Tips on the Prevention of Diverticulitis
Studies on people living in Asia and Africa who commonly have high-fiber diets show that they rarely get diverticular disease. That’s why many researchers have the belief that too little fiber in the diet can cause diverticula. The question is how does a high-fiber diet reduce the risk of diverticulitis?
Eating fiber from plant foods can help soften the stool and make its movement through the colon smoother. When you do not eat enough fiber, you will have constipation. Hard stools are difficult to pass and put stress on the colon muscles.
Diverticula is a sac or pouch that form on digestive muscles that are weakened or strained. Because constipation strains the colon muscles, diverticula is more likely to develop with this condition.
If constipation is not addressed, the diverticula that have already formed in the colon can grow worse. Strain in the colon due to constipation can make the diverticula inflamed or infected. This is now a painful condition called diverticulitis.
The Diverticulitis Diet
What is the right diet for individuals with diverticulitis? Some studies say that too much fiber in the diet can also cause diverticulitis, because bowel movements are more frequent. Thus, observing the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber, which is 20 to 25 grams, is important.
Soluble fiber and Insoluble fiber
The two kinds of fiber present in foods are soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is named thus because it dissolves in water and forms a gel-like material. It helps to make softer and larger stools that can easily pass through the intestine. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, can absorb water and make stools bulky while moving through the digestive system.
Plant based foods usually have both types of fiber. But some have more soluble fiber, while others have more insoluble fiber. A good tip to ensure having enough of each fiber is to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods. See the following as a simple guide.
Foods High in Fiber
Eat cereals with shredded wheat or corn bran
Choose whole-grains, such as bran flakes, oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
Eat whole-grain baked goods, such as bran muffins and whole wheat bread.
Include lentils, lima beans, split peas, black beans and other legumes in your dishes.
Eat more vegetables including peas, brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots and artichokes.
Eat fresh fruits, such as pears, apples, raspberries, blackberries and avocados, without removing the skin if possible.
Dried fruits, such as prunes and raisins, are good sources of fiber.
Eating seeds and nuts, such as peanuts and popcorn is healthy.
Doctors used to believe that nuts, seeds and popcorn can block the openings of diverticula and worsen it to become diverticulitis, and so tell diverticulosis patients to avoid such foods. But there is no evidence that proves this belief. Now doctors have changed their recommendation about nuts, seeds and popcorn.
The best way to get your daily dose of fiber is from eating foods, because aside from fiber, you also get other nutrients and vitamins. If you’re unable to get all the fiber you need from your meals for some reason, it’s best that you take fiber supplements.
A fiber option that is added in supplements, such as Konsyl and Metamucil, is Psyllium. It is available in various forms — powder, liquid, granules, capsules or wafer.
Another fiber option is methylcellulose, in powder or granular form, and is the fiber component in the supplement Citrucel.
How to Prevent Diverticular Disease
To prevent the formation of diverticula, it is essential to have good digestive health. Here are some tips on how to do this:
Do not eat too much red meat.
Fatty foods can cause intestinal blockage and make diverticulitis worse. So, avoid eating fatty foods.
Engage in regular exercise.
Don’t smoke, because smokers who have diverticulitis are at a greater risk of having complications.
It’s not all right to use NSAIDS or non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, because these are associated with diverticular bleeding.
Drink plenty of water and other fluids. Having a high-fiber diet demands drinking lots of fluids. If not, it’s possible to become more constipated.
Watch your weight.
Don’t ignore bowel urges. If you delay bowel movements, you will have harder stools that strain the colon muscles even more and cause diverticular disease.
Diverticulitis: Lifestyle and home remedies. Mayo Clinic.
Diverticulitis Diet. Mayo Clinic.
N. Painter & D. Burkitt. “Diverticular Disease of the Colon: A Deficiency Disease of Western Civilization.” May 1971. BMJ.
A. Peery, et al. “Constipation and a low-fiber diet are not associated with diverticulosis.” December 2013. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Photo credits: Diverticula by Hymanj via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain