The diverticula are an anatomical alteration of the intestine; they are small pockets that form in our intestines and appear especially with advancing age, even if there is an increase in cases in younger subjects. Women in particular are affected. Professor Silvio Danese, Head of the Centre for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at Humanitas, a guest in the studio at “Il mio medico” on TV2000, spoke about diverticula and the role of food.
Nutrition plays a key role, for example, those who eat a few fibers are more exposed to the development of diverticula; another risk factor is age because collagen fibers, which are the scaffolding of the organs, begin to give way with advancing age and therefore favor the extroversion and the formation of these small pockets. Certain lifestyles (such as obesity, red meat consumption) are also involved in the development of diverticula and in some cases the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is an additional risk factor.
The presence of diverticula is called diverticulosis; these are asymptomatic in most people, and when they start to show signs of themselves and create disorders, they are called diverticular disease. The symptoms are very similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome, i.e. abdominal pain, swelling, alteration of bowel function (constipation, diarrhea), nausea, but also urological symptoms because the sigma, or large intestine, is in contact with the bladder and therefore the inflamed sigma can promote a greater need to urinate or the onset of urinary infections.
In the presence of these symptoms it is advisable to consult your doctor.
How is the diagnosis made?
In many cases the diagnosis is made on an occasional basis: after 50 years many people undergo screening tests for the colon, performing colonoscopy that reveals the presence of diverticula. Non-invasive diagnostics (ultrasound, CT, virtual colonoscopy) also make it possible to visualize the diverticula very well.
How do you intervene?
Diverticular disease should not be underestimated: the risk is that the so-called colitis associated with diverticula (a real intestinal inflammation that presents all the disabling symptoms of chronic colitis) develops to the point of becoming diverticulitis, an acute inflammation that can lead to complications such as the formation of stenosis (closure of the lumen of the intestine), the perforation of the diverticula themselves or the creation of abscesses: situations that may require surgery. It should be remembered that diverticulosis is a benign disease in almost all cases and only in some patients does it develop into complications.
In the presence of diverticular disease, therapy (which in some cases can be chronic) allows the symptoms to be kept under control. Faced with a major attack of diverticulitis, the intestinal rest with a week of antibiotics allows the patient to return home.
Nutrition for prevention
It is good to consume many fibers, especially those rich in soluble fibers such as inulin; chicory, broad-leaved vegetables, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli and cruciferous vegetables in general, and apples (rich in peptin) are recommended. These foods help patients with diverticulosis and it is generally recommended to follow a diet that has an income of at least 30 grams of fiber per day (the classic 5 portions).
It is also advisable to reduce the consumption of red meat and adopt a healthy lifestyle: keep weight in balance, do sports, hydrate properly and reduce the consumption of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as much as possible because they reduce the natural protection of the intestine and increase the risk of intestinal inflammation.
Watch the full interview with professor Danese, click here