A to Z Of Diverticulitis Diet November 19, 2015

Have you ever thought how your dietary habits need to be changed when you get afflicted with certain ailments? This is what the patients affected with a disorder called diverticulitis have to cope with. There are some treatment options, but a lot depends on what you eat and what you do not eat eventually.

What Is Diverticulitis?

In this condition, small pouches appear inside the intestine in your body. These are known as diverticula. This can happen in many people and sometimes, these pouches do not lead to serious health hazards. However, in some instances, the pouches can turn inflamed and painful. This condition is referred as diverticulitis.

Treating Diverticulitis Through Dietary Changes:

The treatment of diverticulitis and attempts to thwart a recurrence is focused mostly on making changes in the diet of an affected individual. The major dietary changes to fight the disorder and prevent its recurrence are listed below.

1. Including More Fibre In Diet:

Health experts and dietitians always talk about the importance of eating more fibre-rich foods for everyone. However, the victims of diverticulitis also benefit by including foods with dietary fibre in their meals. It has also been observed that hardcore vegetarians eating high fibre foods rarely develop this disorder. For example, the residents of Africa and Asia tend to suffer less from this ailment, owing to their adherence to fibre-rich diets. The exact reason, however, is not clear.

However, a majority of doctors feel fibre intake helps in making the stool softer, and then it passes easily through the colon, and exerts less force on the colon walls. Lack of fibre in meals, on the contrary, makes the stool hardened, and it is passed through the colon with difficulty. This can stress the colon walls over time, leading to ruptures and damage to the pouches developed in it.

You can increase the fibre intake in your meals to combat the onset of diverticulitis quite easily. On an average, you may eat foods so that 30 grams or more fibre gets into your body every day. Dietary fibre is present in many foods that you can get. There are a few examples:

  • You should opt for whole grain foods instead of foods made with refined flour and grains. This is owing to the fact that refined grain-based foods have less fibre compared to whole grain-based counterparts. The latter does not undergo much processing and, so, retains most fibre content. You may eat brown rice, whole-wheat bread and cereals.
  • It is also a good idea that you step up the consumption of vegetables and fruits in meals to get more fibre per day. You may gorge on fruits like apples, berries and vegetables like carrots, artichokes and the dark leafy green variants. Ensure you do not deep fry such vegetables and stick mostly to steaming and baking to get nutritional quotient.
  • You will also have to drink plenty of water and step up the fluid intake to cope with diverticulitis. Drink copious quantities of water and also include vegetable soups, broths and smoothies in your diet. This will ensure you get both – plenty of fibre and water in your meals. You may also have plenty of homemade fruits and vegetable juice.
  • Apart from whole grain-based foods and fruits, you also need to eat nuts to increase your fibre intake. You may also include plenty of legumes in your meals for the same reason.

While eating fibre-rich foods can help you prevent conditions that lead to diverticulitis and also help improve digestion, the intake of too much fibre can actually be detrimental. It may lead to constipation, amazingly. It may also result in frequent bowel movements, which may lead to diverticulitis.

2. Foods To Avoid For Coping With Diverticulitis:

It is also necessary that you know what sort of foods to avoid when you have developed this disorder. Amazing as it may sound, the same foods that may help prevent the onset of diverticulitis can also lead to it! This also varies with the stage of the ailment.

  • While whole grains, seed and nut based foods may help avoid the onset of the disease, these foods are not suitable for patients who are in the acute stage of the ailment.
  • People afflicted with this aliment should always avoid eating hot and spice laden dishes. This includes fast foods, dishes cooked with excess chilli and pepper, etc. The inflamed bowel cannot cope with the heat much.
  • While people suffering from this disorder are advised to eat berries, eating strawberries may be counterproductive for them. Its tiny outer seeds can irritate the already inflamed bowel.
  • Intake of fatty and spicy foods should be avoided once you are diagnosed with this ailment for relief and to prevent subsequent attacks. Eating fried fast foods or deep fried foods can lead to constipation and digestion issues. This can worsen the bowel condition of people developing this condition.

3. For Recovery:

The condition of people affected by diverticulitis can vary and not every one of them shows the same symptoms. While you may benefit from eating certain foods to prevent the disorder, once it affects you the same foods should be avoided by you.

