If you have been diagnosed with diverticulitis, your doctor will likely prescribe a special diet. This diet can help with a mild diverticulitis flare-up or acute diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis is an infection of the small pockets, called diverticula, that form in weak spots in the lining of your intestines. This causes the diverticula to bulge because of the pressure.
Diverticulitis symptoms vary in severity, but they can lead to health problems and complications like:
- Excessive abdominal pain
- Abscess formation or tissue pocket inflammation
- Blood in bowel movements
A healthy diet can help alleviate the severity of the condition. Here are some helpful tips about how a diet for diverticulitis can help improve health and make this condition less painful.
The Bottom Line
- Why is a Diverticulitis Diet So Crucial?: It’s vital for those vulnerable to the condition because of the potential complications that can stem from either mild or acute episodes.
- Diverticulitis Diet Tips: Avoiding high FODMAP foods, limiting your intake of red and processed meats, and reducing your fat and sugar intake are some of the many ways to healthily manage your diverticulitis.
- How Top Nutrition Coaching Can Help: By working alongside Top Nutrition Coaching, you can receive the expert guidance of a registered dietitian specializing in gastrointestinal health from the comfort of your home.
Why Is a Diverticulitis Diet So Crucial?
Finding the correct diverticulitis diet is crucial for those vulnerable to the condition because of the potential complications that can stem from either mild or acute episodes.
Males over 40 are most at risk of diverticulitis and another diverticular disease called diverticulosis. People at risk of diverticulitis also tend to be overweight and typically eat a low-fiber diet lacking in beans, legumes, fruits, veggies, grains, bread, and nuts. Most often, those at risk of diverticulitis have a diet primarily of red meat and fat and don't exercise much.
Below, we'll discuss diets that can help prevent you from developing diverticulitis. We'll also examine what to eat during a diverticulitis flare-up.
12 Diverticulitis Diet Tips
The suggestions we discuss below will apply specifically to diverticulitis. Note that they could also help prevent the other diverticular disease called diverticulosis.
Avoid High FODMAP Foods
A low FODMAP diet eliminates fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. This method is often used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, but it's also thought to stop high colon pressure. Thus, a low-FODMAP diet helps people avoid or overcome diverticulitis.
- Eating low-FODMAP food can help prevent diverticular disease
- Low-FODMAP can also help treat diverticulitis flare-ups
- A low-FODMAP approach can be restrictive and challenging to maintain
- This dietary method isn't recommended for pregnant women and children
Following the low-FODMAP methodology is ideal for finding specific triggers of your diverticular disease, but it could be challenging to sustain.
Limit Your Intake Of Red And Processed Meats
Diets high in red and processed meat appear to exacerbate diverticulitis risk factors. Consuming red meat can influence the bacteria found in the gut. This reaction causes a change that negatively impacts gut lining and immune response integrity. Studies showed that people who ate a lot of red meat were 58% more likely to get diverticulitis than those who ate a small amount.
Also, eating unprocessed red meat seems to put people at the highest risk of getting diverticulitis.
- Reducing unprocessed red meat and limiting processed meat consumption might help prevent diverticular disease
- Additionally, avoiding red and processed meat can help prevent stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Limiting red meat intake can lead to a protein deficiency
The Bottom Line on Avoiding Red Meat: Anyone avoiding red meat to prevent or overcome diverticular disease should replace it with poultry or fish and partake in an otherwise well-rounded nutrition plan.
Reduce Fat And Sugar Intake
The typical Western diet involves a lot of fat and sugar. It's also a low-fiber diet, which is conducive to developing diverticulitis. This report cites a study from 2017, which examined 46,000 males. The results showed that people were less likely to get a diverticular disease if they ate less refined grains, full-fat dairy, fried food, and red meat.
