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A disease of the large colon affecting a majority of the population at some point in their lifes is Diverticulitis. It is thought to be due to a low fibre diet. In fact, in countries were a high fibre diet is usual, the incident rate diverticulitis is lower.

The condition often develops as a result of long term constipation. In an effort to move compacted faeces, high pressure builds up in the colon. If the pressure is sufficiently high, weak areas of the wall of the colon can 'balloon out' to form small pockets called diveticula. These pockets can fill up with faeces which stagnate leading to infection. In rare cases an abscess can form, which could, if left untreated, burst, spreading pus to other organs within the abdominal cavity.

In most cases, an indiviudal will be unaware of their conditon and will not experience symptoms until infection occurs. A typical pattern of symptoms includes bouts of constipation followed by loose mucous covered stools and pain in the lower left abdomen.

The severity of the condition defines the treatment needed. Mild diverticulitis may require nothing more than bed rest, fluids and a change in diet. In more severe cases however, surgery may be required to remove infected portions of the colon. Recurrent attacks of diverticultis are normal but less frequent in sufferers who change to a healthy fibre rich diet. Good sources of fibre include all unprocessed fruit and vegetables (particularly potatoes) and wholemeal bread.

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