The dietary changes should be made under medical advice and supervision to get the best results. Keep the following points in mind to avoid any complications later:

  • While the intake of fibre-rich foods does help easing the symptoms, you should not go overboard. There are issues with intake of excess fibre through foods, as it is. Besides, when you are not accustomed to eating fibre-rich foods, you need to add fibre gradually. This will fetch you the best results.
  • When a flare up of diverticulitis occurs, you should adapt to a liquid diet. This helps in soothing the inflamed colon muscles and sacs inside it. The liquid diet may comprise of water, soups, broth and fruit juice. Initially, you should intake juices with no fruit or vegetable pulp. With improvement in the condition, you may shift to semi-liquid food and later to regular foods.
  • After improvement in the symptoms, eat semi-liquid foods like canned and cooled produce, pasta, boiled fruit, eggs and some low-fibre cereals. Sticking to softer vegetables and fruits can be helpful. At this stage, you can take drinks with fruit pulp. The duration of such food phases should be monitored by a doctor.
  • You may include dairy products in your diet when recovering from this ailment. Soft and smooth yogurt, cheese, milk and pudding are suitable for eating. However, eating high-fat dairy foods may cause pain in the stomach for some patients. They may stick to low-fat dairy products.
  • There are debates on giving the patients of diverticulitis meat-based foods. While eating hardened and spicy dishes of meat are not advisable, you need not cut off animal protein intake altogether! The patients can be given well cooked, moist meats. You may select lean chicken, fish or turkey, for example. You may also have a few soft boiled eggs in your meals. Eating soy-based products is also okay. However, high-fat meat types should be evaded at any cost.
  • While eating wheat-based foods are advised for people with this disorder, some of them may not digest wheat well or may be allergic to regular wheat. These patients may be given alternatives to wheat flour for dishes. They cannot be given rye or barley as well. You may give them potato starch flour, ground oats and rice flour.

Causes Of Diverticulitis:

The medical community is unsure about the exact cause of this disorder. However, there can be the following reasons leading to the onset of diverticulitis.

  • Sometimes, the growth of bacteria in those pouches can lead to inflammation and pain.
  • Pressure from the outside may result in the intestinal wall getting stressed and torn.
  • It may also happen that uncoordinated colon movements may cause compressed pouches, leading to the development of diverticulitis.

However, it is unclear why some people with diverticula eventually develop diverticulitis while some others do not. On an average, about 20 percent of people with diverticula develop the disorder in the long run.

Main Symptoms Of Diverticulitis:

As a matter of fact, the major symptoms of diverticulitis may prevail from a few hours to a couple of days, in most cases. The main symptoms include:

  • Pain or cramps in abdomen section, which worsen if you make movements
  • Chill and fever
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Swelling
  • Lack of appetite

Keep in mind that, sometimes, other health complications may also generate the symptoms resembling those of diverticulitis. For example, urinary tract infection or irritable bowel syndrome can also lead to similar symptoms in the human body.

Risk Factors For Diverticulitis:

While it is hard to predict how and when a person may get afflicted with this ailment, certain lifestyles, health conditions and dietary habits may increase its risk. These are:

  1. Excess Body Flab – Those with excess body flab are more prone to developing diverticulitis.
  2. Ageing – The instances of diverticulitis go up with age.
  3. Smoking -Those who smoke can develop it more than the non-smokers.
  4. Sedentary Lifestyle – Lack of workout can enhance your risk of developing this ailment.
  5. Diet – Those gorging on high-fat and low-fibre foods may also develop this ailment.
  6. Specific Medications – Those who use specific medications may develop diverticulitis. The drugs include NSAIDs and steroids.

Treatment Options For Diverticulitis:

As it is, diverticulitis treatments are sought when the victim falls prey to the flare up and a host of symptoms appear. Antibiotics are given sometimes to help the patients cope better with the symptoms. However, the long term treatment includes adhering to some changes in the diet. Acute cases, where the pain is extreme and the patient cannot ingest liquid diet, require hospitalization and intravenous fluids may be given. In very few cases, people afflicted with this disorder require undergoing surgery. Those taking antibiotics, to battle the symptoms of the ailment, should complete the course to get long term results.

Points To Keep In Mind:

To ensure you do not end up complicate the symptoms of diverticulitis, avoid self-medication. It is especially necessary to be careful about the fibre intake. People from both the genders get afflicted with this disorder at various ages, mostly after 40s. Based on their health and age, the daily fibre intake, the amount can vary from one victim to another. So, start the intake of fibre-based foods after discussing with a doctor. Besides, some people may develop a flare up after eating certain foods. It is necessary for a patient to identify such trigger food and avoid it thereafter.

The diverticulitis diet is based on the basic principles of food and diets. It has no side effects and helps in treating the condition. High on fibre, it will also help ward away several other ailments.

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