If you have diverticulitis, you know how painful the symptoms can be. While medication and surgery can help the most severe or chronic cases, many people can relieve symptoms and avoid them entirely by making a few simple changes to their diet.
The team at Desert West Surgery has significant experience diagnosing diverticulitis in patients at their Las Vegas, Nevada, practice, as well as helping men and women learn to manage their diverticulitis symptoms. If you’ve been diagnosed with diverticulitis, here’s how dietary changes could help you.
The diverticulosis diet
First, a quick review of definitions: Diverticula is the name given to the tiny pouches that form in the intestines of people who have diverticulosis. Diverticulitis occurs when the diverticula become inflamed and even infected.
Studies show about 60% of people age 60 and older have diverticulosis. However, diverticulitis only occurs in about 5% of fewer of those people.
Whether you have asymptomatic diverticulosis or painful diverticulitis, your diet can play a really important role in your health and your symptoms. Knowing which foods to eat and which to avoid could help prevent inflammation and infection so you can prevent the need for more advanced treatment, like long-term antibiotics or surgery.
Eat more fiber
Although the cause of diverticulosis hasn’t been identified, what researchers do know is that it’s more prevalent among people who don’t eat a lot of fiber. Unless you’re having a flare-up (more on that below), make sure your diet includes plenty of fiber from sources like:
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh or frozen vegetables
Instead of picking just one high-fiber food, try to include multiple types of fiber in your diet.
Most of us know we’re supposed to drink eight ounces of water (or equivalents) every day to stay hydrated. But many of us aren’t drinking as much water as we should, and that can lead to some serious problems, including problems with our bowels.
Water helps keep our bowels moving so we can flush waste and impurities out of our bodies. When we drink enough, we can also help prevent some types of constipation, along with hard, dry stools. If we’re not getting enough water, our bowels can become sluggish, and toxins and bacteria can build up in the diverticula.
Avoid these foods
If you have diverticulosis or diverticulitis, you’ll want to avoid processed foods, which can contain a lot of additives that could make inflammation worse. Limit your intake of red meat, too. Research shows a direct link between red meat consumption and diverticulitis, so make an effort to swap out steak and burgers for chicken and fish. Finally, try to avoid full-fat dairy and fried foods.
What to eat during a flare-up
Even though a high-fiber diet can be useful for preventing symptoms, you might do well to back off on too much fiber if symptoms do occur. That’s because a lot of fiber keeps your gut active, and during a flare, it’s good to give your bowel as much of a rest as possible.
Besides limiting fiber, your doctor might recommend restricting your food intake to liquids for a brief period to let your bowel rest. Liquid foods include things like broth, clear juice, water, and popsicles. Over time, you can slowly introduce other foods to avoid “overworking” your bowel.
Don’t ignore belly pain
If you’re having belly pain or other symptoms, like blood in your stools, it’s critically important to schedule an office visit as soon as possible to determine the cause. To learn more about diverticulitis treatment or to find out what’s causing your belly pain, call Desert West Surgery or use our online form to request an appointment today.