The painful truths of diverticulitis…
Diverticula are essentially bulges within various parts of the digestive tract, especially the colon, that may be more likely to occur with advancing age.
The presence of a number of these bulges is known as diverticulosis and, in some, can advance to become a painful inflammatory condition known as diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis usually manifests as acute attacks of pain, fever and unexpected changes to bowel regularity.
It’s most common in people over the age of 60, and perhaps slightly more in women, with patients in the United States cumulatively spending over a million days a year in the hospital due to this condition.
Bouts of diverticulitis may be treated in a variety of ways ranging from a liquid diet & antibiotics to surgery in the most extreme cases.
There are a number of dietary considerations and misunderstandings when it comes to managing and preventing this condition, the goal of today’s article is to clear those up.
Let’s get right to it.
Risk Factors [Diet + Lifestyle]
A 2017 paper out of the American Journal Of Gastroenterology identified certain attributes which may be more likely to increase one’s risk of diverticulitis.
Red Meat ( >1 serving per day)
Low Physical Activity
Low Fiber Diet
Whereas higher fiber diets characterized by higher than average vegetable intake and rigorous daily physical activity were considered as protective factors.
Now this is where it gets interesting.
Diverticulitis Myth Busting
The biggest dietary misunderstanding around diverticulitis is that fiber-rich foods such as nuts, seeds and popcorn must be avoided because they may get “caught” in the diverticular pouches and increase the risk of inflammation.
Here’s what The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has to say;
The AGA suggests against routinely advising patients with a history of diverticulitis to avoid consumption of seeds, nuts, and popcorn.
In fact, there is evidence to suggest that consuming more plant-based proteins such as nuts, seeds, legumes, tofu may be associated with a lower risk of hospital admission due to diverticulitis.
And What About Probiotics?
Given their massive popularity for all things gut health, there has been some interest around probiotic supplementation as a management tool for diverticular disease but unfortunately the number of studies available, and the quality of those studies, are insufficient to support their use for this purpose.
Nutrition During Flare Ups
While a high fiber diet is advisable and protective against diverticulitis, individuals experiencing painful flares as a result of this condition may be temporarily advised by their healthcare team to transition into a few days of a liquid diet before slowly reintroducing fiber.
The University of California [San Francisco] has a wonderful resource to help explain what this diet entails and should serve as a nice compliment to any resources you may have been provided by your healthcare provider.
Flare-up friendly foods for everyone: