Have you been diagnosed with diverticulitis? Welcome to one of the fastest growing groups in the United States today. Diverticulitis is ranked in the top six disorders diagnosed at ambulatory care centers, and there were more than 236,000 deaths, in the United States, with a digestive disease as the underlying cause. This represents 9.8 percent of all deaths, during that year, according to the studies*.
The United States lead the world by an almost 75% margin in documented cases of the disorder. And, it really comes down to two issues; first, the endless ingestion of toxic substances that we are allowing in our bodies, both knowingly and unknowingly and second, the drugs commonly prescribed by the medical community. It may be time to consider a more natural, logical approach, through the use of lifestyle changes, healthy nutrition and natural herbal choices.
It is important to understand how diverticulitis develops. Pouches (diverticula) form in the wall of the large intestine and food particles and feces become lodged in these pouches. They look like small balloons protruding from the exterior wall of the colon. This is called diverticulosis. When bacteria forms and the pouches become inflamed or infected it becomes a more serious illness, diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis can range from a mild infection to a severe one, depending on lifestyle and nutritional habits. Over time, the walls of the intestine may break down and then begin to tear from the pressure of food particles or feces pushing them through the intestinal wall. If the infection spills into the abdominal cavity (peritoneal), it can infect the abdominal wall, and may develop into peritonitis.
This infection, in turn, may spread to other parts of the body (sepsis). If an abnormal opening, a fistula, forms between two parts of the large intestine, or between the large intestine and other organs, such as the bladder or urethra, the bacteria and infection can spread to these organs as well. And ultimately, diverticulitis can cause bowel obstruction in the colon.
So, you can see where this is going. Once you have been diagnosed with diverticulitis, you will, in all likelihood, need to control the symptoms for the rest of your life. Look at it as a condition, like diabetes or asthma. It doesn’t have to lessen the quality of your life and can actually improve it, if you control the condition by using natural, logical methods.
The most common course of treatment in standard American medicine is to prescribe a pharmaceutical solution. The most commonly prescribed drug is Cipro. The problem with this drug, like so many chemically created drugs, is that the lingering side effects created by fluoroquinolones, the active ingredient in ciprogloxacin, can cause chronic illness and disability.
The longer you are exposed to the drug, the more likely it is that you will be adversely affected by it. Side effects and contraindications of the drugs doctors prescribe are readily available in the Physician’s Desk Reference. I do not recall any doctor I have dealt with for a relative or myself that has ever explained this in detail when prescribing a drug. It is rare that a doctor discusses these possibilities with their patients.
Furthermore, this drug does not heal the diverticula (the pouch); this is just an antibiotic to kill the bacterium that exists during the time you are taking the drug. If you do not change your digestive environment, the diverticulitis will likely return and you will likely be prescribed more Cipro.
The problem with this is that your body, over time, develops an immunity to antibiotics, then the antibiotics begin to ravage your « good » bacteria, which further breaks down your immune system and makes you more and more susceptible to the spread of infection, caused by new episodes of gathering bacteria in the diverticula.
Aside from the immune issues, according to the FDA, Ciproflaxin (the active ingredient contained in Cipro) may cause allergic reactions, such as; hives; difficult breathing; swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, can occur while taking this medication. Other possible side effects include, severe dizziness, fainting, fast or pounding heartbeats, sudden pain, snapping or popping sound, bruising, swelling, tenderness, stiffness, or loss of movement in any of your joints, diarrhea that is watery or bloody, confusion, hallucinations, depression, unusual thoughts or behavior, seizure (convulsions), severe headache, ringing in your ears, dizziness, nausea, vision problems, pain behind your eyes, pale or yellowed skin, dark colored urine, fever, weakness, urinating less than usual or not at all, easy bruising or bleeding, numbness, tingling, severe skin reaction, fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling. Less serious side effects of ciprofloxacin may include; nausea, vomiting, dizziness or drowsiness, blurred vision, feeling nervous, anxious, or agitated, and/or sleep problems (insomnia or nightmares). The onset of pseudomembranous colitis symptoms may occur during or after antimicrobial treatment.
So, how do you get off this Merry-Go-Round?
As with almost any malady, the most important course of action should include changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle. But, there are many natural sources that can help restore balance to your digestive system and stem the damage caused by environmental effects.
Here are some herbal options that may speed up the healing process. Probably the most important contribution of these herbs is that they can provide nutritional elements that are lacking in most diets. To maximize the healing effects of herbs, try use a liquid tincture formula. The liquid formulas, when made with alcohol, have a very long shelf life, (about 5 years). A glycerin base will last about 2 years. Because you only need a small amount, usually 12 to 14 drops three times a day, it makes them more cost effective than other herbal forms. They will process in your system more rapidly and will maximize absorption of the herbal properties.
Aloe Vera juice has a powerful curative effect on digestive disorders like diverticulitis. If used regularly, most people report positive results in 3 – 30 days, depending on their condition. It is also acts as a good base for mixing liquid tincture herbs, which can sometimes have a strong taste. You can add a non-citric juice for flavor as well, if needed.
