, stool softeners, a liquid diet, and antibiotics (to treat infection), most people find full symptomatic relief. 

If one’s diverticulitis becomes more serious through a perforation, for example, or more severe infection, hospitalization may be required. 

The premise for this is to allow for intravenous antibiotics to be received. Food is also given intravenously to give the colon the necessary time needed to heal. 

In some cases, one’s doctor may deem it necessary to drain infected abscesses by performing a temporary colostomy.

A colostomy creates an opening so that the intestine can empty into a bag that is attached to the front of the abdomen. This can later be reversed after the intestinal tract has been given enough time to rest and recover. 

This is quite extreme and should certainly not be expected without a doubt if you are hospitalized for diverticulitis. 

In summary, the probability of making a full recovery is very high if medical attention is promptly received. 

In terms of offsetting diverticulitis symptoms and allowing for a recovery to occur, it’s important to drink plenty of water to prevent constipation and reduce high-fat foods as this slows down bowel movement. 

When in remission, remember to stick to a high-fibre diet to assist your intestinal tract to perform at an optimal capacity and speed.

 

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Summary

Diverticulitis is a digestive tract condition that many people simply cannot prevent although there are certain lifestyle measures that can be taken to lower the risks of developing it.

That said, there are suitable, non-invasive treatments for mild conditions.

Even if the condition does develop to become more severe, there are proven methods of dealing with it in a manner that can have you getting back to your normal life in no time.

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of GI tract conditions in Johannesburg, contact Dr Schneider at (011) 482-3010 or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za to book your consultation today.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

Gut Health – What to Know and How to Improve It

Gut Health – What to Know and How to Improve It

Gut health is a somewhat underrated topic when it comes to personal health, yet research continues to show us that there is a tremendously significant link between the gut and the health of a multitude of other bodily functions and features.

Our guts are incredibly complex but our understanding improves as the latest research sheds lights on its inner workings.

In fact, numerous studies have shown that there are clear correlations between gut health and mental health, skin conditions, the immune system, cancer, and even your general mood.

As such, a system once thought to be relatively simple is proving to play an integral role in maintaining and promoting overall body functioning and psychological wellbeing.

This drastic change in the way we view the gut is thanks to our improved understanding of a complex network known as the gut microbiome.

The gut microbiome contains hundreds of different species of bacteria and yeast that reside, grow, and multiply in your digestive tract.

These various species interact to create a network effect that has implications for the rest of the body.

Many of the species of bacteria found in your gut are quite beneficial for your body while some are even necessary for a healthy physiological system.

By looking after the health of your gut, you’re taking care of the good bacteria that reside there and impart beneficial effects on the rest of your body.

Here we are going to understanding what gut health entails so that addressing problems is made easier all the while trying to prevent issues by taking precautionary measures.

Basically, we want this article to help you understand and maintain good gut health for the benefit of your entire being.

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What to Know About Gut Health

Unfortunately for all of us, modern life is not set up in such a way that guarantees a healthy gut environment. The opposite is actually true…

Many key features of today’s society result in many, if not most, people living with high stress levels, operating on too little sleep, taking antibiotics, and eating highly processed foods.

This unhealthy concoction does not bode well for our gut health and, indeed, the rest of our physiological system.

Explained further, a gut that is in poor health has a negative knock-on effect with many other aspects of our general health such as the brain, heart, immune system, hormone levels, and mental health all susceptible to an increased likelihood of problems occurring.

Poor gut health can manifest itself in several ways. Here are some common signs that may give you an indication that your gut is in need of some TLC.

1. Food Intolerances

Different from food allergies, food intolerance is the result of the difficulty in digesting a certain food (as opposed to the immune system reaction in food allergies).

Research indicates that this is due to the poor quality of gut bacteria. Ways in which this can manifest physically is through bloating, gas, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and nausea.

2. Upset Stomach

General stomach disturbances such as those mentioned in the previous point, all point to something gone awry in your gut health.

Constipation and heartburn are some extra signs indicating that your gut is having difficulty processing food and getting rid of the necessary waste.

Suffering from regular heartburn, bloating or unexpected weight change, might mean you need to see a Gastroenterologist.

3. Unintentional Weight Changes

The important word to take note of here is “unintentional”.

If you are losing or gaining weight without changes in your diet or exercise routine, you may have a sign of an unhealthy gut on your hands.

