Diverticulitis is a condition wherein the diverticula--small pouches that can develop in the digestive system (a condition known as diverticulosis)--become infected or inflamed. Diverticula are common, and their presence does not necessarily mean diverticulitis will occur. Treatment can include a mix of rest, antibiotics and surgery, though following a diet plan low in fibre can help flare-ups, while a diet high in fibre can help prevent the condition.
Signs and symptoms of diverticulitis include sudden pain that gradually gets worse, alternating bouts of diarrhoea and constipation, tenderness in the area of the abdomen, and flu-like symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Occasionally, though not often, rectal bleeding and bloating may occur.
After being diagnosed and during flare-ups, it is recommended that one follow a low-residue diet, which aids in the amount of pressure placed on the stomach by limiting the number of bowel movements. This in turn will help the infection heal with minimal interference. This entails eating less than 10 grams of fibre and avoiding any foods considered to have a high fibre content.
Foods acceptable for a low-residue diet include grain products such as enriched white bread, plain cereals with no additives, white rice and refined pasta. Be sure to avoid whole grains, however, as they tend to have added fibre. Certain fruits, vegetables and juices are recommended, though one should avoid prune juice, as it contains high amounts of fibre, and any vegetable from the cruciferous family, such as broccoli and cauliflower. Lean and tender meats are also acceptable.
Conversely, the best way to prevent diverticulitis and to aid in the healing once symptoms have begun to subside is to follow a high-fibre diet. This includes the consumption of whole grains and high-fibre fruits and vegetables such as apples and spinach. An increase in the amount of fibre means an increase in the amount of water consumed, as fibre absorbs water. By not consuming plenty of fluids you run the risk of becoming constipated.
Nuts and Seeds
According to Dr. Michael Picco, a gastroenterologist with the Mayo Clinic, the stigma attached to nuts and seeds in a diet for diverticulitis is unfounded. Doctors once believed the small nuts and seeds--as well as the seeds from seed-bearing fruits--could potentially become lodged in the diverticula and cause them to become inflamed. Dr. Picco, however, wrote that there is a distinct lack of evidence to support the theory. Nuts and seeds are high in fibre, and as such can be essential in preventing diverticulitis from occurring.
Regular exercise aids in the prevention of diverticulitis by promoting healthy and normal bowel function. Additionally, it helps to reduce pressure that might occur in the colon, allowing normal bowel movements and preventing constipation.