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Diverticulitis Diet: A Simple Guide

Do you suffer from diverticulitis? Are you tired of trying to figure out the right foods to manage your condition, only to find yourself in terrible distress and pain?

Diverticulitis is a severe case of an inflamed colon that requires immediate attention and a doctor’s care if present. Your doctor may recommend certain types of medications and dietary changes to keep the inflammation at bay and allow your gut to heal. The diverticulitis diet is one of the most important alterations you’ll make to your overall routine to manage the condition effectively and improve your daily quality of life.

Table Of Contents

What Is Diverticulitis?

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Overview

Diverticulitis occurs when tiny pouches shaped like sacs develop in the outer layer of your colon, known as diverticulosis. These sacs then become overwhelmed with infection and inflammation. The condition is appearing increasingly throughout the Western world and developing countries.

Therefore, it’s important to know what typically leads to diverticulitis and how a diverticulitis diet can help you manage it. If the condition is not treated properly and swiftly, the infection can worsen and eventually lead to hospitalization.

Contributing Factors

Some of the greatest contributing factors to the onset of diverticulitis are constipation issues, age, weight, inactivity, and especially, insufficient fiber intake. If you have a history of weight issues and are overweight, or do not engage in enough physical activity, this can put a strain on your immune system and gut. Staying active and consuming a diverticulitis diet can help to ease these factors and allow you to achieve a healthy weight loss.

Fiber is the double-edged sword to the condition and the diverticulitis diet. When your gut is severely inflamed due to diverticulitis, especially when you’re first treating the condition, you’ll probably eat a low-fiber diet to soothe your gut and avoid digestive upset. However, the fact remains that insufficient fiber is one of the leading causes of diverticulitis. So, you may ask, where do you find the balance?

Well, once your gut has experienced initial healing from a low-fiber diet, it’s usually recommended that you incorporate healthy fiber sources into your diverticulitis diet. In fact, countries where fiber consumption is high like Africa and Asia have some of the lowest incidents of diverticulitis. Western countries with an older population and low-fiber diets are increasingly seeing the condition popping up.

Fiber plays a crucial part in promoting a healthy digestive tract and helping your system eliminate toxic waste. Fiber enables you to avoid constipation, by making your stool softer so it can pass through your colon and be released from the body. Insufficient fiber will lead to constipation, often making it a painful struggle to eliminate waste. This can cause significant strain on your colon muscles.

Weakened colon muscles are very vulnerable to the development of diverticulitis. In addition, failing to eliminate waste will increase your gut inflammation and put you at risk for infection of the diverticula naturally occurring in your colon. It’s imperative to find a balance between foods that soothe your gut and allow it to rest from strenuous digestion while still incorporating some fibrous foods that can help to avoid the condition worsening in the long run.

Benefits of the Diverticulitis Diet

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Improved Digestive Health

The primary benefit of the diverticulitis diet is to allow your digestive tract to rest from unsuccessful, strenuous attempts to process foods too tough for your system to digest. When your colon becomes inflamed and develops diverticulitis, the first order of the day is to tamp down the infection and allow your system to take a break from the foods that have been overwhelming it and causing the upset.

Next, most doctors will recommend you slowly increase your fiber intake from highly nutritious food sources. This allows you to avoid constipation and release toxic buildup. As a lack of fiber is the primary contributing factor for diverticulitis, eating quality sources of this nutrient are essential. The catch is to find a balance between too little fiber and too much fiber.

Eating more than 50 grams of fiber each day is not recommended. Consistently consuming quantities of fiber beyond that amount can cause constipation, leading to diverticulitis and worsened symptoms. Fiber makes your stool more voluminous, which can allow it to pass through your system easier if coupled with sufficient water intake. Yet, stool that is too bulky will not pass through properly. It’s important to keep your fiber intake at healthy levels when following the diverticulitis diet, so as not to irritate your gut.

Speak with your doctor regarding the recommendations right for you. Depending on your situation, your doctor may not advise that you incorporate many fiber sources into your diverticulitis diet, at least initially. The daily recommended amount of fiber falls around 20 to 25 grams per day. Your intake should include a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber food sources.