- This type of diet promotes well-rounded eating, beyond preventing diverticulitis
- Given the prominence of these items in the traditional Western diet, they can be tough to avoid
The Bottom Line on Reducing Fat and Sugar Intake: Diverticulitis flare-ups can be avoided by eating less fat and sugar, but doing so requires plenty of willpower, and additional help might be necessary.
Up Your Dietary Fiber Intake
A high-fiber diet can offset diverticulitis symptoms while enhancing bowel function when you aren't dealing with diverticulitis flare-ups. The research dictates that high-fiber foods enhance gut movement and stool bulk by improving colon health.
Note that if you eat low-fiber foods every day, this may increase the likelihood that you develop diverticular disease.
Foods like navy beans, lentils, kidney beans, quinoa, oats, bulgur, spelt flour, fruits, and vegetables are all high in fiber and can help prevent diverticulitis.
- A high-fiber diet can help prevent diverticulitis flare-ups
- Additionally, high-fiber foods contribute to sound long-term gut-health
- A high-fiber diet can make diverticular disease symptoms worse during flare-ups.
The Bottom Line On a High Fiber Diet: High-fiber foods prevent diverticular disease. Still, one should avoid such a diet during a flare-up of diverticulitis.
Consider Supplementing Your Fiber
If you need help getting 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily, consider talking to a registered dietician or doctor about fiber supplements. Fiber-rich foods have more minerals and vitamins, but supplementation can boost your digestion.
- Supplementation of fiber adds extra support in ensuring you get enough daily fiber to prevent constipation that might trigger diverticulitis episodes.
- These supplements can't stand alone and should be combined with other fiber-rich foods
The Bottom Line On Supplementing Fiber: Fiber supplements are an excellent way to improve your overall digestive health and may help you avoid getting diverticulitis.
A Low Fiber Diet For Diverticulitis Flare-Ups
Doctors often recommend a low-fiber diet for people with acute diverticulitis who have a flare-up of bad digestive symptoms.
Low-fiber foods don't help prevent diverticular disease. However, foods high in fiber cause discomfort during outbreaks since they add bulk to stool, causing painful colon contractions.
Doctors frequently recommend a low-fiber diet after acute attack symptoms improve until diverticulitis symptoms are completely gone. You'll likely be advised to partake in a fiber-rich diet once you've recovered.
- Low-fiber foods can help ease acute attacks of diverticulitis
- This diet is strictly short-term and meant to treat acute colonic diverticulitis attacks
The Bottom Line on Low-Fiber Foods: People with acute colonic diverticulitis often need low-fiber foods until they can start eating fiber-rich foods again.
A Clear Liquid Diet For Acute Attacks
Doctors also say that a diet of clear liquids can help treat sudden flare-ups of diverticular issues. You'll then progress to a diet of low-fiber solids before returning to your standard diet.
A clear liquid diet doesn't have solid foods and has pulp-free juices, but it does include:
- Clear juices (e.g., grape, cranberry, and apple)
- A clear liquid diet is easy on your digestive system and helps overcome digestive symptoms after diverticular flares
- A clear liquid diet lacks nutrients and likely won't satiate your appetite, as it's meant to soothe digestive symptoms and your digestive system during diverticular episodes.
The Bottom Line on the Clear Liquid Diet: The clear liquid diet is gentle on your digestive tract when your diverticulitis is acting up. It should only be relied on in the short term.
Know What To Avoid On A Clear Liquid Diet
Depending on how severe or sudden your episode is, you need to know what clear liquids to avoid.
Don't have broths that contain rice, noodle pieces, or vegetables. You can have tea, but not with any milk, creamer, or cream. Finally, as previously stated, avoid drinking any juices that contain pulp.
- By avoiding these foods, you're on the best road to recovery from an attack.
- The clear liquid diet only for a limited time–until your symptoms begin to subside.
- Beyond the lack of nutrients, such a diet is unbelievably restrictive and can be tough on your psyche as you recover.
The Bottom Line on Avoiding Full Liquids While Recovering From An Acute Episode: This part of the treatment for diverticulitis can be challenging, but it may be necessary for a full recovery.
