What Causes Diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is a common form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Many people develop small pouches (diverticula) in the lining of their colon that bulge outward through weak spots, usually in the large intestine. This is called diverticular disease. The condition of having diverticula is called diverticulosis. When the diverticulae become infected and inflamed, it’s called diverticulitis.
Ten to 25 percent of people with diverticulosis develop diverticulitis. Diverticulosis can remain undetected for many years, but when a pouch becomes infected, it can cause serious diverticulitis symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, constipation, or loose bowel movements and diarrhea. Mild diverticulitis symptoms may be confused with overlapping symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
After healing myself of a serious gastrointestinal disease, consulting with people with all types of colon and bowel conditions for over ten years, and answering thousands of questions on my online forum, I have won international recognition as an expert on natural remedies for diverticulitis. Even if you have tried every diverticulitis treatment available without success, don’t give up hope – my natural remedies for bowel and colon disease have helped tens of thousands of people worldwide, and my books are sold in over 60 different countries.
Laurel L., USA
“I am happy to report that your diet absolutely works!! It has helped me a lot. I still have the diarrhea but not as frequent as before and not for long periods of time. I followed it as instructed and had immediate relief!! Thank you so very much. I have not seen my gastroenterologist yet but I will!!
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Natural Remedies for Diverticulitis
When my healthcare professionals realized how much healthier I was using my holistic treatment methods than their other patients with similar colon and bowel conditions, they encouraged me to share my knowledge of natural healing for bowel disorders. That resulted in my first book, Listen To Your Gut, now sold in over 60 countries. My eight key steps to healing diverticulitis (described in detail in Listen To Your Gut) are:
1. Providing bowel rest or flush using a special elemental (pre-digested) liquid diet, or a juice fast, or protein shakes, along with bone broths.
2. Killing off the bad bacteria and fungus in the gut (disease-causing organisms)
3. Re-populating the gastrointestinal tract with good bacteria
4. Healing intestinal inflammation and ulceration
5. Resolving nutritional deficiencies
6. Detoxing your living environment
7. Healing the contributing emotional factors
8. Resolving constipation
By the time people find their way to my diverticulitis treatments, their bacterial flora is usually unbalanced throughout their gastrointestinal tract. The use of antibiotics (often since childhood) and the invasive medical diagnostic tests alone have destroyed much of the “good” (protective) bacteria in their colon. When the good, protective bacteria are depleted, then disease-causing organisms like yeast (candida albicans), viruses, parasites, and bad bacteria flourish.
This excess of disease-causing microorganisms causes inflammation and damage to the mucosal lining, resulting in diverticula and leaky gut syndrome – a condition where undigested food particles and bacteria seep into the bloodstream, triggering allergic reactions and infection in other places in the body (the joints, skin, eyes, etc).
Let’s look at each of these eight healing steps in more detail below. Or you can watch this video as I walk you through each step:
Eight Key Steps to Heal Diverticulitis
1. Resting or Flushing the Bowel
In extreme cases, the best and fastest way to heal diverticulitis – especially if you have a bowel blockage or obstruction – is to go on an elemental liquid diet (as outlined in my second book, The IBD Remission Diet). This allows you to rest the bowel, eliminate any foods that trigger inflammation, heal the underlying infection and inflammation in the digestive system and increase the tone of the intestinal wall.
An elemental liquid diet is also a good idea if you are very malnourished or underweight, or if you have ongoing intestinal bleeding, intestinal obstruction, stricture in the colon (narrowing), or blockages. An elemental, liquid diet is especially helpful when combined with regular colonic massage (see video below). Also see the instructions at the bottom of this page on how to do a Hot Castor Oil Pack – which is incredibly soothing if you have pain or spasming.
If you are not underweight or malnourished, then you likely don’t need to go to the expense of an elemental diet shake. Instead you can just go on a liquid diet, using vegetable juices (keep sugar from fruit to a minimum), or protein shakes with blended banana or papaya, mango, peach or pear. Alternate with bone broths (homemade is best) as the gelatin is also very healing for the gut. Remember, no tiny bits in your shakes that could get stuck in a diverticula pouch – so invest in a really good blender like a Vitamix that can get all the fiber as smooth as liquid – or, strain juices through a muslin cloth or bag to remove the fiber.