Soluble fiber is water soluble, causing it to form a substance like gel that softens and bulks your stools, making it easier to eliminate without incident. Insoluble fiber soaks up some of that water, transitioning through your digestive tract and adding volume to your stools. A healthy diverticulitis diet contains key plant nutrients that contain both soluble and insoluble fiber for optimal bowel function.

Increased Nutrient Intake

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The diverticulitis diet focuses on nutrient-rich food sources like plant foods to heal and restore your gut health. It also incorporates some solid proteins and fibers into the mix. These elements are the foundation of any healthy diet, so following this pattern of eating can revitalize your food habits considerably.

Eating protein-rich foods like fish and lean poultry, along with small quantities of greens and other plant foods can not only ease your symptoms tremendously, but give your system the nutrition needed to function properly.

Diverticulitis Diet: A Simple Guide

Clear Liquids

When first treating the condition, your diverticulitis diet will probably comprise a clear liquid regimen to allow your gut a few days to rest. When your digestive tract is not absorbing and processing foods properly, incorporating solid food sources, fibrous or not, into your diet can make things worse. Do not maintain a clear liquid diet for more than a few days as this could cause you to become excessively weak and malnourished. Speak with your doctor regarding questions or concerns.

The idea behind a clear liquid diet is to soothe your system with easy-to-digest food sources for a few days until your body can handle normal foods. You’ll need to consume things like broth, fruit juices not containing any pulp, ice chips, and ice pops. Gelatin is also a good choice when on the liquid diet. Stay hydrated with water and drink tea or plain coffee if you desire alternative drink options.

Low-Fiber Choices

Once your system has rested and recovered from the foods you were finding it so difficult to process before, the diverticulitis diet requires you to incorporate low-fiber food choices into the mix. You can enjoy canned or cooked fruits as long as they do not contain skins or seeds. Canned or cooked vegetables are also fine as long as they do not have high amounts of fiber or skins on them. For example, green beans, carrots, and peeled potatoes are great options.

You will need to make sure you are getting sufficient protein on the diverticulitis diet, so be sure to eat more easily digestible foods like eggs, poultry, and fish. Low fiber cereals and breads are fine, as are white rice, noodles, and pasta. To increase your plant source intake, try drinking vegetable and fruit juices without pulp. Incorporate some extra calcium and protein into your diverticulitis diet with foods like cheese, milk, and yogurt.

Fermented Foods

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Fermented foods are an essential part of the diverticulitis diet, as they help restore bacteria levels in your gut, reducing inflammation and infection. They also enhance your digestive capabilities and can help you avoid constipation that leads to the condition. Try fermented food sources like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi. You might also enjoy miso and kombucha.

Fibrous Foods To Incorporate

Once your system starts healing from inflammation, your doctor will probably recommend adding in some healthy fiber sources to avoid constipation, keep bad bacteria at bay, and promote your overall digestive health. Certain fibrous fruits like apples, dates, blackberries, raspberries, or pears are fine if eaten slowly and in moderation.

You can incorporate legumes into your diet although it’s recommended you keep your serving size to around half a cup. Black beans, lentils, chickpeas, baked beans, and kidney beans are all solid options. Eat other excellent sources of plant fiber like mixed vegetables, sweet potatoes, and spinach. If eaten in small quantities, you can enjoy foods such as bran or bulgur wheat in moderation.  

If you find that some of these healthy fiber sources are just too difficult for your system to handle, your doctor may advise that you get your fiber in supplement form. Psyllium, methylcellulose, and chicory root fiber supplements are some common options.

Conclusion

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Following a strict diverticulitis diet is the most important way to manage your condition. The foods you’re eating are ultimately causing your digestive problems, so eating the right foods will be the source of healing. Consult with your doctor regarding food combinations and a dietary plan that’s right for you.

If you’re in an acute stage of diverticulitis, you’ll probably need to start with a clear liquid diet to allow your system to rest for a few days. Afterwards, incorporating lean proteins and low-fiber foods sources into your diet will set you on a maintenance regimen. Eventually, you will need to eat fiber again to keep your bowels regular and avoid further irritation and infection of the diverticula in your colon. Keep your fiber quantities monitored closely and eat small portions of fibrous foods to maintain a balance between overexertion and healthy colon function.

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