The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states that many people have small pouches of the large intestine that bulge outward through weak spots in the colon. Multiple pouches are called diverticula. Having diverticula is called diverticulosis. About 10 percent of the United States population older than 40 has diverticulosis. When these pouches become inflamed, the condition is referred to as diverticulitis. Most experts agree that dietary habits play a role in diverticular disease. Diverticulitis Diet notes that during a diverticulitis attack, you should avoid foods that are high in fat and made from refined sugars and flour such as chocolate.
Symptoms of Diverticulitis
Because inflammation weakens the lining of the diverticular pouches, perforation of the pouches can occur. According to the Merck Manual Online Library, 75 percent of these perforations remain localized, while the remaining 25 percent may develop into an abscess, bowel obstruction or a perforation into the abdominal cavity. Signs and symptoms of diverticulitis are left lower quadrant abdominal pain, fever, possible feculent vaginal discharge, nausea, vomiting or abdominal distention.
Diagnosis of Diverticular Disease
The diagnosis of diverticular disease is based on medical history, physical exam and laboratory testing. Often, diverticular disease is discovered during a colonoscopy. Your physician will ask about your bowel habits, any pain with bowel movements, your diet and medications. You may also have a rectal exam to detect swelling or tenderness in the bowel. Definitive diagnosis is made with a CT scan, a special X-ray that requires you to drink barium so the doctor can see the bowel properly.
Fiber, Chocolate and Diverticulitis
Low-fiber diet is the most prevalent theory surrounding the cause of diverticulosis, according to the NIDDK. Eating processed foods that have been stripped of nutrients and fiber has increased the incidence of diverticulosis, which is common in industrialized nations such as the United States, Australia and England. Lack of fiber causes constipation or hard stool. Constipation forces people to strain when trying to have a bowel movement. Straining increases the pressure on the colon and can cause the lining to bulge. Lack of exercise is also associated with a greater risk of forming diverticula. Chocolate is not a high-fiber food, but it is not directly associated with causing diverticulosis or diverticulitis. Eating a diet consisting mainly of chocolate products will not provide you with the necessary fiber in your diet to prevent diverticulosis or diverticulitis.
Prevention of Diverticular Disease
Eating a diet high in fiber will help prevent diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Foods that are high in fiber include beans; whole-grain cereals; fruits such as apples, pears, raspberries and prunes; and vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, peas, cauliflower and spinach.