Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are becoming more common. In the past, primarily elderly adults were diagnosed with one or the other. However, more adults are being diagnosed today at a younger age. As more people are experiencing the unpleasant effects of it, they are looking for answers about what to avoid. Many people wonder if they should avoid alcohol as well. To better answer this question, it helps to understand the condition and how it affects the body.
What Is Diverticulitis?
Diverticulosis is the condition of having diverticula throughout one or more sections of the colon, and it does not go away. Diverticula are weakened areas in the colon that look like protruding pouches. Diverticulitis is an acute infection or inflammation of one or more of those pouches. When a person experiences diverticulitis, it is often referred to as a flare-up.
Not every person who is diagnosed with diverticulosis will experience an acute attack. For example, a person may find out about it during a colonoscopy. Some people have one infection or acute inflammation incident, and others may have recurring flare-ups. The disease is still not a well-understood condition since it affects people differently. Some people still experience flare-ups after following medical advice. Addressing risk factors may be a way to better understand what to do.
Risk Factors for Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis
Heredity is a risk factor. Many people diagnosed with diverticulosis have a parent or grandparent with it. Researchers and medical scientists identify some other potential risk factors. They include:
- Poor diet with a lack of fiber.
- Current smoking habit or a history of smoking.
- A sedentary lifestyle or a lack of regular exercise.
- Being seriously overweight.
- Reaching a senior age.
- Certain medications like opioids or NSAIDs.
There may be other medications that affect the likelihood of diverticulitis flare-ups. Any medication that causes constipation as a side effect can increase the risk. Opioids are known culprits of causing constipation. Being overweight, being sedentary, and not eating healthy can also contribute to chronic constipation.
One of the critical pieces of advice nearly every doctor and gastroenterologist tell people is to consume plenty of fiber and water when they are not in an acute flare-up phase. This may prevent frequent flare-ups by helping waste move smoothly through the colon. Constipation can cause hard stool that puts pressure on the walls of the colon. Straining to remove that stool can lead to additional diverticula pouches or stool entering the pouches, leading to an infection.
Although NSAIDs are not known to cause severe constipation, they have increased the risks of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. They are also associated with an increase in flare-ups. Because this can increase other risks, many specialists advise people who have had a flare-up to avoid taking any NSAIDs for pain relief.
Symptoms of Diverticulitis
People who have the condition of diverticulosis may never notice any symptoms. However, if a diverticulitis flare-up happens, the symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the inflammation or infection. Also, some symptoms may indicate a severe complication, which will be discussed in the next section. When it comes to diverticulitis attacks, doctors refer to them as uncomplicated or complicated. An uncomplicated flare-up or attack happens with a localized infection or inflammation. These are some associated symptoms:
- Abdominal tenderness and distension
- Lower left quadrant pain
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Discomfort with urination
It is important to note that while constipation is a common factor in many cases of diverticulitis, some people experience diarrhea instead. Others may develop diarrhea after a bout of constipation. Also, while lower left quadrant pain is most common, some people experience pain in other areas. The most common place for infection is in the sigmoid colon. This S-shaped portion connects to the descending colon and the rectum in the pelvic region. People can still develop a painful infection in any other part of the colon where there are diverticula. The transverse colon crosses the abdomen, the descending colon goes along the left side, and the ascending colon is on the right.
Although many diverticulitis cases are mild or uncomplicated, about 25% are complicated. This means that in addition to inflammation or infection, there is a perforation, abscess, bleeding, obstruction, fistula, or phlegmon. A perforation means a diverticulum ruptures, leading to bowel contents spilling into the abdominal cavity.
A fistula is an abnormal connection between parts or organs. An obstruction is a form of bowel blockage, which prevents stool from passing usually. Abscesses are pockets or collections of pus. A phlegmon occurs when an infection is not contained and spreads to surrounding tissue. Symptoms of a complicated diverticulitis attack may be more severe. They may include those stated in the previous section or the following more severe symptoms:
- Abdomen tender to touch
- Severe pain and bloating
- Inability to pass gas or stool
- Nausea or vomiting
- High fever and chills
Anyone who may be experiencing an acute diverticulitis attack should seek immediate medical care. Severe symptoms should be treated in an emergency room. Some people opt for urgent care. However, it is essential to note that many urgent care facilities do not have the machines to perform CT scans that hospitals have. A CT scan is necessary to confirm diverticulitis, and it is also valuable since it shows the severity of the flare-up.
Treatment for uncomplicated diverticulitis includes antibiotics to treat the infection and a few days of consuming only clear liquids. This gives the inflamed bowel a chance to rest. People are usually advised to eat low-fiber foods that are soft for several days afterward. Although fiber is typically recommended to prevent flare-ups, it can irritate the inflamed bowel during an acute inflammation attack or infection. Eventually, the person can work up to a high-fiber diet again. Most doctors also recommend a colonoscopy after the bowel heals to see if there are any other issues and the extent of the diverticula.
If a person has frequent uncomplicated attacks, surgery to remove the problematic area of the colon may eventually be recommended to prevent future complication risks or to improve quality of life. When this colon resection surgery is planned, there is an option for many people to have a robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery that may not require a temporary colostomy bag.
With complicated attacks, surgery is often required. Emergency surgery is less ideal since it often means a patient must have a colostomy bag for at least several months. While many colostomies can later be reversed thanks to modern medical advances, some may still be permanent. Although surgery may eliminate future flare-ups for many people, it is essential to remember that diverticula do not go away. More can develop, and the remaining diverticula in other parts of the colon may become infected.
Can You Drink Alcohol With Diverticulitis?
When a person is experiencing the acute condition of diverticulitis, it is essential to avoid alcohol consumption. Alcohol can make symptoms worse during an acute attack. Also, alcohol can weaken the immune system, making infections linger. Flagyl is a common antibiotic for treating diverticulitis infections. People who consume alcohol while taking it or within a few days of stopping it can experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, and abdominal cramps.
Even after resuming a high-fiber diet, it is still not advisable to consume alcohol frequently. Many people find that their flare-ups happen after periods of drinking alcohol. For example, a person with diverticulosis who drinks a lot may develop diverticulitis.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
What happens when a person drinks heavily and experiences a diverticulitis attack? It is essential to break the addiction and protect long-term health. Knowing the potentially severe complications and experiencing the pain of an attack may incentivize some people to stop drinking or seek treatment if they have a drinking problem. However, people who suffer from addiction cannot stop on their own and require professional help to break the cycle of addiction. An intervention may be necessary to encourage the person to go to rehab.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction or needs treatment for alcohol misuse, Long Island Interventions is here to help. We assist by connecting you with professional intervention resources, information about treatment options, and contact information for treatment facilities near Long Island. To learn more about alcohol addiction treatment near Long Island, please get in touch with us.