Diverticulitis is an acute inflammation of the small pouches (called diverticula) lining the large intestine. It is one of three types of what is known as diverticular disease; the other two being diverticulosis (formation of the pouches) or diverticular bleeding. The small pouches are found throughout the entire digestive system, and when they become blocked with waste material, bacteria builds up, resulting in inflammation or infection. Symptoms of possible diverticulitis include abdominal pain and/or cramps of varying degrees, alternating constipation and diarrhea, tenderness in the lower abdomen and possibly the left side of the abdomen, chills, and/or fever. These symptoms can also reflect other types of gastrointestinal disorders.
Diverticulitis has been generally thought of as a disease of the elderly, but it is becoming more common in people under the age of 50, especially if they are obese. Risk factors for developing diverticulitis include age, alcohol use, low fiber diet, obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, NSAIDs (Ibuprofin), opioids, steroids and chronic use of other prescription and nonprescription medications.
The traditional Western medicine treatment of diverticulitis has been antibiotics, high-fiber diet, avoidance of “trigger” foods such as nuts, seeds and popcorn, and surgical resection in more complicated cases. However, there has been little research and clinical evidence to support a correlation or causation with these recommendations in acute, uncomplicated diverticulitis. Because of the low quality of evidence and the overuse of antibiotics, in 2015, the American Gastroenterological Association Institute modified treatment guidelines for medical practitioners which include using antibiotics selectively rather than routinely, not avoiding seeds, nuts, popcorn, aspirin and NSAIDs, avoiding elective colonic resection with initial episodes of uncomplicated diverticulitis, rifaximin and mesalamine (used for traveler’s diarrhea and ulcerative colitis, respectively) for acute uncomplicated diverticulitis, and advising patients with diverticular disease to consider vigorous physical activity and reduction of risk factors.
However, unless lifestyle changes are made, the issue of diverticulitis rarely resolved and there is a potential for continued episodes with increased possibility of more serious health issues. Diverticulitis can lead to more serious health issues.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes a different method to treating diverticulitis. An individualized approach is used to identify the root cause of the problem, as opposed to treating the symptoms. While the cause may be initially appear to be the use of the standard American diet, other factors include stress, external environments, weight, personal habits and metabolic and immunological health.
TCM recognizes that food is medicine and not all foods are good for all people. Recommendations for specific foods to use and to avoid are identified and appropriate modifications in stress management, sleep habits, smoking, weight, etc., are created for each individual. Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and specific home care are important components of the treatment plan. Additionally, for those that are needle-phobic and hesitant to try acupuncture, there are other modalities used to treat diverticulitis, such as polychromatic light therapy, acu-pad electrostimulation, and Emotional Freedom Technique for stress management.
Healing of the gut is necessary and essential for good health, and can only be done through concerted effort by practitioner and patient. With TCM, side effects are minimal to nonexistent, and it creates a focus on long-term health, rather than temporary resolution.
Patti Carey, LAc, CLT, is a doctor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine (DAOM) with a specialty in gastrointestinal health and owner of Acupuncture, Herbs & Nutrition, in Plano. For more information, call 972704-3730 or visit PattiCareyLAC.com.