If you have been diagnosed with diverticulitis, one necessary part of your treatment regime may be a change in your diet. In our modern-day culture we delight in fast foods, processed foods and foods made of white flour and have grown accustomed to low fiber diets. Unfortunately, consistently eating low fiber foods can lead to conditions such as diverticulosis, which can lead to diverticulitis.
To best understand why these changes are needed it is helpful to know how your colon works. Your large intestine or colon, stores solid waste material until it is eliminated from the body. If too much pressure inside the wall of the colon occurs it can cause a small outward bulging or out-pouching of the wall of the colon. These areas of bulging appear as little sacs, each known as diverticula. Diverticulosis is a condition in which many of these sacs are present along the wall of your colon. Generally, you may have no symptoms or only very mild symptoms with diverticulosis.
Diverticulitis, on the other hand, is a condition of the colon which occurs when the sacs rupture and the surrounding tissue becomes infected. If you are suffering from diverticulitis you might first notice persistent abdominal pain, a common symptom. Usually the pain is noted in your lower left abdomen. You might also experience some nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.
Treatment of diverticulitis
Treatment for diverticulitis will depend on how serious the condition is. Persons with a more serious case of diverticulitis may require surgery. According to the Mayo Clinic, age can be a factor in determining what type of treatment will be given. Treatment for mild cases of diverticulitis is quite palliative. The doctor will usually prescribe an antibiotic to fight the bacterial infection and will place you on a liquid diet for several days to allow the colon time to rest. After a few days you should be gradually able to work back up to solid foods. Your doctor will also recommend high fiber foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Many people do not like these types of foods. You will need to discipline yourself and adapt new eating habits.
Types of fiber
Fiber is obtained from plant foods, not animal sources. Therefore, foods such as milk, eggs, and meat don’t contain fiber. There are two types of fiber, soluble fiber and insoluble. Interestingly, neither type of fiber is actually digested by the body. The soluble fiber binds with fatty acids in the body and helps to reduce the cholesterol level. Insoluble fiber passes through the body pretty much intact and is necessary to help prevent constipation. It aids proper regulation of the bowel by moving solid waste material through the bowel, thus it is considered a natural laxative. Neither type of fiber is absorbed into the bloodstream because the enzymes in the digestive tract do not break down the fiber. According to the American Dietetic Association, the recommended amount of fiber you should consume daily does differ based on gender. Women should have approximately 25 grams per day, whereas men should have about 38 grams daily.
Foods high in fiber
The following list of foods is by no means exhaustive but will give you a general list of the types of foods which are high in fiber. Learn to include these foods into your diet so you are receiving approximately 4 servings of fruit and 4 servings of vegetables per day. (A serving is about one half cup).
Fresh fruits: Apples (unpeeled), bananas, oranges and other citrus fruits, blackberries, strawberries and pears (unpeeled).
Cereals and Breads: Oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, bran flakes, barley, bran muffins, flax seeds and popcorn.
Vegetables: Broccoli, peas, squash, potatoes, carrots, asparagus, tomatoes, corn, collard greens, artichokes, Brussels sprouts and lettuce.
Nuts and Legumes: Lentils, kidney beans, baby lima beans, white beans, pinto beans, black beans, walnuts, peanuts.
Be sure to drink plenty of water each day, at least 8-10 glasses, as an adequate water intake is also necessary for proper elimination of solid waste.
Medicine Net: “Diverticulitis (diverticulosis)”
Mayo Clinic: “Diverticulitis”
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: “Diverticulosis and diverticulitis”