Small out pouching in the gastro-intestinal tract is called diverticula. Diverticula usually occur at weakened areas of the tissue resulting from such factors as tissue irritation or secretory or muscular malfunctioning. Diverticulosis, the condition where the diverticula are formed, is seen mostly in elderly persons with weakened muscular in the bowel wall. Diverticula can occur in any part of gastro intestinal tract but are generally seen in the colon and sometimes in the esophagus.
Diverticulosis is asymptomatic unless the diverticula become inflamed, a state called diverticulitis. In the esophagus, undigested or partially digested food collects in the diverticula and leads to pain, dysphagia, regurgitation, bad breath and a foul taste in the mouth. Weight loss and impaired nutrition follow.
In the colon, fecal residue collects in the diverticula, becomes hardened leading to inflammation and infection. It is accompanied by abdominal pain and fever. Perforation may occur leading to peritonitis and intestinal obstruction and may necessitate surgical intervention.
The role of fibre in increasing intestinal transit and reducing intraluminal pressure in the colon and thus preventing diverticular disease are well established.