In 2002, I introduced a liquid diet supplement shake especially for those with colon and bowel disorders like diverticulitis, called Absorb Plus. It is a delicious elemental (pre-digested) nutrition and protein shake made of the highest quality natural ingredients. Absorb Plus requires very little digestion and is absorbed quickly by the body, nourishing even those who have difficulty eating and/or digesting solid food.
If you don’t require anything as drastic as a liquid diet, then just follow the appropriate Healing Diet (in Chapter 3 of Listen To Your Gut) for your symptom profile, or low-residue foods, while following the other steps below. If you do start with an elemental or liquid diet, then begin the rest of the protocols below at the same time. If you can tolerate it, the multi-pronged healing approach is the quickest natural treatment for diverticulitis.
The great news is that a number of my readers have tested using raw milk (unpasteurized milk from pasture-fed cows or goats) instead of Absorb Plus for their elemental diet, and if they can tolerate it, they show great improvement. Others have used a combination of Absorb Plus and raw cow or raw goat’s milk. Unfortunately, people in extreme disease states can often only tolerate a completely elemental shake product, mixed only with water.
Food-based Shakes – Alternatively, if you cannot afford any kind of specialized shake or supplements, then check out my article on how to Use Common Foods To Heal IBD.
2. Killing Off The Bad Bugs
To get rid of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, yeast, mycobacteria (a treatment resistant type of bacteria/fungal hybrid) and parasites in your gut, use Jini’s Wild Oregano Oil Protocol (see Chapter 2 of Listen To Your Gut or my cheap-as-chips eBook, Jini’s Healing Guide: Natural Treatments for Gut Infection). If you have a mycobacterial infection, you will need to cycle on and off the Wild Oregano Oil Protocol for 2 to 3 years to get rid of all the mycobacteria – as they have an inactive/active lifecycle.
People generally start with Jini’s Wild Oregano Oil Protocol and then after completing the first round of treatment, move to high dose, therapeutic probiotic (“good” bacteria) supplementation. Remember, they have already begun some probiotic supplementation with Jini’s Wild Oregano Oil Protocol, so their system doesn’t usually have much difficulty making the change to high dose probiotics.
3. Re-Populating The Gut Flora
Probiotics for diverticulitis treatment must be taken in a powerful bioavailable (able to be absorbed and used by the body) form; the bacteria must be capable of colonizing (multiplying in and sticking to) the gastrointestinal tract, and they must be taken in high enough amounts to have a therapeutic effect. It’s a good idea to take a minimum of 7 to 10 billion CFU (colony-forming units) per day. Learn how to choose a potent probiotic for therapeutic use, so that your probiotic will actually be capable of shifting your bioterrain (gut flora).
However, if your diverticulitis (IBD) is in a very active state, or you are highly sensitive to probiotics, then start out with small amounts and very gradually build the dose up. In these cases, it is often best to start with an infant species of bacteria called B. infantis and then gradually work your way up to the adult species like L. acidophilus, B. bifidus and L. bulgaricus.
Note: If you are having more than 3 bowel movements per day, then don’t take anything in capsule form (probiotics or supplements), as when you have very loose bowel movements the travel time through the gut is too fast to be properly absorbed and used. In that case, you need to take powder or liquid supplements, or open the capsules and dissolve them in liquid. Once you can tolerate high, therapeutic levels of probiotics (and many can right away) then the best diverticulitis treatment results are seen from probiotic layering.
This means you take both the powders and the capsules to maximize the beneficial effects of each, and then perform Jini’s Probiotic Retention Enema – where a probiotic enema is held in your colon until all the liquid is absorbed, so the probiotics can immediately begin to colonize the large bowel without having to go through the digestive tract.
4. Healing Intestinal Inflammation and Ulceration
While the steps above greatly contribute to the healing of intestinal inflammation and ulceration, targeted herbal supplementation is also a highly beneficial natural diverticulitis treatment for more rapid healing.
