Diverticulitis diet: what to eat for the best treatment

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The goal of a diverticulitis diet is to avoid foods that can further irritate the sacs (diverticula) in the colon . If you develop diverticulitis , changing your diet can help control symptoms and prevent complications such as bleeding and intestinal obstruction.

The general dietary guidelines for diverticulitis are a good start, but you should also start paying attention to how you do it. Feel. You may notice a link between your bowel symptoms and certain foods, information that you and your healthcare provider or dietitian can use to personalize your meal plan.

What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is a common digestive system condition in which abnormal small sacs in the digestive tract become inflamed or infected. The presence of these sacs is called diverticulosis. If they subsequently become inflamed, this is called diverticulitis. The term diverticular disease is also used to refer to these conditions.

Conversation guide with a diverticulitis doctor

Get our printable guide to your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Advantage

While everyone's body is different and more research is needed to understand the relationship between diet and diverticular disease, health professionals often recommend dietary changes to help manage diverticulitis, even to reduce the chances. of a person developing a diverticulum in the first place.

This is largely due to the fact that changing your lifestyle (including what you eat) are the only factors you can control when it comes to diverticular disease.

The benefits of a diverticulitis diet include reducing (or at least not increasing) inflammation and maintaining a healthy bowel movement. Following this diet does not guarantee that you will completely avoid seizures, especially if you choose a different lifestyle that causes inflammation. However, its ability to help improve symptoms means the change is well worth it.

The challenge is to eat consistently in a way that controls your condition, while maintaining proper nutrition and consuming enough calories each day.

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Promote intestinal health

Health professionals do not fully understand why people have bags on the intestinal walls. A popular theory is that a low fiber diet makes defecation difficult, which puts a lot of pressure on the intestines. Diverticula can form if the intestinal wall weakens.

Studies have shown that people who don't eat a lot of fiber (such as those on a Western diet) are more likely to suffer from this condition than people who eat a high-fiber diet. Fiber helps prevent constipation . Constipation is believed to be a risk factor for the development of diverticular disease.

This was the basis for recommendations to increase fiber intake to potentially prevent worsening of existing diverticular disease. Promoting regular bowel movements can prevent symptoms and help the intestine heal from episodes of acute diverticulitis.

In particular, insoluble fiber has been shown to be especially beneficial for people with diverticular disease.

The average adult on a 2,000 calorie diet needs at least 28 grams of fiber a day .

Reduce inflammation

The main goal of a diverticulitis diet is to prevent inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and treat symptoms of inflammation if they occur. Avoiding or limiting certain foods can ease some of your symptoms, but doctors don't think this will prevent the condition from getting worse.

How does it work

There are no hard and fast rules to this diet, just advice on what can help improve your symptoms and what can make them worse. You will need to listen to your body and work with your healthcare provider to determine if your diverticulitis diet is right for you.

You may feel better if you only eat a limited amount of certain foods or if you avoid certain foods altogether.

Duration

When you first decide to eat more fiber or start taking fiber supplements, your healthcare provider will likely recommend that you start slowly. Adding a small amount of fiber to your diet at a time and gradually increasing to a higher daily intake will help prevent gas and bloating.

Once you feel like you've mastered a new high-fiber diet, how long you stay on it will depend on your symptoms, the progression of your diverticular disease, any other medical conditions you have, and any additional treatments you decide to try.

You may find that the effectiveness of dietary changes increases and decreases over time. For example, age-related changes can affect the health of the digestive system. Therefore, you may need to review your diet for diverticulitis or change it over time.

What is it

Since what affects diverticulitis can be personal, there is no ready-made plan that will surely help you. There are fundamentals that can guide recommendations, but some of them can be trial and error.

Compatible Products

  • High fiber foods

  • Apples, bananas, pears

  • Broccoli, carrots, other root vegetables

  • Integral rice

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Oats, rye, barley, whole grains

  • Psyllium husks or dietary fiber supplements

  • Anti-inflammatory foods like avocado and olive oil.

  • Water

Incompatible products

Nuts, seeds, and popcorn – In the past, people with diverticulosis were advised to avoid these because it was thought that they could enter diverticula and lead to diverticulitis. However, research now shows that these foods do not cause sac inflammation. This is good because they are a great source of fiber.

Spices : Ginger , turmeric, and garlic have anti-inflammatory properties, and ginger is a popular remedy for indigestion. However, spices can irritate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. You can avoid them after an acute episode of diverticulitis. Then start with small amounts and increase based on your comfort level.

