Diverticulitis is a common and potentially dangerous gastrointestinal condition that can be managed through proper diet and medication. The use of enemas to treat diverticulitis remains a source of great debate. While some contend regular enemas are essential for keeping a healthy digestive system, others are quick to point out the potential risks of these treatments.
Diverticula are small pouches that bulge out from anywhere in the digestive system, although they are most often found in the large intestine. When these diverticula get inflamed or infected, it causes the condition known as diverticulitis.
Diverticula form when pressure bulges naturally weak portions of the digestive tract. It is still unclear exactly what causes the diverticula to become infected. Pressure, trapped fecal matter and a lack of blood are believed to be the leading candidates. For many years, it was thought eating nuts, seeds, popcorn and corn could aggravate the diverticula and lead to infection, but that is no longer considered the case.
The most obvious symptom of diverticulitis is sudden severe pain in the left side of the abdomen. Other symptoms include bloating, excessive gas, change in bowel habits, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal tenderness, nausea, vomiting, fever and rectal bleeding.
Mild cases of diverticulitis can be treated with a liquid or low-fiber diet and possibly some antibiotics. Once the infection has healed and the symptoms dissipate, more fiber, like fresh fruits and vegetables, can be added to the diet. In extreme cases, diverticulitis may require surgery to prevent a bowel obstruction or peritonitis, which is when an infected pouch ruptures and spills intestinal contents into the abdominal cavity.
Enema treatments for diverticulitis remain a controversial subject. In an enema, fluid is introduced to the colon through the rectum, leading to a complete evacuation of the bowels. Proponents argue the enema helps remove obstructions and trapped fecal matter, eliminating potential causes of infection. Since constipation can be one of the most troublesome aspects of diverticulitis, enemas would seem to be a natural remedy.
Most doctors don’t recommend enemas for diverticulitis. Swelling the lower intestine with water only increases the pressure within the colon, creating even more stress on the diverticula. Repeated enemas can also weaken the colon muscles. This could not only cause more diverticula to develop, but it also makes it more difficult for the colon to contract and move fecal matter through the digestive tract. As a result, the risk of constipation actually increases.