Barley grass is the only vegetation on earth that can supply sole nutritional support from birth to old age. It also detoxifies the body from harmful substances that we digest every day. It is one of the best herbs to use to eliminate heavy metal poisoning because it attaches to metals such as lead, mercury, aluminum, etc., and carries them out of the body. It promotes tissue repair and heals the stomach and duodenal ulcers and any inflammation in the digestive tract.
Barley grass is one of the oldest of all cultivated grains, and is cultivated before the seed. Therefore, it is gluten free. It is a free radical scavenger super green that helps with detoxification, internal cleansing, and tissue repair and contains high amounts of chlorophyll, nature’s deodorizer. Barley grass also provides nearly three dozen vitamins and minerals essential to human health including calcium, iron, potassium, folic acid and vitamins A, B1, B2, B12, C and E which are all present in high levels.
It has been used to relieve inflammation and soothes stomach distress, but it can also tone and strengthen the stomach walls. As a digestive aid, this quality assists the digestive tract and helps to relieve dyspepsia (including lacto-dyspepsia in children), flatulence, heartburn, nausea, gastritis, duodenal and peptic ulcers, and also helps to improve the appetite. Barley Grass is said to soothe intestinal irritation and ease many intestinal problems, including constipation. It is used to improve colon health, facilitate daily regularity and may also be helpful in preventing serious malignant bowel disease.
Kelp, which is rich in nutrients, and other seaweeds that contain naturally occurring iodine, are the great gift from the sea. One of the main benefits of liquid Kelp is that it strengthens your immune system to fight off viruses by absorbing and removing drugs, chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive strontium from the body. Herbalists claim that Kelp’s active ingredient, sodium alginate, binds these toxins in the gastrointestinal tract, preventing their absorption into the body. It is considered a body balancer, promoting adrenal, pituitary and thyroid health and is soothing to a sensitive or troubled digestive system, aiding greatly in treating in recurrent constipation and gastric bloating.
Kelp kills bacteria and other disease-causing organisms and absorbs toxins from the digestive system. This is helpful for improving digestion, stimulating kidney function, increasing circulation, and purifying the blood and it helps balance your body’s PH levels. And Liquid Kelp supplementations are among the greatest sources of vitamins and minerals, containing over 70 trace elements and major minerals including: Iodine, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, silicon, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B3, A, C, E, G, S and K. Kelp’s rich supply of nutrients from the sea has a buffering ability to neutralize and discharge waste from the body to be more easily.
Papaya Leaf extract, contains papain, a protein dissolving enzyme that breaks down wheat gluten and carbohydrates for extra digestive protection. It has been very beneficial for digestion, and is said to stimulate the bowels in times of constipation, a common side effect of diverticulitis and is also believed to be useful in treating inflammatory bowel disorders. Papaya leaf is a source of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and C.
Grapefruit seed extract is extremely anti-microbial, meaning it can fight bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites and will not allow them to thrive. Grapefruit seed is also high in vitamin-C which strengthens the immune system and naturally helps the body rid itself of toxins and neutralizes free-radicals. It works like an antibiotic drug, without destroying good bacteria that you want to be present. It has also been shown to have an alkalizing agent which helps to balance internal pH and is especially helpful in eliminating intestinal infections, inhibiting while correcting the balance of intestinal flora and encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria. It can be used to fight a large range of infections and is one of the best treatments for acidity and relieves indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux**.
Marjoram Leaf is an aromatic tonic, which means that it is good for digestion. It eases sour stomach and stomach pains; and is also a natural disinfectant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antioxidant that effectively relieves pains and aches. A mild tonic for the nervous system, it is thought to be more relaxing than oregano, and it is used to soothe the nerves and reduce tension. It is a natural disinfectant, antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial that has healing qualities and combats infection***.
Wild Yams is high in plant hormones, which may be synthesized to support hormone health and balance. It is thought to be an antispasmodic that relieves muscular cramps, abdominal cramps, ovarian and uterine pain, irritable bowel syndrome, spasmodic hiccoughs. Wild Yam is said to be soothing on the nerves (and body) and beneficial for digestive problems. The herb has been used to expel gas from the stomach and bowels, and not only relieve wind, but also colic. Wild Yam is considered a liver cleaner that has been used for stagnation of the liver and gallbladder and has sometimes been called one of the best natural relievers of jaundice, bilious colic and nausea. Its hepatic qualities are thought to support and stimulate the liver, gallbladder and spleen, and increase the flow of bile, which is not only good for the liver, but also further supports good digestion.
