The Myths & Facts of Diverticulitis

By Buffalo Medical Group | December 5 2017 | Doctor Tips

What is the difference between Diverticulitis & Diverticulosis?

With similar names, it’s easy to get Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis confused, but, it’s important to know the difference and understand both conditions, to know what symptoms to watch for, and when to seek professional medical attention.

Diverticulosis consists of small outpouchings (or pockets) on the colon. These outpouchings are fairly common, but in some circumstances, these outpouchings may become inflamed or infected. When this happens, the condition becomes diverticulitis.

It is important to understand that having diverticulosis does not mean you have diverticulitis, but it does mean you could experience an episode of diverticulitis at some point.

The average diverticulitis patient is under the age of 30:


While diverticulosis is uncommon in patients less than 30 years of age, approximately 40% of patients are affected by the age of 60, and 60% of patients by the age of 80. Diverticulosis can be seen during a colonoscopy, or on a CT scan.

If you have diverticulitis, you cannot eat popcorn, seeds, or nuts:


Decades ago, it was believed that nuts, seeds and popcorn would put a patient at significant risk for diverticulitis. Thankfully, there have been several studies recently which have proven this theory to be false. The good news about disbanding this myth is if you love nuts, seeds or popcorn, you no longer have to avoid them. However, we encourage patients to always do what they feel comfortable with, so if you prefer to avoid these foods, there is no negative side effect in doing so.

The most common symptom of diverticulitis is pain in the lower left area of your abdomen:


Although diverticulitis can occur anywhere throughout the colon, it most commonly affects the part of your colon located in the lower left area of your abdomen. Patients with diverticulitis typically complain of pain in this area, as well as fevers or chills.  Decreased bowel function, and sometimes rectal bleeding can also be associated.

A regular diet consisting of white bread and cereal can increase your chances for developing diverticulitis:


The most common cause of diverticulitis is a low fiber diet, as this increases the pressure within the colon and increases the chance of developing these outpouchings. We strongly recommend a high fiber diet. The most beneficial type of fiber is found in fruits and vegetables, as opposed to white bread or cereal.  Numerous studies have confirmed a much lower incidence of diverticular disease amongst patients who follow this type of diet.  As is true with so many other disease processes, a regular exercise routine has also been shown to decrease the incidence of diverticular disease.

Every case of Diverticulitis requires surgery:


Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this question. Diverticulitis can range from very mild disease to quite severe.  Initially, we start treatment with antibiotics, whether by pill form at home, or through an IV in the hospital, depending on the severity.  Not all diverticular disease requires surgery, however, some patients have frequent or severe episodes that ultimately surgery is required either electively or urgently.  If surgery is performed in the elective setting, my partners and I prefer a minimally invasive approach such as laparoscopic or robotic surgery.

Help is Available:

If you believe you may be dealing with diverticulitis, or are looking for more information, call Dr. Dan Leberer in our Colon Rectal Surgery Department, at 716.630.1135 to schedule a consult. At Buffalo Medical Group, our team of skilled Colon Rectal doctors care for patients in all WNY Major hospitals, and have several office locations, to make your care convenient for you.

For more information on Dr. Dan Leberer or our Colon Rectal team, visit our website.