Fruits : Fresh fruits, like apples, contain the highest amount of fiber when eaten with the skin. Bananas are another good source of fiber from fruits. They are also high in potassium and can be especially beneficial if you are recovering from an upset stomach. However, if you have symptoms of diverticulitis, look for low-fiber foods, such as applesauce.

Dairy: If you cannot tolerate dairy, add low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt to your diet. Even if you are not lactose intolerant , fatty dairy products can be more difficult to digest. When you have an outbreak, especially if you have diarrhea, you can skip dairy until you feel better. Low lactose dairy products such as cottage cheese are allowed.

Grains : Whole grains are one of the best sources of dietary fiber. Choosing whole grain breads, crackers, pasta, and brown rice can be a nutritious, delicious, and versatile way to add fiber to your diet. However, when you're not feeling well, eat low-fiber foods like refined white bread, white rice, and crackers until symptoms improve.

Protein : Lean meats and eggs are excellent sources of protein, whether you have symptoms or are feeling fine. You can also experiment with high-fat protein sources, such as nuts and nut butters. However, they may not be the best option during an exacerbation of symptoms.

Red meat – You may want to avoid raw red meat, as research has shown it to be a significant dietary risk factor for diverticulitis.

Vegetables: In the absence of symptoms and on a diet rich in fiber, raw vegetables (especially root vegetables and crucifers) are powerful sources of nutrition. However, when symptoms appear, they can be avoided. For example, baked sweet potatoes with their skins can be too difficult to digest. Instead, peel and mash the white potatoes.

Drinks: Proper hydration helps prevent constipation and helps metabolize the extra fiber you eat. Drink plenty of water and pay attention to whether other beverages (coffee, tea, wine) are causing or worsening symptoms. Some people avoid certain drinks when recovering from an exacerbation, while others feel they must do so at all times.

Development of diet for diverticulitis

If food is affecting you negatively, tell your doctor. They can help you find the best way to reduce or cut it while maintaining proper nutrition.

Talk to your healthcare provider about occasionally trying to add new foods (or foods you liked before) to your diet. For diverticulitis, it is important to have a compatible and nutritious eating plan, but also a plan that you can follow. Over time, it may be possible to add more variety without affecting your symptoms.

Recommended time

When planning your meal, you need to think about how you feel and the reality of your daily schedule. Some people with digestive disorders feel better eating smaller meals more often than sitting down to three meals a day .

You can experiment with eating different amounts or types of food at different times of the day. You may also find that some food combinations work for you and others don't.

When planning meals and snacks, remember to keep fluids in mind. Keep a bottle of water handy so you can drink it regularly throughout the day.

Cooking tips

Many foods are easier to digest when cooked, and in the case of foods, they are peeled. For example, if peeled and cooked, carrots, potatoes, and apples work well. Eggs can be poached instead of fried, and lean ground beef cooked until tender can be another protein option.

Modifications

While making changes to your diet can help control diverticulitis, these changes can affect other aspects of your health as well. If you have other medical conditions, such as diabetes , you may need to change your diet if you have diverticulitis.

For example, refined white bread is a staple of a low-fiber diet and may work well if your inflammatory symptoms worsen. However, if you have diabetes, you need to know how foods made from refined flour affect your blood sugar level.

Certain changes in your life may also require you to review your diet. For example, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your nutritional needs will change. If you are increasing your physical activity or recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, you may have other dietary requirements as well.

Talk to your doctor before increasing your fiber intake or taking nutritional supplements. If you have other medical conditions or gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS ), eating more fiber can make your symptoms worse.

If you're managing another chronic medical condition with diet, work with your healthcare provider to make sure your food choices help with both conditions.

Even if you are otherwise healthy, you may experience gas, bloating, cramps, and other digestive symptoms when you make changes to your diet. The discomfort generally subsides as your body adjusts .

During and after the outbreak

If you have a flare-up of diverticulitis or are recovering from it, you may need to give your intestines a rest. Many nutritious, high-fiber foods that you enjoy when you feel good and that are generally good for your condition can be difficult to digest during recovery.

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you follow a low-fiber or low-residue diet, or even a liquid diet , until you feel better. The same can be said if you have complications from diverticulitis, such as narrowing of the intestine ( stenosis ) or foci of infection ( abscess ).

Foods included in this temporary healing diet include:

  • Coba
  • Broth
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fruit juice (without pulp)
  • Jelly
  • Popsicles
  • Lean ground beef
  • Potatoes (without skin)
  • Well cooked vegetables
  • White bread
  • White rice

Gradually, you can add food again until you return to your regular diverticulitis diet.

