In some people, marble-sized pouches — called diverticula — can form on the outer layer of the digestive tract. This is because the inner layer can push through naturally weak spots in the outer layer. Diverticulitis occurs when these diverticula tear, which can cause inflammation and even infection.
This digestive problem is most common in Western cultures, especially among people over age 60 who eat a low-fiber diet. You can have diverticula without obvious signs. But, when a diverticulum tears, this can cause uncomfortable problems, such as:
Since diverticulitis involves your digestive system, it’s important to make the right food choices to manage your condition. Fortunately, a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean you have to overhaul your diet indefinitely. Instead, you can eat to avoid suffering a tear and you can take additional steps when symptoms arise.
In this blog, Scott A. deVilleneuve, MD, of Surgical Associates of North Texas, explains the importance of eating right to avoid a diverticulitis flare-up or manage its symptoms.
One of the best things you can do to avoid a diverticulitis flare-up is eat a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of water. This will help keep your stools soft, and it will also help create bulk, so your stools will be able to pass through your system quickly and easily. Eating a high-fiber diet will also help prevent constipation, which, in turn, will help decrease pressure in your colon.
Examples of high fiber foods include:
For the best results, try to eat 25-30 grams of fiber each day. However, increase the fiber in your diet slowly to avoid abdominal discomfort and bloating.
In the past, experts recommended avoiding items like popcorn, nuts, and seeds, but you can eat these items unless they trigger your symptoms or you’re having a flare-up. Since everyone is different, you should keep a food journal so you can identify specific items that trigger or worsen your symptoms.
You should make the biggest dietary changes when you experience a diverticulitis flare-up. At these times, it’s essential to help your colon heal and avoid further irritation. You can do this by consuming a clear liquid diet and absolutely no solid foods.
Examples of things you can eat on a clear liquid diet include:
In most cases, you should start seeing an improvement in your symptoms within a few days of starting a clear diet, especially in combination with antibiotics.
As symptoms start to improve, Dr. deVilleneuve usually recommends slowly introducing low fiber foods back into your diet. These types of items often include:
When you no longer have symptoms, you can resume your normal, high-fiber diet.
To learn more about diverticulitis as well as treatment options, book an appointment online or over the phone with Surgical Associates of North Texas today.