Diet can affect the symptoms of diverticulitis. Some foods may help prevent symptoms, while others may make a flare-up worse.
Diverticulitis is one of the most common gastrointestinal diagnoses in United States clinics, possibly due to the prevalence of a lower fiber diet. Medical
Doctors may recommend that people follow a clear liquid diet during an acute flare-up of diverticulitis. Some research suggests that dietary changes — such as eating more fiber and probiotics while avoiding certain carbohydrates and red meat — could help some people with diverticulitis symptoms.
This article discusses foods to eat, foods to avoid, and other factors to consider when living with diverticulitis.
If a person has these pouches, but they are not inflamed or infected, the person has diverticulosis and will likely have no symptoms. According to current estimates,
The review concluded that there is not enough quality research to identify which diets are beneficial for an acute attack of diverticulitis. But they did suggest that following a high fiber diet after recovery from acute diverticulitis might reduce the risk of another episode.
- an abscess or perforation in the colon
- peritonitis, which is inflammation or infection in the abdominal lining
- a fistula, which is an uncharacteristic tunnel linking two organs or an organ and the outside of the body
- a blockage of the movement of food or stool through the intestines
Keep reading for more information about which foods to eat and avoid with diverticulitis.
According to a
High fiber foods include:
- high fiber ready-to-eat bran cereal
- beans and pulses, including navy beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils
- fruits, including pears, avocados, apples, and prunes
- vegetables, including artichokes, broccoli, green peas, potatoes, squash, and parsnips
- grains, including bulgur, quinoa, barley, and whole wheat
If any foods aggravate symptoms, a person should speak with their doctor. The University of California, San Francisco noted that some doctors might suggest a person take a fiber supplement, such as methylcellulose (Citrucel) or psyllium (Metamucil).
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help the gut stay healthy. A
People interested in probiotics can take them as a supplement, but they also occur naturally in some foods. These foods include natural yogurt and fermented foods such as:
People who have been taking antibiotics might consider adding these foods to their diet to help repopulate their gut with beneficial bacteria.
A typical Western diet is high in red meat and refined grains and often includes lower fiber content. A
Experts also say that it is OK to eat the seeds in tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, strawberries, and raspberries. In the past, doctors may have advised people to remove these foods from their diets.
But each person is different, and some may find that particular foods worsen their symptoms.
Anyone who notices that a certain food causes pain or a change in symptoms may wish to eliminate that food and talk with their doctor or healthcare professional.
High FODMAP foods
FODMAP is an abbreviation for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are types of carbohydrates that can cause digestive symptoms, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea in some people.
In Dietary Patterns and Whole Plant Food in Aging and Disease, the author commented that a low intake of FODMAP foods might help to lower the risk and alleviate symptoms of diverticular disease.
A 2016 hypothesis suggested that a high fiber diet, when combined with FODMAP foods, may cause excess gas that could contribute to diverticulitis symptoms.
Some high FODMAP foods include:
- onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, and garlic
- apples, apricots, dried fruits, pears, peaches
- dairy foods, including milks, yogurts, and cheeses
- legumes and pulses
- bread and cereals
- sugars and sweeteners
As some of these foods also contain beneficial fiber, a person should discuss their food choices and elimination with a healthcare professional before making drastic changes.
Each person will have different dietary needs and sensitivities, so doctors recommend individualized professional guidance.
Research has linked higher intakes of red meat and processed meat with diverticulitis.
One 2017 study found that if people stick to certain lifestyle recommendations, it might be possible to prevent
Recommendations from the study included consuming no more than 51 grams (g) of red meat a day, eating about 23 g of dietary fiber daily, doing at least 2 hours of vigorous exercise each week, maintaining a moderate weight, and never smoking.
Another study published in the journal
Diet and other lifestyle factors play an essential part in the development of diverticulitis. For example, a
The review also linked several medications with an increased risk of diverticulitis. Regularly using non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, or opioid analgesics may increase a person’s risk.
Also, low levels of vitamin D, which people mainly obtain through exposure to sunshine, may link to diverticulitis.
The review reported that genetic factors account for about
Researchers need to conduct more studies to determine which foods are beneficial for people with diverticulitis.
Currently, researchers are looking at how beneficial gut bacteria can support general health, and this may show promising results for diverticulitis. But, at the moment, there is not enough good quality evidence to make recommendations.
Fiber intake seems to be a vital component. Consuming a high fiber diet may reduce the risk of diverticulitis and improve digestive health in general. But people experiencing a flare-up may be better off avoiding high fiber foods.
Limiting red and processed meat may also reduce risk and symptoms. Replacing them with poultry, fish, and plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes may be a sensible approach.
Being active, eating a balanced diet, reducing alcohol intake, and stopping smoking can support overall health and minimize a person’s risk of obesity and disease.
A person living with diverticulitis should always consult their healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to discuss how best to manage their symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes.