Diverticulosis is a benign disorder that causes the outward formation of small sacs (diverticula) in weak spots along the walls of your large intestines (colon), often in the section closest to the rectum (sigmoid colon).
Diverticulosis doesn’t cause problems or require treatment unless the diverticula themselves become acutely inflamed or more rarely, infected. This condition, known as diverticulitis, calls for expert medical care from an experienced specialist like Hardeep M. Singh, M.D.
Diverticulosis is very common in western countries like the Unites States, especially among older adults. Estimates suggest that the condition affects one-third of middle-aged Americans under the age of 50, and more than half of Americans aged 60 or older.
Diverticulosis doesn’t usually cause symptoms or complications —many people live with the condition without ever knowing they have it, while others only learn about it during a routine colonoscopy.
Experts used to believe that up to one in four diverticulosis cases would develop into acute diverticulitis, but more recent research suggests that fewer than 5% of cases actually do. Even so, for the small number of people who are affected by it, a diverticulitis flare-up can be quite painful — and potentially dangerous — until it’s resolved.
Diet for acute diverticulitis
If you have a mild to moderate case of acute diverticulitis, Dr. Singh may advise you to follow a special diet to give your bowels much-needed rest. For many people, this means switching to a low-residue clear liquid diet that may include:
- Water or ice chips
- Tea or coffee (no cream)
- Clear, fat-free broth
- Filtered fruit juices (no pulp)
- Ice pops (no fruit pieces)
- Sports drinks and gelatin
A clear liquid diet may not be exciting, but it does a good job of clearing out your intestines and easing the demands placed on your digestive system while keeping you hydrated. If you have an infection, antibiotics will also be part of your treatment plan.
After two or three days on a liquid diet, your symptoms should begin to subside. Once you’re feeling better, it’s time to gradually add low-fiber foods back into your diet. Although Dr. Singh will give you a detailed list of recommended foods, good low-fiber dietary options include:
- White bread and crackers (no seeds)
- White rice and refined pasta products
- Refined low-fiber cereals (hot or cold)
- Most canned or well-cooked fruits (no skin or seeds)
- Most canned or well-cooked vegetables (no skin)
- Strained fruit and vegetable juice (little to no pulp)
- Butter, margarine, and vegetable oils
- Eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, and tofu
- Low-fat dairy products (if tolerated)
To avoid overstraining your intestinal tract as it continues to heal, it’s just as important to be mindful about how you eat — keep your meals on the small side, chew your food thoroughly, and drink plenty of water to make the digestive process as easy as possible.
Preventing future flare-ups
Oddly enough, the ultimate goal of a diverticulitis diet is to get you back to the very foods you should avoid while you’re in the midst of an acute flare-up: plant-based foods that are rich in dietary fiber.
That’s because people who eat a high-fiber diet — or one that includes plenty of whole grains, raw fruit with skins or seeds, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, legumes (dried beans, peas, and lentils) and nuts — are less likely to develop diverticulitis or experience repeat flare-ups than those who consume less dietary fiber.
It’s also a good idea to limit your consumption of red meat, which is associated with a greater risk of diverticulitis as well as chronic flare-ups. In one 2017 study, people who opted for fish or poultry instead of red meat were able to cut their diverticulitis risk by 20%.
Your diverticulitis diet
Dr. Singh can help you figure out how much dietary fiber you should aim to get each day; he can also show you how to build yourself up to that level slowly and safely, so your digestive system isn’t stressed in the process.
By providing individualized post-treatment guidance that considers your unique dietary needs and sensitivities, Dr. Singh can help you avoid flare-ups and maintain optimal colon health. You can support your dietary efforts by staying active and maintaining a healthy body weight, both of which help reduce your risk of diverticulitis.
To learn more about diverticulitis, call your nearest Hardeep M. Singh, M.D. office in Orange or Irvine, California, today, or click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Singh any time.