Does Cheese Irritate Diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is a painful condition that results from inflammation in your large intestine. Inside your intestine, small pouches called diverticula can become irritated when stool accumulates in them. If you have a diverticulitis flare-up, you may experience painful cramping, nausea and fever. To relieve or prevent future diverticulitis symptoms, your physician may recommend eating a specific diet. Recommended foods might include cheese, which is low in fiber and should not irritate diverticulitis.

A woman spreading cheese on bread. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Mild Diverticulitis Attacks

Your physician may recommend eating more cheese during a mild diverticulitis attack where your symptoms are problematic, yet not severely painful. This is because cheese is a low-fiber food that provides nutrients such as fat and protein. While fiber is normally a good idea for you, taking in too much during a mild attack may further irritate the symptoms of your diverticulitis and add excess bulk to your stool that can irritate diverticula.

Post Surgery

If your diverticulitis symptoms have become so severe that a portion of your colon becomes permanently damaged, your physician may recommend surgery to remove the diseased portion. After undergoing this surgery, your doctor might advise you to follow a low-fiber diet until your colon heals. Because cheese contains zero grams of fiber, your physician may also recommend eating low-fat cheeses as part of your recovery process. Talk to your doctor about when it's appropriate to incorporate higher fiber foods back into your diet.

Everyday Diet

Dairy products like cheese can add calcium, which is beneficial for healthy bones and teeth, to your daily diet. However, when you are not experiencing a diverticulitis attack, you may want to eat fiber-containing foods along with the cheese, such as cheese on whole-grain crackers or fruit and nuts in cottage cheese. Because fiber helps prevent future diverticulitis attacks, cheese and fiber-containing foods complement each other and offer a range of nutritional benefits.

Lactose Intolerance

People react differently to eating certain foods. If cheese upsets your stomach, you may have a condition known as lactose intolerance. This condition results when you lack the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking down the lactose in cheese and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance can take on many of the same symptoms as diverticulitis including gas, bloating and pain. However, diverticulitis tends to be accompanied by pain in the lower left portion of the abdomen, while lactose intolerance should not cause this symptom. Talk to your physician if you suspect you may be lactose intolerant.

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