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What is the Difference Between Diverticulitis and diverticulosis

Diverticulosis versus Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis Versus Diverticulosis

In medicine, language is important: while diverticulosis and diverticulitis might sound the same, they are definitely not the same thing! Let’s start with the basics – diverticula are little pockets or bubbles on the outside wall of the large intestine. They’re (normally) rather boring and don’t do much ie. they don’t tend to cause any particular gut symptoms of diarrhoea, constipation or discomfort. They don’t hurt and they don’t turn into cancer. In this form, the condition is called diverticulosis. Most doctors won’t be interested in diverticulosis, because it doesn’t tend to do anything… until….

Until it becomes diverticula disease. Also known as Diverticulitis, this is the condition that will catch doctors’ attention and is unfortunately not as chill as diverticulosis. This condition occurs when there’s an infection or inflammation of the diverticula. The difference between diverticulosis and diverticulitis? Well, let’s look at the language… “ITIS”, in medical speak means infection and inflammation, hence the name diverticulitis.

This condition is super serious!! If your diverticular gets infected, it can explode. If that happens then all the contents of your bowel are floating around freely in your torso, which is a very unpleasant feeling, to put it mildly. This will leave you super sick. The kind of sick that can put you in the ICU and possibly left with a colostomy bag.

Experiencing abdominal pain?

If you feel the onset of sharp stabbing pain, particularly on the left-hand side of your torso, don’t ignore it. We suggest visiting your GP if you’re experiencing a mild severity. They will prescribe you oral antibiotics and recommend you don’t eat much or anything aside from fluids. However, if this abdominal pain is severe, visit your local emergency department, they will essentially do the same, just more intensely by giving you IV antibiotics and advise not to eat anything.

What can I eat with diverticulosis?

If you have diverticulosis, you’ve probably heard people say, “you can’t eat popcorn or nuts”. This is old, fake news and is not supported by research. In fact, research shows the best way to avoid diverticulosis developing into diverticulitis is to have a very high-fibre diet, which includes nuts, seeds and vegetable skins. Fibre helps to keep your poos together, the way they should be – not loose like diarrhoea or hard and dry like constipation but with high water content. 

What if I have diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is completely different, you want minimal food passing by the infected part of your bowel. A low-fibre diet is important and probably all you’ll feel like anyway. When unwell, most people only want small amounts of chicken soup or mashed potato, both of which are low in fibre. However, this is only temporary, and a return to a high-fibre diet is important in the longer term.

So, how do I increase my fibre intake?

Increasing your fibre intake is more than just eating oats for breakfast. The easiest way to increase your fibre intake is by eating more fruit and vegetables. Did you know that only 4% of Australians actually eat enough fruit & veggies? That means there’s a 96% chance you aren’t eating enough!

We have some great recipes on the SS Diets website which have been designed specifically for this. It’s best however to book in a session with one of our dietitians. At SS Diets we have a team of dietitians who can assist you with practical strategies that are effective.