When your gut health is suffering, your body will have a reduced ability to effectively absorb all the key nutrients from foods, regulate your blood sugar, and store fat.

Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO, while weight gain can be caused by insulin resistance or a nagging urge to overeat due to insufficient nutrient absorption.

4. Irregular Sleep Patterns and Nagging Fatigue

Insomnia and low sleep quality may be the result of an unhealthy gut. Serotonin, largely produced in your gut, plays a large role in your mood regulation and sleep.

Therefore, an unhealthy gut may result in poorly regulated serotonin production thereby affecting your sleep quality.

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How to Improve Your Gut Health

Now that we have taken a closer look at some of the real negative aspects of having poor gut health, let us look at how to improve and maintain good gut health.

1. Eat a Vegetarian Diet

Those who enjoy eating meat have a very different gut microbiome from those whose diets consist of only non-meat products.

This may in part be due to the high levels of prebiotic fibre in a meatless diet.

Studies have been done which show that following a vegetarian diet after living off a high meat diet results in lower gut inflammation due to the changes in the gut microbiome.

2. Avoid Smoking

Smoking is never a good habit to pick up as far as your health is concerned – it has an immensely negative effect on your entire biological system including your gut health.

Smoking negatively affects one’s gut microbiome by increasing the number of potentially harmful microorganisms while decreasing the levels of beneficial bacteria.

Consequently, those who smoke have an increased risk of developing intestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

3. Take Probiotics and eat Fermented Food

Some research suggests that regularly taking a probiotic, found in health food stores and pharmacies, can support a healthy gut microbiome and that it may even serve as a preventive measure for developing gut inflammation and other intestinal problems.

For those who want to ingest one less, not one more, pill a day – look towards foods that are natural sources of probiotics.

Consuming fermented vegetables, kombucha, sauerkraut and miso regularly may improve gut health significantly.

4. Eat More Prebiotic Fibre

Non-digestible carbohydrates are referred to as prebiotics and they are essential for the generation of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

How?

Well, probiotics feed on this prebiotic fibre which, in turn, help grow and maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

Research has also shown that prebiotics may help probiotics become more tolerant to certain environmental conditions such as changes in PH and temperature.

5. Reduce Stress

One of the chief villains contributing to an unhealthy gut, stress, or the lack thereof rather, is very important for keeping your gut microflora healthy and happy.

Psychological stressors have been shown to have disruptive effects on the proliferation of healthy gut bacteria, even if the stress is temporary.

The solution is to find ways to manage your stress so that your gut microbiome is less susceptible to sudden changes due to temporary stress.

Chronic stress is even worse highlighting the case for its mitigation.

Some key stressors that affect your gut health include sleep deprivation, environmental stressors such as extreme noise pollution and intense temperature changes, and general psychological stress.

A few useful habits or activities worth looking into for the sake of reducing stress include meditation, deep breathing exercises, and focused muscle relaxation.

For the sake of completeness, it’s important to remember that simply sticking to a sleep schedule and exercising regularly can do wonders for lowering your stress levels.

6. Take Antibiotics Only When Absolutely Necessary

The overuse of antibiotics is a significant public health concern that may eventually lead to antibiotic resistance.

Apart from that, however, antibiotics are, by very nature, damaging to gut bacteria with research showing that the gut can lack the beneficial bacteria even up to six months after antibiotic use.

Always consult with your doctor about the necessity of taking an antibiotic so that alternative options may be discussed if they are available and effective.

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Want to Know More?

For more information on the digestive tract and the rest of the gastrointestinal system, contact Dr. Schneider or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za and book your consultation today.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

Healthy Gut Bacteria and Ways to Improve the Gut Microbiome

Healthy Gut Bacteria and Ways to Improve the Gut Microbiome

The role of gut bacteria is very important. There are between 300 to 500 of various bacteria living inside your gut.

These, and the other tiny organisms like viruses and fungi in your system, create the “microbiome.”

Just like a fingerprint, everyone’s microbiome is unique, based on family history, diet and lifestyle.

While some bacteria are associated with disease, others are extremely important for your immune system, heart, weight and many other aspects of health.

Find out more about gut health and microbiome here.

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Eating for a Healthy Gut Microbiome can Benefit You by:

  • Improving digestion and absorption
  • Reducing the risk of inflammatory disease
  • Decreasing bloating, constipation and diarrhoea
  • Helping prevent colon cancer
  • Aiding in weight management
  • Supporting heart and mental health
  • Reducing the risk of autoimmune disease
  • Reducing the risk of diabetes

 

What Are Health Risks Linked to Poor Gut Health?

