Diverticulitis Diet Restrictions

Elise Deming, RDN
adult woman holding stomach

Diverticulitis is a condition who's nutrition therapy has long been debated. Many myths surround the treatment for this disease. Suggested dietary restrictions exist for individuals when suffering from diverticulitis, however they are not what is commonly thought.

Foods to Avoid

While experiencing diverticulitis, there are may different foods that could potentially contribute to gastrointestinal discomfort. A hard and fast list of foods to avoid does not exist, however, there a few commonly recommended foods to minimize while inflamed. Reference the Diet Sheet for Diverticulitis for an overall glance at management of the stages of diverticulitis and flare-ups. However, throughout the stages of healing, there are foods that may need to be avoided to ensure intestinal healing.

Although the National Institute of Health states "you do not need to avoid certain foods if you have diverticulosis or diverticulitis," due to the diversity of the intestinal tract, every individual is different and the foods below may irritate everyone differently.

Foods Found in the Western Diet

The Western Diet is comprised of foods such as fried foods, high fat dairy, processed meats, and refined grains. A 2017 study by the American Gastroenterological Association of almost 50,000 men found individuals who consumed an eating pattern that aligned with the Western norms contributed to the distressing symptoms of diverticulitis.

Red Meat

The above study suggests that among other food groups, red meat is a main contributor to diverticulitis discomfort. An additional study indicated meats such as beef, lamb, pork, and beef and pork as a processed meat increase the risk of acute diverticulitis episodes.

Very High Fiber

Too little fiber can have negative health consequences, but too much fiber may also result in undesirable complications when dealing with with diverticulitis. It is suggested that consuming recommendations put forth by the dietary guidelines of 25 grams of fiber a day is safe for individuals and may aid in treating gastrointestinal symptoms. Extremely high fiber intake can cause intestinal upset in healthy individuals as well as those with diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis Myths

Two major myths exist surrounding the disease of diverticulitis. These were foods that were once recommended to be avoided, but have since been debunked.

Seed-like Foods

Many health professionals in the past believed small seed-like foods could become lodged in the inflamed pouches of the intestine and further the inflammation. Foods that were recommended to avoid included popcorn, nuts, seeds, and fruits and vegetables containing seeds. It is now established that there is no evidence those foods will cause additional harm to those with diverticulitis.

Low Fiber

Additionally, in the past, it was also recommended individuals follow a low-fiber diet while managing symptoms of diverticulitis. A 2018 literature review established low evidence for a low dietary fiber protocol when experiencing diverticulitis. Although individuals with the disease shouldn't over consume fiber, a moderate intake of around 25 grams is now recognized as safe.

Understanding Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is the progression of diverticulosis and is the inflammation of intestinal pouches. Researchers remain uncertain what causes diverticulitis, however many state that alcohol, age, low fiber intake, changes experienced in the gut mucosal lining, and intestinal motility contribute to the disease. It has been found that a high fiber diet containing 25 to 40 grams per day can help prevent this intestinal problem.

However, many people already have developed diverticulitis. Once developed, diverticulitis may require some dietary changes until the inflammation has decreased.

Diverticulitis and Diet

Diverticulitis is a gastrointestinal disorder with a lot of conflicting dietary information available. The most current research suggests, that for those suffering from diverticulitis, there is not much in the way of food they need to avoid. Some studies suggest Western dietary patterns, red meat, and too much fiber should be avoided, but it is based on individual cases. Speak with your doctor and registered dietitian for individualized recommendations.

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Diverticulitis Diet Restrictions