As we age, little bulging pockets may develop in large intestine’s lining. This condition is called diverticulosis. When these pockets, medically known as diverticula, become inflamed and infected, the condition is called diverticulitis. Fortunately, sufferers can find relief by eating the right foods.
A low-residue diet, aka low-fiber diet, is usually 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 multivitamin supplement.
You may be asked to start with a clear fluid diet at the onset of diverticulitis. After a few days, you may incorporate the following low fiber foods (less than 10 g per serving) that are mild enough to be eaten during a diverticulitis flare-up.
- enriched refined white bread, buns, bagels, English muffins
- plain cereals e.g. Cheerios, Cornflakes, Cream of Wheat, Rice Krispies, Special K
- arrowroot cookies, tea biscuits, soda crackers, plain melba toast
- white rice, refined pasta and noodles
- avoid whole grains
- fruit juices except prune juice
- applesauce, apricots, banana (1/2), cantaloupe, canned fruit cocktail, grapes, honeydew melon, peaches, watermelon
- avoid raw and dried fruits, and berries.
- vegetable juices
- potatoes (no skin)
- alfalfa sprouts, beets, green/yellow beans, carrots, celery, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, mushrooms, green/red peppers, potatoes (peeled), squash, zucchini
- avoid vegetables from the cruciferous family such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, Swiss chard, onion, etc
Meat and Protein Choice:
- well-cooked, tender meat, fish and eggs
- avoid beans
- avoid all nuts and seeds, as well as foods that may contain seeds (such as yogurt)
- as directed by your healthcare providers
- tea and coffee (check with doctor about cream)
- avoid alcohol
Diverticulitis: After a Flare-Up
When symptoms of diverticulitis improve, you may ease off of the low-residue diet and gradually add more fiber back into your diet. A high-fiber diet is very important in preventing future diverticulitis attacks. As you increase your fiber intake, don’t forget to increase your fluid intake as well. If you have challenges eating a diet with higher fiber content, your doctor may suggest a fiber supplement like Metamucil. In addition, you may also heard from others that nuts should be permanently avoided. In the past, the medical community indeed recommended patients to avoid hard foods like nuts and seeds, fearing that these foods get stuck in between the pockets and become inflamed. However, modern studies really didn’t find such recommendation to be clinically valid.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.