When the bacteria, yeast, and viruses that live in your gut are in balance, the rest of your body is in harmony too.

However, when things go south, and the bad bacteria can take over the good, it can lead to an unhealthy gut.

There are several ways an unhealthy gut might manifest itself. Here are seven of the most common signs: 

Diarrhoea

Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut.

A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.

 

Poor Concentration

Your gut produces neurotransmitters that are directly connected to mood, thoughts, and other cognitive abilities, like concentration.

The next time you are struggling to focus or concentrate on a task or are getting distracted easily, your gut might be the culprit.

 

Mood Disorders

Your microbiome plays an important role in your mental health and the way you respond to stress-related situations.

Research suggests that certain hormones that are made in the gut, called gut peptides, control the signalling between your gut and brain.

 

Skin Inflammation and Acne

Skincare products are often recommended for common skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne and other inflammatory skin problems, but in many cases, an unhealthy gut is to blame.

Your gut is in direct communication with your skin through what’s called the gut-skin axis.

 

Sleep Disturbances or Constant Fatigue

An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, and therefore lead to chronic fatigue.

The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. So gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well.

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When to see a Gastroenterologist 

We all get abdominal symptoms from time to time. It is part of the human condition.

But if any of the symptoms listed below persist for more than a few days for no obvious reason, I recommend booking an appointment with your gastroenterologist as soon as possible.

  • Chronic or unusual abdominal pain
  • Persistent or severe heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Persistent hoarseness or a sore throat
  • A feeling of having food stuck in your throat or chest
  • Episodes of choking
  • Persistent vomiting or nausea
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Bloody or black stool
  • Chronic constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Chronic bloating or gas
  • Difficulty evacuating your bowels

GIDOCJHB cares for patients suffering from any digestive discomfort or pain.

Whether it be heartburn, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or constipation, we aim to effectively give patients relief by treating the root cause.

Dr Schneider has formulated specific protocols to treat each type of gut problem.

He provides guidance on diet, fibre, probiotics, prebiotics and other natural supplements to help heal gut imbalances.

 

Schedule An Appointment With Dr Schneider

 

Foods and Lifestyle Habits to Avoid for a Healthier Gut

The foundation of good gut health depends on prebiotics, probiotics, postbiotics and fibre in your diet. Good gut bacteria thrive off of these foods, leading to better digestive health.

Life is all about a balancing act and your gut is no different. When you feed your good gut bacteria the right nutrients, they thrive – outweighing the effects of bad gut bacteria.

But, when you start feeding the bad gut bacteria the diet they like, the scale starts to tip. More bad gut bacteria that are active cause a dysfunctional digestive tract.

Tips to Outweigh Your Bad Gut Bacteria:

  • Ditch the artificial sweeteners
  • Eat fewer processed foods
  • Eliminate gluten
  • Avoid smoking, excessive caffeine & alcohol

 

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Healthy Gut Habits

 

Rather than taking supplements that claim to “boost your immune system” with no good supporting evidence, the food you eat has a big impact on the range and type of microbes in the gut.

Try improving your dietary and lifestyle habits by following some of the recommendations below:

 

Fill Up on Fibre

High-fibre foods feed the healthy bacteria that improve immune function, reduce inflammation and chronic disease, and even help regulate mood.

 

Limit Fat’s

Avoid unhealthy fried foods, use coconut oil instead of regular oil, and use low-fat salad dressings, especially if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

 

Avoid Overuse of Antibiotics

Overuse of antibiotics can kill off healthy bacteria. Always discuss any antibiotics you are thinking of taking with your gastroenterologist beforehand.

Get Enough Sleep

Adequate sleep is necessary to rest and restore our bodies from the past day’s activities. Without enough sleep, we may not have enough energy for our digestion to function as well as it should.

Manage Stress

We’ve all experienced stomach upset or a lingering uncomfortable feeling when under stress. That’s because the digestive system and brain communicate through nerves that connect the two.

Stress left untreated, can lead to other conditions like heartburn, ulcers, and Crohn’s disease.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is good for your heart and can also help keep your gastrointestinal system active.

Not only does exercise help maintain healthy body weight, but low-intensity exercise can help keep stool moving through and out of your system.

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.