Try an elimination diet

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you follow an elimination diet if you have symptoms when you were first diagnosed with diverticular disease . In this way, you will gradually reduce certain foods or food groups until you stop eating them.

Then you give your body time to adjust to the changes and monitor how you feel (usually for several weeks). Over time, you reintroduce food and, in the same way, pay attention to how it affects your symptoms.

Considerations

You will need to work with your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment for diverticulitis. Other members of your health care team, such as a nutritionist, can also be helpful.

When evaluating your options, you will want to consider lifestyle, economic and cultural factors. If you have other health problems, you and your healthcare provider will find a way to make sure you balance all of your medical needs.

General nutrition

A high fiber diet is nutritious and generally satisfying. When you eat foods low in fiber to relieve symptoms, it can be more difficult to feel satisfied with a restricted diet.

You should also remember that white breads and crackers made with refined carbohydrates can contain a lot of added sugar. Liquid staples like gelatin and ice cream can also be high in sugar. Besides helping you stay hydrated, these foods don't provide much nutrition.

Security

In general, it is considered safe to alternate between high and low fiber diets to treat diverticular disease. The amount of fiber most people eat from day to day will vary, even if they don't have gastrointestinal problems.

To avoid symptoms associated with regulating your fiber intake, try not to switch too abruptly. Make changes gradually so your digestive system has time to adjust .

Support and community

Talking to other people who have diverticulitis may help. Online or face-to-face support groups can provide an opportunity to speak freely about your frustrations and concerns, and learn more about how other people are helping to cope with this condition through diet.

Talk to your doctor about local resources and ask about research in online groups or message boards.

Expenses

High-fiber and nutritious foods are generally affordable, especially if you buy fruits and vegetables that are now in season. Many of the foods that make up the diverticulitis diet, such as rice and pasta, can be purchased in bulk, often at lower wholesale prices.

If dietary changes aren't enough and your healthcare provider recommends nutritional and probiotic supplements, be aware that this can be expensive. Ask if they can be formalized, as health plans are more likely to cover them.

Side effects

If you are on a restricted diet while recovering from an episode of acute symptoms, you may not have enough energy as usual. You may also notice changes in your gut as you make changes to your diet.

When you start eating more fiber, you may experience mild stomach discomfort, such as gas and bloating. If you drastically reduce your fiber intake, you may experience constipation .

General health

During periods when you are on a restricted diet, you need to make sure you are getting enough nutritious calories each day to control your symptoms. If your symptoms make it difficult for you to eat, liquid nutritional supplements may be helpful.

Your healthcare provider may also recommend that you take vitamin supplements if you are deficient or have difficulty absorbing food from the food you eat.

Diet for diverticulosis versus other diets

The diverticulitis diet is similar to various diets prescribed for bowel rest after surgery . These diets can also be used by people with chronic inflammatory bowel disease, acute gastrointestinal disease, or who are recovering from a medical emergency, such as a bowel obstruction.

BRAT diet

If you've ever had food poisoning or your child came home with a viral stomach condition, you're probably familiar with the BRAT diet . When your digestive system needs rest, a diet of soft but nutritious foods can relieve symptoms like nausea and diarrhea and give your body time to recover.

The BRAT diet generally consists of bananas, white rice, applesauce, and toast with peeled white bread .

People with diverticulosis may find the BRAT diet helpful if they experience an exacerbation of diverticulitis or are resting after surgery, but the diet is not suitable for long-term treatment of the condition. Eating a very limited diet makes it difficult to get enough energy and a balanced diet to maintain your overall health.

Low FODMAP diet

FODMAPs are fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols that are present in varying amounts in the foods you eat. Foods high in FODMAP cause cramps, gas, and bloating in some people. It can be helpful to see how foods high in FODMAP affect diverticulitis symptoms.

Get the word of drug information

If you have other medical conditions or are not absorbing nutrients properly, your healthcare provider may recommend that you add supplements or medications, such as antibiotics, to your treatment plan.

Remember that everyone's body is different. A diet that works for you may not work for other people with diverticulitis. Over time, you may need to change your diet or make other lifestyle changes in order to continue to manage your condition and your overall health and well-being.

Frequently asked questions

  • If diverticulitis heals quickly, symptoms usually improve within a few days. Sometimes they can disappear in a few hours.

  • Diverticulitis is very common, affecting about 10% of people over the age of 40 and 50% of people over the age of 60.

  • Common risk factors for diverticulitis include age, male gender, being overweight, a diet low or high in fat, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle. Changing certain lifestyle choices, such as maintaining a healthy weight with proper diet and exercise, and quitting smoking, can help prevent diverticulitis.

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