Diverticula are pouch-like herniations of the mucosa through the muscular wall of the small intestine or colon. Diverticulosis is the presence of many diverticula in the wall of the intestine. Most people with diverticulosis have no symptoms and remain symptom free for a lifetime. Diverticulitis is used to describe when one or more of the diverticula become inflamed. Diverticula occur most commonly in the sigmoid colon, although they may occur in any part of the small or large intestine. The musculature of the colon hpertrophies, thicken and becomes rigid, and herniation occurs through the colon wall. Diverticula occur at points of weakness in the intestinal wall, where blood vessels interrupt muscular continuity. The muscle weakness develops as part of the aging process (Ignatavicius & Workman, 2006).
Diverticula usually cause few problems. If undigested food or bacteria become trapped in the diverticulum blood supply will diminish and bacteria invade the diverticulum. Diverticulitis occurs when the diverticulum perforates and a local absess forms (Ignatavicius & Workman, 2006).
Diets with small amounts of fiber have been linked to the development of diverticula due to the fact that they cause less bulky stool and constipation. However fiber is not proven to be a preventative measure (uptodate.com). Only one of five people with diverticulitis will actually display symptoms (Ignatavicius & Workman, 2006). Exactly how diverticula become inflamed is not clear. One theory is that increased pressure in the colon can lead to breakdown of the wall of the diverticula leading to infection. Another theory is the openings of the diverticula may trap fecal matter, which can lead to infection. Or, an obstruction in the narrow opening of the diverticulum may reduce blood flow to the area which may lead to inflammation. In the past, medical professionals thought that nuts, seeds, popcorn and corn played a role in causing diverticulitis. However, recent research has found that these foods aren’t associated with an increased risk of diverticulitis