Abdominal pain is a common medical problem. It can be caused by something eaten, or by viral infection. When the pain, however, becomes severe or chronic, then it may be a sign of something serious. The location of the pain can signify which of the organs or which part of the abdomen is inflamed. When the pain is felt in the left lower abdomen, it can be a problem in the lower colon (the lower tract of the large intestine), where food waste is expelled. Colon problems can be either an inflammatory bowel disease or an infection in the colon known as diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis is a common digestive disease found in the large intestine. It develops from diverticulosis, which is a condition where pouches develop outside of the colon. Diverticulosis is a common condition among old people, especially those aged 60 and older, but when a piece of digested food or fecal matter is stuck in one of the pouches, it gets inflamed or infected. This inflammation of the diverticulum develops into diverticulitis, which is one of the causes of abdominal pain.
Abdominal pain, especially tenderness in the lower left side of the abdomen, is the most common symptom of diverticulitis. The pain is usually severe and sudden, but it can also be mild and last for many days. Along with abdominal pain, a person with diverticulitis may experience cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, or a change in bowel habits.
Although not proven, the prevailing theory on how this disease develops points to the lack of or a low level fiber intake in a person’s diet. It was first observed in the 1900s when Americans began adopting processed foods into their diets. This consumption of processed foods has lowered the dietary fiber intake of Americans. This disease, however, is rare in Asia and Africa, where most people eat foods rich in fiber.
Some fiber, called soluble fiber, dissolves easily in water. It turns into a soft, jelly-like texture in the intestines. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, passes almost unchanged through the intestines. Both kinds of fiber help prevent constipation by making stools soft and easy to pass.
How are the pouches formed?
Constipation may cause people to strain when passing hard stool during a bowel movement. This straining may increase the pressure in the colon, which in turn may cause the colon lining to bulge out through its weak spots in the wall. These bulges are what we call as diverticula (diverticulum if singular).
Lack of exercise is also associated with a greater risk in the formation of these colon pouches, although the reasons for this association are not well understood. Actually, doctors are not even certain what really causes the colon pouches to become inflamed. The inflammation may begin when bacteria or stool are caught inside the pouches. The lining might have been injured and the wound got infected. Because of the unpredictability of the disease, an attack of diverticulitis can develop suddenly and without warning.