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Dealing with Diverticulitis

Don and Sharon Ellison

Sharon Ellison—here with husband Don—has made a full recovery from diverticulitis, following surgery. Photo: Don Ellison

My problems with diverticulitis began in 1990. I wasn't digesting foods properly. I would feel bloated and have abdominal pain. Some days, I would have those symptoms and diarrhea, nausea, and other intestinal trouble.

For the next five years, I tried to control the attacks by cutting out many things from my diet. I would even avoid high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. My favorites! Finally, in 1995, I had an attack that was so painful I could not walk across the room. I ended up in the emergency room at Georgetown University Hospital, on antibiotics to stop the pain. Shortly after, my doctor diagnosed diverticulitis and recommended I have surgery.

I was operated on at Georgetown. The surgeon removed the diseased section of my colon, then joined the healthy ends together.

Today, depending on someone's condition, laparoscopy probably would be used instead of traditional surgery. That wasn't an option for me. Although I was in the hospital for five days, the nurses had me walking the halls within hours of my surgery. Walking really does speed recovery—it gets your system moving again! That, plus good pain management, assured my recovery was excellent.

“…so painful, I couldn't walk across the room.”

— Sharon Ellison, Facilitator, Educational Resources
for Learning Disabled Youth Washington, DC

I gradually began to eat high-fiber foods again, although I avoided nuts and seeds for quite awhile. But, if I chew them thoroughly, they are not a problem now. I am not on a restricted diet and enjoy having an apple and a salad every day.

I would encourage others who have diverticulitis to carefully weigh all the treatment options and keep well informed.

Fast Facts

To Find Out More

  • Diverticulosis occurs when small pouches (called diverticula) bulge outward through weak spots in the colon, or large intestine. Most people with diverticulosis never suffer any discomfort or symptoms.
  • Diverticulitis occurs when the pouches become inflamed, causing pain and tenderness in the lower left side of the abdomen.
  • Diverticulitis can lead to bleeding; infections; small tears, called perforations; or blockages in the colon. These complications always require treatment to prevent them from causing serious illness.
  • Severe cases of diverticulitis with acute pain and complications typically require a hospital stay. When complications do not respond to medication, surgery may be necessary.
  • For most people with diverticulosis, eating a high-fiber diet is the only treatment needed.
Read More "Diverticulitis" Articles

Dealing with Diverticulitis / Understanding Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis / "Eat fresh vegetables, fruit, and whole grain products."

Winter 2010 Issue: Volume 5 Number 1 Page 19