If you have inflammation in your colon, then use powdered herbs like slippery elm, licorice, marshmallow root, etc. A supplement I formulated, called MucosaCalm contains all these herbs, plus a high dose of N-Acetyl Glucosamine (NAG) which is especially beneficial for healing the gut. Fresh inner aloe (or frozen), or George’s Aloe Vera Juice, along with an elemental liquid diet and probiotics are all very helpful, and work synergistically together.
5. Resolving Nutritional Deficiencies
Here are the nutritional supplements that I believe pretty much everyone with diverticulitis needs to take, because of increased loss of nutrients through loose bowel movements, diarrhea and/or lack of absorption of nutrients:
- A full spectrum multi-vitamin and multi-mineral – although it would be ideal to take these in food form, many people with diverticulitis symptoms cannot tolerate whole food vitamins. Angstrom-sized, or nanoparticle minerals, are very easily tolerated and highly absorbable, but are also more expensive. While regular mineral supplements are not ideal, if you cannot afford the nano-sized minerals, they are certainly better than nothing. Due to the alkalizing (acid-lowering) effect of minerals (people with irritable bowel diseases tend to have a hyper-acidic pH), I strongly recommend that those with Diverticulosis take both the bone blend minerals and trace minerals in atom-sized (nano) form for the most rapid healing.
- 2,000 to 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. Discover the right dosage for your skin color and environment.
- 4 to 6 capsules of cod liver oil per day (or 2 teaspoons).
- 2 tablespoons of Udo’s Oil per day.
- Many people with a bowel disorder also suffer from anemia, but iron supplements are irritating to the gut and can trigger intestinal bleeding. Again the solution is to take your iron in nanoparticle, or angstrom-sized form. This means that the iron is instantly absorbed into the bloodstream and does not require digestion, therefore not irritating the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Ask your doctor to test your hemoglobin and ferritin stores.
- Vitamin C in mineral ascorbate form – needed for your immune system and for blood clotting. Do not take it in ascorbic acid form, if you are prone to loose bowel movements or diarrhea.
- If you tend towards constipation, then take magnesium citrate to bowel tolerance (250 mg – 1000 mg per day). Natural Calm is a nice, soothing way to take magnesium before bed to stimulate a bowel movement in the morning. Or you can add regular magnesium citrate to your protein shakes or smoothies.
Each of these supplements is vital for healing the various symptoms of diverticulitis, and they also work synergistically (better together) to accelerate healing. If you don’t want to order online, copy down the names of these recommended supplements and get your local health store to order them in.
Note: If you are having more than 3 bowel movements per day, take powder or liquid supplements, or open the capsules and dissolve them in liquid – otherwise the transit time is too fast and you will be flushing your money away.
6. Detoxing Your Living Environment of Causes of Diverticulitis
A major part of healing diverticulitis involves reducing and eliminating as many as possible of the toxins in your life that you sense are harmful to you. You need to become aware of all the elements of so-called “normal” life that are actually contributing to your diverticulitis, and create an environment that supports healing – not one that works against your efforts.
In Chapter 4 of Listen To Your Gut, I take you through every room in your house and show you how to create a safe and supportive healing environment in your home. What pans are you cooking with? How much electromagnetic radiation is in your house? What elements of your home are giving off harmful chemicals while you sleep? etc.
7. Identifying and Healing Emotional Causes of Diverticulitis
I have long been convinced that if you don’t heal the underlying psychological and emotional causes of diverticulitis, then you will never have long-term good health. After all, over 60% of your body’s neurotransmitters are not in your brain, but in your gut!
There is now an entire field dedicated to emerging knowledge about the interrelation of the mind, emotions and the digestive system, called neurogastroenterology. (See Dr. Michael Gershon’s book, The Second Brain, to learn more about this). This is not airy-fairy stuff – this is hard science. Consider blushing – a purely emotional event that instantly produces a marked physical reaction.
In my experience, the most effective mind/body therapies to treat diverticulitis and other colon and bowel disorders are acupressure tapping (like Emotional Freedom Techniques), hypnotherapy and craniosacral therapy (at Level II or higher). You need to work with a skilled therapist, at least initially, to really see good results. And it’s best if you can use a therapist who is experienced with chronic illness like gastrointestinal disease; which is more complex than regular illness.
