If you have diverticulitis, a potentially painful condition of inflammation or infection within the intestines, you know that what you eat and drink can have a big effect on managing your condition. Can tea help your body heal? Not necessarily, but it might not worsen your condition either.
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What Is Diverticulitis?
Understanding diverticulitis begins first with understanding its precursor, a condition called diverticulosis. Diverticulosis occurs when small, bulging pouches form in the lining of the digestive tract, according to the Mayo Clinic. These pouches are common after age 40 and rarely cause any problems.
Diverticulitis occurs when these bulging pouches become inflamed or infected. This can result in abdominal pain (especially in the left lower abdomen), nausea, fever or constipation. Treatment can be managed at home in mild cases of diverticulitis, with rest, diet changes and antibiotics. More severe cases might require surgery.
Several risk factors have been linked to diverticulitis, according to the Mayo Clinic, such as older age, obesity, smoking, lack of exercise and taking certain medications, like steroids, opioids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. A diet low in fiber and high in animal fat could also increase your chance of developing diverticulitis, as might a diet high in processed foods, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). But experts have yet to pinpoint a definitive cause of diverticulitis.
Tea and Diverticulitis
If you're looking to recover from diverticulitis and prevent recurrences, can you enjoy a cozy cup of tea? There's minimal research in this area to point to, but one study from May 2019 in Scientific Reports followed a group of recently diagnosed Japanese adults with diverticulitis who were given 1.5 grams of burdock tea — an herbal tea made from the burdock root — three times a day for several months. This specific herbal tea was found to help prevent recurrence of acute diverticulitis, but further studies need to be done to determine just how beneficial tea in general might be.
Whether you're recovering from diverticulitis or not, tea tends to be a healthy choice when it comes to beverages. That's because it has antioxidants called polyphenols, which help neutralize substances in your body that could become harmful in larger numbers, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
If you're recovering from mild diverticulitis, having a cup of tea won't cause harm, says Emily Haller, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Michigan Medicine's Crohn's and Colitis Program in Ann Arbor. So drink up, but take a look at the label before you do: Avoid sweetened teas that are high in sugar and calories.
Diverticulitis treatment may depend on the severity of the inflammation or infection. However, in many cases, treatment starts with pushing the pause button on eating or drinking to give the bowels a rest, Haller says.
In the hospital setting, Haller says people with diverticulitis are often put on an "NPO" (nothing per oral) diet while treatment with antibiotics is started. After a couple of days, they then start a clear diet, which includes water and teas. Once people are able to tolerate these liquids, they can resume their normal diet.
Teas may be a good way to get helpful antimicrobial and antioxidant agents when only liquids are tolerated, Haller says. You can fill your mug with your favorite type, too, because different kinds of teas — such as black, green, herbal or ginger — all have the same effect on diverticulitis recovery.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to the Health Benefits of Tea
Prevent Diverticulitis With High-Fiber Foods
There are no specific foods that Haller tells people with diverticulitis to give up or avoid once they've recovered.
Instead, she encourages them to prevent constipation by eating a high-fiber diet and to stay healthy through regular exercise and proper nutrition. That's because pushing hard to pass stools, as you might when constipated, can increase pressure in the intestines, according to the NLM, which might lead to another bout of diverticulitis.
What does a high-fiber diet look like? Reach for more vegetables, whole fruits, beans, nuts and whole grains, according to the NLM.
- Mayo Clinic: “Diverticulitis”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Diverticulitis”
- Scientific Reports: “Effects of Burdock Tea on Recurrence of Colonic Diverticulitis and Diverticular Bleeding: An Open-Labelled Randomized Clinical Trial”
- Emily Haller, MS, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist, University of Michigan, Crohn's and Colitis Program, Ann Arbor
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “High-Fiber Foods”
- Harvard Medical School: “Tea: A Cup of Good Health?”