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Can Chronic Constipation Cause Diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis vs Diverticulosis

Diverticulitis is a painful digestive condition that occurs when small pouches, called diverticula, form in the colon and become inflamed. The presence of these pouches in the colon is called diverticulosis. While diverticulosis is common, especially after age 40, diverticulitis only develops when one or more of these pouches gets inflamed or infected. For decades, the prevailing theory was that chronic constipation increased the risk of developing diverticulosis.

Can chronic constipation actually prevent colon pouches?

A suprising Japanese study from 2022 defies this old belief.

For years, we've been told that constipation and straining on the toilet can cause diverticulas- those little pouches to form in your colon, and as a consequence increase the risk to developing diverticulitis. But a surprising Japanese study is challenging this long-standing idea - it found that constipation may actually protect against developing diverticulosis.

The Japanese Study

A research, done in Japan and published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology in 2022, took aim to find an answer to the question- can chronic constipation cause diverticulitis? The study looked at over 1,000 people who had screening colonoscopies. The investigators recorded detailed information about their bowel habits, use of laxatives, diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors. They then checked to see who had diverticulosis and matched it up with their constipation data.

After accounting for things like age, alcohol intake, and medications, the researchers discovered that participants with chronic constipation were less likely to have diverticula, especially on the right side of the colon. Even crazier - the more severely constipated someone was based on scoring systems, the lower their odds were of having diverticula!

The researches scored people's constipation on a scale, and found out that those with the highest scores had a 38% lower prevalence of diverticulosis compared to those on the low end. This flies in the face of the decades-old belief that constipation and straining promotes diverticula formation.

So what's going on here? The researchers think chronic constipation may actually change the colon's physiology and motility patterns over time through factors like altered neurotransmitter signaling or muscle thickening. Basically, years of constipation may "re-wire" the colon in a way that makes diverticula less likely to form.

In Conclution

Now, the study authors aren't saying you should stop eating fiber and go get constipated on purpose. A high-fiber diet and staying hydrated are still smart for overall digestive health. But their surprising results challenge the simplistic notion that constipation universally causes diverticula. Like many things in health, the reality seems more complex than a one-size-fits-all explanation.

The findings definitely turn a long-standing medical belief on its head. Who would have thought that struggling to go no' 2 could possibly prevent your colon from developing little pouches?

Human biology remains fascinatingly weird and wonderful!

constipation and diverticulitis
constipation and diverticulitis


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