8. Resolving Constipation
Often, one of the underlying, originating causes of diverticulitis is chronic constipation. The build up of fecal matter in the bowel, combined with excessive straining and pushing also contribute to the formation of diverticula pouches.
If you suffer from diverticulosis constipation, undigested food and fecal matter can get trapped in these diverticula outpouches and then these areas of the bowel can become inflamed or infected. A quick remedy for acute or occasional constipation that is often effective is to add the following supplements to an Absorb Plus shake, or protein shake, or smoothie in the evening:
- 300 to 1000 mg magnesium citrate (adjust according to need – start at 300 mg and only increase if needed)
- 100 mg potassium citrate
- 2 tbsp. Udo’s oil
These supplements help to relax the colon and the rectum and stimulate a bowel movement. They are all non-addicting substances so don’t carry the same ramifications as using a laxative. Make sure you also use a Squatty Potty, or child’s stepping stool to get your knees higher than your hips when you defecate – this takes a lot of strain off the colon, since it aligns the rectum in a fully open position.
To resolve long-term or chronic constipation though, you need more in-depth, comprehensive treatment protocols. See the symptom page for Constipation (and download the free report there) or see my book specifically for constipation called Listen To Your Colon. I also have a number of videos on YouTube that will be helpful for you, like this one:
The key to healing diverticulitis is to do all of the eight steps above – preferably all at once – without skipping over any of them. Step-by-step guidelines for using natural treatments to heal all inflammatory bowel diseases, including targeted healing diets, self-assessment tests, symptom guides, and more are outlined in my book, Listen to Your Gut.
One last thing: A hot castor oil pack can be fantastic for relieving pain when you are in the midst of a diverticulitis flare-up.
A hot castor oil pack is very effective at relaxing cramping or spasming muscles anywhere on the body. The oil is also absorbed into the lymphatic circulation to provide a soothing, cleansing and nourishing treatment, which stimulates immune function and tones internal organs.
Hot Castor Oil Pack
A castor oil pack has many applications, and has also been used to treat non-malignant uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, headaches, liver disorders, constipation, diarrhea, intestinal disorders, gallbladder inflammation or stones, poor elimination, night time urinary frequency, inflamed joints, and general detoxification.
I have used a hot castor oil pack repeatedly on myself and many of my family members for many reasons (usually pain, cramping or spasming) and it has never failed to provide significant, and usually total, relief.
- Expeller-pressed castor oil
- White cotton flannel twice the size of your abdomen (so you can fold it in half and cover your abdomen)
- Hot water bottle or heating pad
- Thin dish towel (or baby’s burp cloth, or old diaper cloth, etc)
- Sheet of plastic (a garbage bag will work)
- Old bath towel
- Old t-shirt and sweat pants
Cut a piece of plastic that will cover the flannel with at least 1 to 2 inches extra around the border of the flannel. Drizzle approximately 1/4 cup of castor oil onto the flannel, then fold it in half to saturate. The pack should not be dripping with oil – it should have just enough oil to make a slight oil mark on furniture, as if you were going to polish it.
NOTE: The first couple of weeks you use the pack you will have to apply a tablespoon or so of oil about every 3 to 4 days. Eventually the pack will be saturated enough that reapplication of oil should only be needed every couple of weeks.
Lay out an old towel on the surface you will be lying on. Castor oil stains, and you want to avoid getting it on sheets, carpet, or clothing. Lie on your back and place the saturated flannel on your abdomen. Cover the flannel with plastic. Then place the thin dish towel or old cloth over the plastic. Place a hot water bottle or heating pad over the thin towel and plastic, and wrap the bath towel around you to hold it all snug.
Relax for 30 to 60 minutes. This is an excellent time to practice visualization, meditation, or deep breathing exercises, listen to classical music or sleep – or to watch a good movie!
When finished, you can remove the oil with warm water and soap in the shower. I prefer to just wipe my abdomen with an old towel and leave the oil on my skin to be completely absorbed while I sleep (I apply the pack at night, before bed – but I sleep on a towel or old sheets, as even the oil residue can stain).
Store the pack in a large zip-lock bag. You can reuse it many times, adding more oil as needed to keep the pack saturated. Replace the pack after it begins to change color (usually several months). Do not wash the flannel – just throw it out.