Licorice offers great support for digestion and a healthy gastrointestinal system. It soothes the mucous membranes and protects the stomach and intestines while coating the stomach’s lining with mucus. As an antibacterial, licorice seems to stop the growth of many bacteria and is a further support for treating intestinal infection. Licorice is an old, mild laxative that is also known to cleanse the colon. This herb has a cleansing stimulant that is effective in removing toxins and wastes from the body. Licorice contains Biotin, calcium, choline, iron, lecithin, magnesium, manganese, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, zinc, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and E.
Marigold, Calendula flower, has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years. In tincture form, taken internally, calendula promotes the healing process for ailments of the digestive tract. Calendula works by stimulating the lymphatic system, reducing swelling and cleansing toxins from the body. Calendula flower tincture also aids the body with food digestion, especially food that is high in fat. Since it is a « bitter », it will soothe indigestion and heartburn and is thought to be a great herbal remedy for colitis, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Calendula protects the lining of the stomach and intestines by inhibiting the effects of the bacteria associated with gastritis, peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.
Cramp Bark is a Native American remedy that is mildly sedative with warming and antispasmodic properties that may help ease painful contractions for people suffering from digestive complaints like diverticulitis, gastritis, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
Chamomile herbal extract is commonly used for its soothing effect on the digestive system, while toning walls of the digestive tract. This is makes chamomile a very good choice as part of the treatment of diverticular disorders and inflammatory bowel conditions. Chamomile stops spasms in in the smooth lining in the stomach and intestines and contains chemicals that are anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antiviral and antiparasitic. As an antispasmodic, it helps to relieve stomach cramps and can be beneficial for relief from nausea, heart burn and stress-related flatulence.
Caraway Seed is a good healing source for digestive problems including constipation, colic, excessive flatulence, indigestion, heartburn, cramps, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and as an appetite stimulant. Caraway Seed contains oils, proteins, vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, calcium, potassium, iron, and many antioxidants.
Caraway is an aromatic herb that has been characterized as the « house cleaner » for the body. It is an effective agent for abdominal distention, colic, constipation, hiatal hernia, mild spastic conditions of the GI tract, and is famous for improving appetite and soothing many conditions, including gallbladder spasms, excessive flatulence, nausea and stomach ulcers. Caraway speeds up the digestive system. Caraway also promotes the appetite or assists digestion. It can protect the digestive system from infections that can lead to ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, especially when combined with Fennel or Peppermint. Herbalists consider it one of the most important herbs for strengthening the intestines. The fiber contained in Caraway seed binds to toxins in food and helps protect the colon mucus membrane from cancerous cell formations.
Cat’s Claw originates from the Peruvian rainforests and is becoming widely recognized as a superior immune stimulant with antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory qualities. It is said to be a « life-giving » tonic that cleanses the intestinal tract, supports healthy blood pressure levels, Cat’s Claw has a wide range of therapeutic applications, but particularly for the digestive system, balancing the intestinal flora and strengthening the immune system.
It has been used to treat infections and a wide range of intestinal disorders, including diverticulosis and diverticulitis and to act against Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium associated with gastritis and peptic ulcers. The emergence of knowledge about Cat’s Claw tinctures couldn’t have come at a better time now that many are fearful that the war on cancer is being lost, that new deadly viruses are evolving, and new « super bacteria » are developing due to overuse of antibiotics.
It is believed to effectively cleanse and detoxify the intestinal tract and replenish friendly bacteria. Most bowel diseases are the result of the disruption of the growth of beneficial flora, and without the proper balance, the immune system may be adversely affected. Consequently, Cat’s Claw not only enhances the natural defense system, but it also is said to relieve the discomforts of intestinal disorders, such as diverticulitis, leaky bowel, colitis and dysentery.
Slippery Elm Bark is known to reduce inflammation of the intestinal tract. Soothing the inflamed mucous membranes of the bowel and neutralizing excess acids in the intestines, which make it beneficial for Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, diverticulosis and irritable bowel syndrome. It has also been used to ease constipation and chronic diarrhea. One of its oldest uses has been as a tonic for the digestive tract; its high mucilage content soothes the inflamed mucous membranes of the stomach and neutralizes excess stomach acid, making it a great remedy for the digestive system. It is said to soothe the sore feeling that often follows vomiting. Herbalists have used it as a remedy for ulcers and gastritis.
Finally, it is time to face reality and stand up to; the advertisers, the manufacturers, the public and institutional food processers, the chemical companies and the pharmaceutical companies, and remove them, their influence and their products from your daily life.
As it progresses, the debilitating nature of diverticulitis can severely limit your quality of life if positive change does not occur. The most difficult part of change is taking responsibility for a condition and then taking charge to make that change happen. Take responsibility for the factors that trigger your symptoms and take charge of your wellbeing, by creating a plan that you can live with; a plan that can make you feel good again.
Always consult a qualified health care provider before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment to determine what course of therapy is right for you and to ensure you are not predisposed to possible contraindications that may be present in certain foods or plants.
*[Author(s). Chapter title. In:] Everhart JE, editor. The burden of digestive diseases in the United States. US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2008; NIH Publication No. 09-6443 [pp. – ].