If you haven’t experienced diverticulitis, consider yourself lucky. If you have, you know that diverticular disease is a debilitating condition that’s extremely painful and it can impact your life for an extended period of time. The good news is that your diet can play a major role in preventing it. To get your diet on track and reduce your risk, let’s look at which foods to avoid and which foods to eat with diverticulitis.
What is diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is an inflammation caused by an infection in your lower intestine. An infection can randomly occur along the lining of your intestine where small pouches can develop. These pouches are called diverticula.
For many people, they may develop diverticula and never known it because they don’t experience any symptoms. For others, an infection can begin if the digestive tract eventually bulges through weak spots in your intestinal lining.
What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?
If an infection occurs, your body will let you know something is wrong with a variety of symptoms such as:
- abdominal pain on the lower left side
When severe symptoms of infection and inflammation occur quickly, it’s referred to as acute diverticulitis. If you’re one of the 200,000 people with diverticulitis who are hospitalized in the United States each year, you may think you’ve got a stomach bug or the flu when symptoms first start. The difference is that symptoms of diverticulitis tend to worsen quickly as does the pain.
If you’re vomiting, it may seem easier to stay home instead of trying to transport yourself to the doctor or ER, but it’s crucial to seek medical assistance. If the infection spreads and forms abscesses, it can lead to a fatal infection.
What causes diverticulitis?
The infection and inflammation in the digestive tract is caused by a tear in the diverticula, but there are other risk factors associated with diverticulitis. If you’re a chronic pain patient who takes pain killers (OTC or prescription strength), it’s important to be aware that some of your medications can cause diverticulitis. Other causes of diverticulitis include:
- Getting older
- Being overweight or obese (this can also make it more difficult to treat)
- Having a sedentary lifestyle
- Having a diet high in saturated fat and low in fiber
- Using some over-the-counter medications
- Using other medications like steroids and opiates
What are the best foods to eat with diverticulitis?
One powerful way for people with diverticulitis to recover and reduce the risk of future flare-ups is to focus on eating a diet high in fiber and avoid eating foods that are hard on your large intestine. Research has shown that a diet of healthy foods that are high in dietary fiber and low in fat is the best way to prevent and ease damage to your digestive system.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed and you’re still actively in pain from symptoms, chances are you don’t have much an appetite. The bloating, nausea and abdominal pain don’t subside right away even if you’re taking prescribed antibiotics.
Make sure you drink plenty of water – even if you can only take small sips – to stay hydrated. This is especially important if you’ve been vomiting. You doctor may recommend a more specific diet plan to help you through your recovery and then review which foods to eat with diverticulitis for long-term health.
Stage 1 foods: facing your initial recovery
Start your recovery process on a strict liquid diet. Be kind to your body by avoiding fiber. Even though some evidence shows that diverticulitis could flare up in the first place due to low fiber diets over long periods of time, it could cause flare ups as your colon recuperates.
Try liquids such as:
- Fruit juice (no pulp)
- Fruit juice popsicles
Stage 2 foods: as the pain subsides
As your diverticulitis symptoms diminish and your pain subsides, you should start feeling hungry again. This is likely to happen even if you’re still experiencing bloating and some abdominal cramping. It will take some time for your digestive tract to start operating normally again. The good news is you can start eating solid foods as long as they’re low in fiber. You still don’t want to disrupt your large intestine during its healing process.