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The Diverticulitis Diet Defined

The Diverticulitis Diet is defined as one that is high in fiber. A diet hight in fiber helps keep your stool soft and the pressure inside your bowel low. This allows easy movement of stool through your colon which decreases the bouts of diverticulitis. Fewer bouts of diverticular inflammation can lower the risk for serious problems like bowel obstruction and infection.

The American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. It is important that about 8 to 10 grams of that total be soluble fiber. All Americans should eat more fiber, but this is critical if you have diverticulosis.

You need to remember to drink plenty of fluids when you are on a diverticulitis diet. The fiber that you are eating will absorb water, which increases the soft waste that is collecting in your colon. Drinking enough water will help to make sure that the fiber does not cause constipation.

Listed below is a good Diverticulitis Diet. If you're not used to eating fiber, stomach cramping may occur at first, but this will fade with time. Increase the amount of fiber in your diet slowly.

The Diverticulitis Diet

The Diverticulitis Diet consists of 5 to 6 small meals per day. Your goal is to eat 35 grams of fiber (10 grams soluable fiber) each day. Here are some of the higher fiber diet foods perfect for the diverticulitis diet.

Fruits for the Diverticulitis Diet
  • apple 1 medium = 4g fiber
  • peach 1 medium = 2g
  • pear 1 medium = 4g
  • tangerine 1 medium = 2g
Vegetables for the Diverticulitis Diet
  • acorn squash, fresh, cooked 3/4 cup = 7g fiber
  • asparagus, fresh, cooked 1/2 cup = 1.5g
  • broccoli, fresh, cooked 1/2 cup = 2g
  • brussels sprouts, fresh, cooked 1/2 cup = 2g
  • cabbage, fresh, cooked 1/2 cup = 2g
  • carrot, fresh, cooked 1 = 1.5g
  • cauliflower, fresh, cooked 1/2 cup = 2g
  • romaine lettuce 1 cup = 1g
  • spinach, fresh, cooked 1/2 cup = 2g
  • tomato, raw 1 = 1 gram
  • zucchini, fresh, cooked 1 cup = 2.5g
Starchy Vegetables for the Diverticulitis Diet
  • black-eyed peas, fresh, cooked 1/2 cup = 4g
  • lima beans, fresh, cooked 1/2 cup = 4.5g
  • kidney beans, fresh, cooked 1/2 cup = 6g
  • potato, fresh, cooked 1 = 3g
Grains for the Diverticulitis Diet
  • bread, whole-wheat 1 slice = 2g
  • brown rice, cooked 1 cup = 3.5g
  • cereal, bran flake 3/4 cup = 5g
  • oatmeal, plain, cooked 3/4 cup = 3g
  • white rice, cooked 1 cup = 1g
Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA Nutrient Database for standard reference.

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis develops from a condition called diverticulosis. If you're older than 40, it's common to have diverticulosis - small, bulging pouches (diverticula) in your digestive tract. In the USA, more than 50 percent of people older than 60 have diverticula. Although diverticula can form anywhere, including in your esophagus, stomach and small intestine, most occur in your large intestine. Because these pouches seldom cause any problems, you may never know you have them.

Symptoms of Diverticulitis

  • Abdominal pain, usually in the lower left abdomen but can be anywhere
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
A low-fiber diet is considered to be the main cause of diverticular problems. First diagnosed in the United States in the early 1900s, and now common throughout developed countries, the emergence of diverticulitis coincided with the introduction of low-fiber processed foods (e.g. branless refined flour). Even now, the disease is rare in Asia and Africa, where people eat high-fiber vegetable diets.

In the past, many doctors recommended that people with diverticulosis avoid seeds and nuts, including foods with small seeds, such as tomatoes and strawberries. It was thought that these tiny particles could lodge in the diverticula and cause inflammation (diverticulitis). But there is no scientific evidence that seeds and nuts cause diverticulitis. In fact, eating a high-fiber diet - which may include nuts and seeds - reduces the risk of diverticulitis. It is now believed that only foods that may irritate or get caught in the diverticula cause problems.

A low-residue diverticulitis Diet is recommended during the flare-up periods of diverticulitis to decrease bowel volume so that the infection can heal. An intake of less than 10 grams of fiber per day is generally considered a low residue Diverticulitis Diet. If you have been on a low-residue diet for an extended period of time, your doctor may recommend a daily multi-vitamin/mineral supplement.

Clear-Liquid Diet

During a mild attack of diverticulitis, your doctor may recommend a clear liquid diet or a low-fiber diet. This helps the area of infection to heal. Foods allowed on a clear-liquid diet include:
  • Plain water
  • Fruit juices without pulp
  • Broth (bouillon or consumme)
  • Gelatin
  • Popsicles without bits of fruit or fruit pulp
  • Tea or coffee without cream

Low-Fiber Diet

Once your symptoms improve (which is often within a few days) you can gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Start by adding about 5 to 15 grams of fiber a day to allow your digestive system to adjust to the higher fiber intake. Foods allowed on a low-fiber diet:
  • Canned or well-cooked vegetables without seeds, hulls or skins
  • Desserts without seeds or nuts
  • Eggs
  • Enriched white bread
  • Fruit juice with little or no pulp
  • Low-fiber cereals
  • Milk, yogurt or cheese without seeds or nuts
  • Most raw, canned or cooked fruits without skins, seeds or membranes
  • Smooth peanut butter
  • Tender meat, poultry and fish
  • White rice or plain pasta, noodles or macaroni
Although there is much conflicting information, even in the medical world, about what constitutes a good Diverticulitis Diet, the basic principle of healthy eating remains the same. Most people have no symptoms and only find out that they have Diverticulosis when they've had a colonoscopy done. If you fall into this category, the guidelines suggest that you start on a high fiber and high fluids diet as soon as possible. You should also avoid constipation at all costs.

In general, treatment depends on the severity of your signs and symptoms and whether this is your first attack of diverticulitis. If your symptoms are mild, a liquid or low-fiber diet and antibiotics may be all you need. But if you're at risk of complications or have recurrent attacks of diverticulitis, you may need more advanced care. A high-fiber diet is very important in preventing future diverticulitis attacks. As you increase your fiber intake, increase your fluid intake as well.

Many people don't realize the harm that a low fiber diet can do to you, and the Diverticulitis Diet is really a necessity to everyone, not just those with the condition. We must remember to keep high-fiber healthy diets to allow ourselves the nutrition we need to support our bodies and allow for proper nutrition. Even if you do have diverticulitis, the Diverticulitis Diet will help you get your bodies nutrients on track and allow you to be healthy again.

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