Diverticula (plural of the Latin word diverticulum, meaning a wayside house of' ill repute!) are small pouches which extrude through the walls of the colon and into the abdominal cavity; they may be congenital, or the result of not eating enough fibre.
The presence of diverticula - signalled in some people by occasional cramps and tenderness in lower left abdomen, relieved by passing wind or stools, bouts of Diarrhoea and Constipation, and occasional bleeding - is known as diverticulosis. The symptoms of diverticulitis, in which the diverticula become infected and inflamed, are generally more severe; as well as intense Abdominal Pain, Fever, and Nausea, there is a risk of abscess formation and Peritonitis. If symptoms are those of diverticulosis, especially if there is blood in faeces, consult your doctor if there is no improvement in 12 hours; if symptoms include severe pain and fever, consult your doctor if there is no improvement in 2 hours.
Endoscopic examination of the lower colon or a barium enema (which should not be given while infection is in acute phase) may be necessary in order to rule out cancer of the colon (see Cancer), which has similar symptoms. Painkillers and/or antibiotics will probably be prescribed, and a high-fibre diet. If diverticulitis is recurrent, surgery may be advised.
For specific homeopathic remedies, see Abdominal Pain, Diarrhoea.
Self-help: Diverticulosis can be helped or forestalled by a high-fibre diet. Bran is only a temporary solution, because although it increases bulk and brings extra calcium and magnesium to the bowels, it also carries calcium, magnesium, and zinc away with it. Fibre-rich foods, such as raw vegetables and fruit, are more nourishing and more appetizing. Increase exercise. Drink alcohol moderately. Try the Colon Diet and increase fluids.