Stay Hydrated With Water
Staying hydrated helps prevent diverticulitis. Hydration, in general, is vital to maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Being hydrated prevents constipation, ensuring there isn't a pressure buildup within your digestive tract due to strained bowel movements that can trigger diverticular issues.
- Water can help to prevent diverticular flaring, and it'll help during an attack
- Staying hydrated can aid in fiber absorption, bolstering your overall digestive health
- Many people struggle to remain hydrated throughout the day, but it's a habit you must formulate if you haven't already
The Bottom Line on Staying Hydrated With Water: Make sure to drink at least 2.7 to 3.7 liters of water daily, and you'll take a crucial step in diverticulitis prevention.
Be Weary Of Soft Drinks And Coffee
We've already discussed how constipation can contribute to diverticulitis. Something else to keep in mind is not all fluids are created equal, and some might cause further dehydration due to their caffeine levels.
- In the absence of soft drinks and coffee, you'll be more inclined to drink water
- You'll likely prevent constipation and, in turn, diverticulitis
- You might depend on coffee or caffeine, which is a challenging habit to give up or limit
The Bottom Line On Limiting Soft Drink And Coffee Consumption: Limiting your intake of caffeinated drinks and replacing them with water can help keep your digestive system healthy and prevent diverticulitis.
Introduce Specific Spices Into Your Normal Diet
When your diverticulitis isn't flaring up, it's believed that spices such as garlic, ginger, and turmeric can help because they possess anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger is also commonly used to remedy upset stomachs. Such factors could contribute to a robust defense against diverticular problems.
- These spices taste good, so you can enjoy a diverse diet while potentially preventing flare-ups
- More research is required on this topic
The Bottom Line on Adding Specific Spices to Your Diet: Adding anti-inflammatory, non-aggressive spices to your regular diet may help prevent diverticular attacks. That said, it's an under-researched remedy.
Avoid Eating Too Many Spices
Generally, during an acute episode of diverticulitis, you'll want to avoid spice altogether, as it can cause abdominal pain and gastrointestinal issues.
In everyday life, ingesting too many spices can cause digestive problems and trigger a chain reaction that causes diverticular episodes.
- Moderation is a good habit to embrace in all facets of health and digestion
- You can still enjoy spices and their anti-inflammatory properties, but keep your consumption within reason
- It can be hard to figure out your spice threshold, and you may accidentally trigger an attack.
The Bottom Line on Moderating Your Spice Intake: Getting the right amount of spices could be helpful. Still, limiting your consumption is best so you don't worsen your diverticular symptoms.
How Can Top Nutrition Coaching Help You Follow the Best Diverticulitis Diet?
Diverticulitis can occur in mild forms, or it could be more extreme, such as an acute colonic diverticulitis episode. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, debilitating pain if you are prone to these problems.
You need to know what to eat to prevent attacks, but you also need the correct nutritional approach in the case of an episode. By working alongside Top Nutrition Coaching, you can receive the expert guidance of a registered dietitian specializing in gastrointestinal health from the comfort of your home.
All you need to do is fill out our online quiz, and we'll match you with a gastrointestinal specialist. No doctor's office visit is necessary; we're making optimized nutrition simple and practical by bringing it to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the more common questions we hear about diverticulitis:
What are foods that aggravate diverticulitis?
This question is debatable, as no diet has been 100% proven to prevent attacks. However, in the past, when small diverticula pouches developed in someone's colon, the patient in question was told to avoid popcorn, nuts, and seeds.
What settles diverticulitis episodes?
Antibiotics, diet modifications, and potential surgery are all used to settle diverticulitis. In milder cases, you might be told to stay in bed, eat only liquids, and take antibiotics, antispasmodic drugs, and stool softeners.
Do bananas help with diverticulitis?
Bananas, and other fiber-rich options, are good for helping prevent attacks but can worsen the problem during an episode.