Colitis vs. Diverticulitis: Understanding the Gut Ache

Colitis vs. Diverticulitis: Understanding the Gut Ache

Belly pain, cramping, and changes in bowel habits can be unsettling. If you're experiencing these symptoms, you might wonder if it's colitis or diverticulitis. Both conditions affect the large intestine (colon) and share some similar symptoms, but they're actually quite different. Let's break down the key differences to help you understand what might be going on.

Diverticulitis: When Pouches Become Inflamed

Imagine tiny pockets bulging out from the lining of your colon. These are called diverticula, and they're a fairly common occurrence, especially as we age. Diverticulitis occurs when these pouches become inflamed or infected. This can lead to:

  • Severe lower left abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhoea


Ulcerative Colitis: An Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) where the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the colon. This chronic condition causes inflammation and ulcers (sores) to develop. UC symptoms can include:

  • Crampy abdominal pain, often worse in the lower left side
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement (urgency)
  • Frequent bloody diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

Key Differences: Cause and Location

  • Cause: Diverticulitis is caused by inflammation in diverticula, often triggered by tiny bits of stool getting trapped in the pouches. UC is due to a malfunctioning immune system, and the exact cause is unknown.
  • Location: UC can involve any part of the colon, but it often affects the rectum and extends upwards. Diverticulitis typically affects the lower left side of the colon (sigmoid colon).

Similarities: Seeking Medical Help

Despite their differences, both colitis and diverticulitis require medical attention. If you're experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early intervention can help manage symptoms and prevent complications.

Exploring Probiotics for Gut Health in Colitis and Diverticulitis

Probiotics are live bacteria that are similar to the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. These beneficial bacteria help with digestion, keep harmful bacteria in check, and produce nutrients that are important for your health. Probiotics may help to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms of colitis and diverticulitis. 



How Probiotics May Help with Colitis

  • Probiotics may help to reduce inflammation in the gut.
  • They may also help to improve the gut barrier, which can help to prevent harmful bacteria from entering the bloodstream.
  • Some studies have shown that probiotics may help to reduce symptoms of colitis, such as diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

How Probiotics May Help with Diverticulitis

  • Probiotics may help to reduce inflammation in the gut, which can help to prevent diverticulitis from developing.
  • They may also help to reduce symptoms of diverticulitis, such as abdominal pain and bloating.

Types of Probiotics that May Be Helpful

Several different strains of probiotics may be helpful for colitis and diverticulitis. Some of the most commonly studied strains include:

  • Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium infantis


Important Considerations

  • Probiotics are generally safe for most people, but they can cause side effects such as gas, bloating, and diarrhoea.
  • Probiotics are available over-the-counter in supplements and in some yoghurts and other fermented foods.
  • When choosing a probiotic supplement, look for one that contains at least one billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per dose. CFUs indicate the number of live bacteria in a supplement.
  • If you are considering taking probiotics for colitis or diverticulitis, it is important to talk to your health care professional first. Probiotics can interact with some medications, so it is important to make sure that they are safe for you. Your health care professional can also help you choose the right strain of probiotic for your condition.

L-Glutamine: A Potential Gut Healer for Colitis and Diverticulitis?

L-glutamine has shown promise in research for gut health, but its effectiveness for colitis and diverticulitis specifically needs further investigation. Here's a breakdown of what we currently know:


Potential Benefits:

  • Gut Lining Repair: L-glutamine is a building block for protein and plays a role in repairing and maintaining the intestinal lining. This may be beneficial for both colitis and diverticulitis, where inflammation and damage to the lining occur.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: Studies suggest L-glutamine might have anti-inflammatory properties, potentially helpful in reducing inflammation associated with colitis and diverticulitis.

Current Research:

  • Colitis: Some studies on animal models with colitis show improvement with L-glutamine supplementation. However, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness in humans with colitis.
  • Diverticulitis: There are currently no conclusive studies on the effects of L-glutamine specifically for diverticulitis. However, ongoing clinical trials are investigating its potential benefits.

Important Considerations:

  • Talk to your health care professional before taking L-glutamine: They can advise on the appropriate dosage and potential interactions with any medications you're taking.
  • Not a guaranteed treatment: L-glutamine should be considered as a potential supportive measure, not a replacement for conventional medical treatment for colitis or diverticulitis.
  • Potential side effects: L-glutamine is generally safe, but side effects like stomach cramps or diarrheoa can occur in some individuals.

Omega-3s: Taming Inflammation in Colitis and Diverticulitis?

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those found in fish oil, have been studied for their potential benefits in managing both colitis and diverticulitis. Here's a breakdown of what we know:



Anti-inflammatory Properties:

Omega-3 fatty acids, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have well-established anti-inflammatory effects. This is important because both colitis and diverticulitis involve inflammation in the colon.


  • Studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation in the gut, potentially leading to fewer symptoms like diarrhoea and abdominal pain in people with ulcerative colitis.
  • Research also indicates they might help maintain remission and reduce the need for medication.


  • The evidence for omega-3 fatty acids specifically in diverticulitis is less conclusive.
  • However, their anti-inflammatory properties may be helpful in preventing flare-ups by reducing inflammation in the colon.

General Recommendations:

  • While research is promising, the optimal dosage and specific strains for colitis and diverticulitis are still being investigated.
  • It's generally recommended to aim for a combined intake of EPA and DHA around 1-3 grams daily through diet or supplements.

Important Considerations:

  • Talk to your health care professional before starting omega-3 supplements: They can advise on the appropriate dosage, potential interactions with medications, and ensure it's suitable for your specific condition.
  • Dietary Sources: Consider incorporating omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts into your diet.
  • Supplement Considerations: If opting for supplements, choose high-quality fish oil with a low risk of mercury contamination.

When Belly Aches Strike: Understanding Colitis and Diverticulitis

This blog post has explored the differences between colitis and diverticulitis, two conditions that can cause similar digestive problems. While both affect the large intestine, their causes and treatment approaches differ.

We've also delved into potential complementary therapies like probiotics, L-glutamine, and omega-3 fatty acids. Remember, these are not replacements for conventional medical treatment. If you're experiencing symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, or changes in bowel habits, it's crucial to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and a personalised treatment plan. Early intervention is key to managing symptoms and preventing complications.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Colitis and diverticulitis have distinct causes and locations in the colon.
  • Both conditions require medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.
  • Probiotics, L-glutamine, and omega-3 fatty acids show promise for gut health as a potential supportive measure, not a replacement for conventional medical treatment for colitis or diverticulitis.
  • Always talk to your health care professional before starting any supplements to ensure safety and suitability for your condition.

By understanding these conditions and seeking professional help, you can take control of your gut health and manage your symptoms effectively.


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