Diverticular disease is a disorder of the gastro-intestinal tract that primarily affects the colon. Studies have shown that it can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, but the colon is most susceptible.
This disorder is characterised by the development of pockets or `diverticula' within the colon wall. These diverticula tend to develop in the weak areas of the bowel, in particular, sites where a large number of bloods vessels penetrate the walls of the bowel and in areas that are generally narrower than most others- such as the sigmoid colon.
It is believed that the development of diverticula is a result of the adoption of western diets, which tend to be low in fibre.
This is evident in developed or industrialised countries. Due to the large amounts of refining within the food system, the amount of fibre contained in many foods is severely diminished. A diet low in fibre results in the production of stools of a different consistency than normal. This consistency requires more pressure to be present in order to move the stools through the bowel. It is the high pressures that result in the bowel expanding or `pocketing outwards through the surrounding muscle, consequently forming the pocket like structures known as diverticula.
Diets high in beef and animal products as opposed to fruit and vegetable are also shown to result in diverticular disease. Animal products contain very little fibre, whereas plants are the main supply for fibre in the diet. If you limit the amount of fruit and vegetables you consume, you limit the amount of fibre in your diet, and increase the pressure in your bowels. This puts you in a high risk category for developing diverticula.
Studies have shown that diets high in vegetables, such as those in developing countries, decrease the chances of developing diverticular disease.