Following a physician-prescribed diverticular disease diet can provide some symptom relief for diverticulitis patients. If you're currently affected by diverticulitis, ask your doctor if a liquid diet is the better option. Either way, following your doctor's advice is key to avoiding complications.
Learn the Basics of Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis is a troublesome, painful digestive condition that affects your lower large intestine, notes the Mayo Clinic. This malady originates when bulging pouch-like structures (or diverticula) develop in your digestive system's lining, often protruding through your colon's wall.
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If one or more pouches tears under pressure, you're faced with a nasty case of diverticulitis, also known as inflamed and/or infected diverticula. You'll probably experience extreme abdominal pain, generally occurring on the lower left side of your abdomen.
Nausea, vomiting and fever are also common symptoms of diverticulitis. You're also likely to notice a change in your bowel habits. Most patients report a trend toward constipation, although some people could experience diarrhea.
So, who's at risk of developing diverticulitis? For starters, people who have obesity and eat a low-fiber diet that includes lots of animal fat, have a higher risk of contracting this painful ailment. If you don't get much exercise, or you smoke, you also move higher on the diverticulitis risk scale.
Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids and opioids also increases your chances of contracting diverticulitis. Finally, diverticulitis seems to accompany the aging process, with more people experiencing symptom onset as they progress through their senior years.
Adopt a Diverticular Disease Diet
If diverticula (the pouch-like structures) have developed in your digestive system lining, you have diverticulosis. If you're lucky, and the pouches haven't yet become inflamed and/or infected (diverticulitis), the condition may improve with a proper diet.
According to the University of Washington , a high-fiber diet won't actually prevent diverticular disease. However, a well-rounded diverticular disease diet will decrease the risk of potentially serious complications. In addition, consuming lots of fiber can help lead to positive outcomes for cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and diabetes.
Ideally, your diverticular disease diet should include roughly 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily. Introduce the fiber to your diet slowly, and drink lots of water to minimize stomach discomfort and bloating. High-fiber food choices include beans, oatmeal, brown rice, berries and whole wheat pasta, among others.
Liquid Diet for Diverticulitis
If you're lucky enough to experience relatively mild diverticulitis symptoms, and you don't have any other related issues, plenty of rest and oral antibiotics will put you in a good position for recovery. A liquid diet is also helpful, states Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. If your symptoms gradually improve, ask your physician about slowly reintroducing solid foods to your diet after a few days.
If you're instructed to follow a liquid diet for diverticulitis, the U.S. National Library of Medicine points out that you'll have access to a variety of fluids. Foods that turn into a liquid at room temperature are also permitted on the liquid diet. Aim for five to seven permitted foods for each of your three daily meals.
Some of these foods are quite tasty (such as frozen yogurt, sherbet and basic ice cream without toppings or solid additives). In addition, you can consume juice, milkshakes, fruit ice and pudding, among other foods. Mashed potatoes, mashed avocados and other mashed foods aren't considered liquid foods, so avoid them.
Resist the impulse to eat solid food, as your liquid diet for diverticulitis is much easier for your body to digest. In addition, this more restrictive diet is designed to help your organs and tissues heal. If you follow the diet correctly, you'll get sufficient amounts of calories, fat and protein.
Ideally, you'll consume 1,350 to 1,500 calories daily, along with 45 grams of protein. To ensure that you're getting enough vitamins and nutrients, your physician may also prescribe a supplement.
Foods to Avoid With Diverticulitis
If you're actively battling diverticulitis, the U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends that you note the foods to avoid with diverticulitis. These "off limits" foods could worsen your symptoms, and can potentially contribute to the development of serious complications.
Refrain from consuming any type of fresh, canned or frozen fruit. Banish meats and cheeses from your diet, along with all cereals that aren't listed on your "permitted foods" list. Cooked and raw vegetables are also off limits, even if they're healthy sources of fiber.
Read more: Foods to Avoid If You Have Diverticulitis
Try These Diverticulitis Prevention Strategies
Naturally, you'd like to stay as far away from diverticulitis as possible. Following a high-fiber diet is a major step in that direction, states Harvard Health. Try to include 20 grams to 35 grams of fiber in your daily diet. Incorporate a variety of fiber-rich foods in your balanced meals and nutritious snacks.
Vegetables, fruits and grains are very desirable sources of fiber. In addition, online recipe collections and good old-fashioned cookbooks contain an impressive number of tasty recipes that provide top-notch nutrition. Your physician may also ask you to take a fiber supplement or add unprocessed bran to your diet plan.
Historically, diverticulosis or diverticulitis patients were told to avoid nuts, corn, seeds and popcorn. In theory, these difficult-to-digest foods would become tangled in the diverticula, very likely resulting in painful inflammation. However, that thinking has changed, and today diverticular disease patients are encouraged to consume these high-fiber foods.
Don't bombard your digestive system with fiber all at once, as that can cause discomfort. Instead, add fiber gradually, and pay attention to your body's reactions to these new foods. Try to fend off constipation by drinking lots of water daily. Keep a bottle of cold water handy throughout your daily routine.
Engaging in regular physical activity may also help to ward off diverticulitis. In addition, following a well-rounded exercise program provides a host of other physical and mental benefits. If you have specific health concerns, or physical conditions that limit your exercise options, ask your doctor to help you choose a program that's right for you.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.