Diverticular disease is a condition that affects roughly 50 percent of Americans between the ages of 60-80, and just about everyone in the United States over the age of 80. Diverticular disease includes diverticulosis and diverticulitis.
Diverticulosis is the presence of diverticula, or bulging out-pouches, in the colon. Diverticulitis is when these pouches become inflamed. This state can be very serious, even requiring surgery for some patients.
Learn what you or a loved one can do to help prevent and manage diverticulosis by reviewing the answers to these popular nutrition questions:
How can I change my diet to help treat my diverticulosis?
Diverticulosis is managed by eating a high fiber, low sugar diet. Fiber promotes soft and bulky bowel movements that pass easily and require little straining, thus reducing pressure in the colon. Adequate hydration and regular exercise are also key players in preventing constipation and straining.
Need more proof that a high fiber diet is the way to go?
Diverticular disease is rare in countries like Africa where people eat a lifelong high fiber diet. Also, diverticular disease is less common among vegetarians who typically consume lots of high fiber plant foods. Not only does fiber help with constipation, but it also nourishes the trillions of microbes in our intestines. Many of us are familiar with the sometimes embarrassing gas that results from our gut bacteria feeding on fiber, but what’s less obvious are the healthy by-products of their feeding frenzies, including chemicals that help fight inflammation.
What foods are high in fiber?
Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
How much fiber should I eat?
A diet that contains at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber every day is suggested for most people (there are certain medical conditions, such as stricturing Crohn’s disease, that require lower fiber diets). Foods vary in fiber type and content so I suggest eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains on a regular basis. Check out this easy rule to help you eat more vegetables.
Do I have to avoid nuts and seeds?
No. For years, doctors have been telling patients to avoid nuts and seeds based on the thought that these foods become lodged in the diverticula. However, there is no scientific data to support this theory. In fact, many foods with nuts and seeds are high in fiber. However, if you believe that a specific food makes your symptoms worse, then by all means avoid that food.
I’ve heard probiotics might be helpful. Where do I find these?
Some people with diverticular disease have had positive results from consuming probiotic-enriched foods. Look for foods that are labeled “contains live and active cultures” and check out this post on probiotics. Some studies using probiotic supplements are promising but more research is needed before they can be regularly recommended.
Connect with Colleen at Colleen Webb Nutrition.