Search the Internet for "Diet for Person with Diverticulitis" and you'll get all kinds of myths, old wives' tales, and medical misinformation. Even doctors have changed their minds about the right diet in recent years.
Diverticulitis is a disease of the colon. It begins with a change in the colon known as diverticulosis. The colon, also called the large intestine, is the last part of the digestive system before waste passes into the rectum and out of the body. Normally, the sides of the colon are smooth. However, in older people, weakened parts of the colon can enlarge to form pouches called diverticula. Diverticulosis is the name doctors give to the condition of having these pouches. Diverticula don't necessarily cause any problems; a person can live his or her whole life and never know they're there.
However, sometimes diverticula bleed or get infected. "Diverticulitis" refers to an infection of a diverticulum.
When a diveticulum gets infected, symptoms can include abdominal pain, cramping, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. In severe cases, there may be blockage of the colon, bleeding, and even tears in the large intestine.
The main recommendation for preventing diverticulitis is good bowel hygiene. That means getting plenty of dietary fiber to keep stools soft and bowel movements regular. Doctors think that straining from constipation contributes to the formation of diverticula, because it increases pressure inside the colon.
Diet for Person with Diverticulitis
When a person is experiencing a diverticulitis infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. If the symptoms are severe, a liquid diet for persons with diverticulitis may help. Going without solid food gives the colon a chance to rest and heal. For more moderate symptoms, the doctor may recommend a low-fiber diet for a few days; again, to rest the digestive system.
Diverticulitis can have serious complications, so you should always talk to a doctor about your symptoms, treatment, and diet during an episode.
After You've Had Diverticulitis
In the past, the diet for a person who had recovered from a bout of diverticulitis was somewhat restrictive. Doctors thought that certain types of foods could become lodged in the diverticula. Once stuck inside a diverticulum, a food particle could attract bacteria and irritate the tissue, contributing to another infection.
Patients were told to avoid small, hard, crunchy foods like nuts and seeds. That meant no poppy seed bagels, no sesame seeds on bread, no popcorn, and so on. Even fruits with small seeds, like strawberries and raspberries, were forbidden.
It turns out that eating these foods doesn't have much of an effect on diverticulitis at all. Some doctors still recommend restricting nuts and seeds, just in case. Most doctors, though, no longer put patients on this diet. They simply recommend staying well-hydrated and getting enough fiber, so that constipation doesn't occur.
Getting Enough Fiber
Adults need about 20 to 35 grams of fiber every day as part of a balanced diet. Most Americans get much less than that, so some attention to your diet can really make a difference. You can get a substantial amount of fiber from supplements, but nutritionists think it's best to get your fiber from natural foods. Here are some foods that are high in fiber:
- Apples and pears, with the skin on: 3 to 5 grams each
- Broccoli: 2.6 grams per half cup
- Spinach: 2.2 grams per half cup
- Winter squash: 5.7 grams per cup
- Kidney beans, baked beans, or lima beans: about 6 grams per cup
- Bran cereal: about 5 grams per cup
- Whole wheat bread: about 2 grams per slice
- Oatmeal: 3 grams per cup
The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends aiming for four and a half cups of fruits and veggies every day. They also suggest replacing white rice with brown rice and white bread with whole wheat, as well as eating more products with bran and whole grains.
For more nutritional information, visit the Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis page from the National Institutes of Health.
Hydration is another important part of the diet for a person who has had diverticulitis. In addition to plenty of fiber, you need lots of liquid to help bulk up your stools and keep them soft. Dehydration can make you constipated. Be sure to drink plenty of water with meals and throughout the day. Aim for about eight 8-oz glasses daily.
By following these guidelines for diet for person with diverticulitis, you may notice fewer symptoms to interrupt your life.