Before we look at this question, it is important to explain the difference between 'diverticulosis' and 'diverticulitis', both of which are types of diverticular disease. Understanding the disease will enable you to give much better advice to your patients or clients.

Diverticulosis:

Diverticulosis occurs when small pouches (known as 'diverticula') bulge out from weak points in the wall of the large intestines. The causes of diverticulosis are unknown, but theories include not having enough fibre in the diet, lack of physical exercise, and constipation causing increased pressure in the colon. It is thought that diverticula occur in as much as 50% of the population over 60, however presence of these 'pouches' alone does not cause any symptoms or discomfort, and therefore most cases go unnoticed. Life-long vegetarians are thought to be at lower risk of diverticula, due to their relatively high-fibre diets.

Large intestine
Diverticulosis occurs in the wall of the large intestine

Diverticulitis:

If the pouches (diverticula) become infected and inflamed then this condition is known as diverticulitis. Symptoms of diverticulitis include abdominal pain, fever, cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. The infection is usually treated with antibiotics and bed rest, however severe cases may require hospital admission or surgery if the diverticula ruptures.

So, are probiotics helpful for diverticulosis?

If this question is posed in practice, it is worth stating that firstly, probiotics are a natural supplement, and not a medicine. They will not cure diverticulosis. However maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut may support digestive health and therefore play a part in preventing new diverticula forming, or indeed in preventing the worsening of existing diverticula.

If a client is constipated a specific probiotic to improve regularity could be helpful in preventing 'straining' when going to the toilet, and therefore reducing pressure on the muscular walls of the colon that can cause its weakening. You may like to look at 'Bifidobacteria & fibre' which contains the most clinically researched strain of Bifidobacteria for alleviating constipation.To read more about the research in to this strain, you may also be interested in the following blog: 'One of largest ever probiotic clinical trials backs B.lactis BB-12 for regularity.'

And what about diverticulitis?

Whilst diverticulitis usually requires medical attention, the addition of a good probiotic is worth considering to improve the intestinal flora, and to help normalise bowel function and regulate inflammation. Saccharomyces boulardii (formerly called 'For bowel calm'), may help with the symptomatic diarrhoea that often accompanies the condition. To read more about this product, healthcare professionals may like to read in to the clinical research behind it.

Maintain a healthy gut environment

In addition to using these more specific products as necessary, many sufferers of diverticular disease also choose to take a good quality, well-researched probiotic supplement on an ongoing basis, to help keep their gut bacteria in good order. For every day EXTRA Strength contains 5 strains of probiotics including the world renowned L. acidophilus NCFM®, the most clinically researched strain of L. acidophilus, at a strength of 20 billion live cultures per capsule.

NB: We do not recommend probiotics be taken by patients with blood in the stool without first consulting their doctor.