Diverticulitis is a condition characterized by inflamed or ruptured diverticula, which are bulging sacs in the lining of the large intestine. Picking the right foods to eat and steering clear of certain foods to avoid is important for effective management of diverticulitis symptoms.
The risk of developing diverticula is usually higher for people over 40. Diverticula themselves do not cause many problems, but once the condition progresses into diverticulitis – when the sacs get inflamed or infected – it can be quite severe, leading to pain, nausea, and changes to bowels.
Mild diverticulitis can be easily treated with a proper diet. However, in cases of recurring and severe diverticulitis, surgery may be required.
Diet for diverticulitis
The purpose of a diverticulitis-specific diet is to allow the digestive system to rest and to promote healing.
A diverticulitis diet mainly consists of liquids and soft food. In the beginning, stick to broths, juices, and water to prevent any further irritation or complications. Eventually, you can work your way up to eat more solid foods – which should include fiber-rich foods. It may be wise to start with low-fiber foods and work your way up to high-fiber foods to see how you feel along the way.
Studies have shown the fiber-rich foods can help manage symptoms related to diverticulitis. Recommended fiber intake is 25 grams for women under the age of 51 and 38 grams for men. For women and men over the age of 51, the recommended fiber intake is 21 grams and 30 grams a day, respectively.
Fiber-rich foods include vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruits. If you are not eating enough fiber, your doctor may recommend a fiber supplement to help give you a boost. It’s important, though, to stay well hydrated when you increase your fiber intake to avoid pain and constipation.
Foods high and low in fiber
|Food Group||Low Fiber Foods||High Fiber Foods|
|Breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles||White bread/ crumpets/ scones/English muffins
Refined breakfast cerealsInstant porridge
White rice/ pasta, sago, tapioca, semolina White flour, cornflour, custard powder
Plain sweet and savoury biscuits or cakes
|Wholemeal/ wholegrain bread, crumpets, fruit bread/ rye bread
Wholegrain breakfast cereals or any with fruit, nuts or coconut
Rolled oats, oat bran, muesli bars
Brown rice, pasta, maize
Wholemeal flour, wheatgerm
Sweet and savoury biscuits or cakes made with wholemeal flour, nuts, dried fruit or coconut
|Vegetables||Ensure all vegetables are peeled and well cooked
Potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, zucchini
Cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus spear tips
Tomato and cucumber with skins and seeds removed
Lettuce, cabbage, green beans (chop and chew well) and button mushrooms
Well-strained vegetable juice
Tomato puree or paste
|Where possible eat the skin when having vegetables
All other salad or vegetables
|Fruit||Pawpaw and melons (no seeds)
Banana (small amount), seedless grapes, cherries
Peeled peaches & nectarine
Well-cooked fruit with no skin or pips
Canned fruits except pineapple and mango
Well-strained fruit juice
|Where possible, eat the skin when having fruit
All fresh fruit
|Dairy foods||All varieties of milk
Plain yoghurt, custard, vanilla, plain cheese, plain or flavored ice cream
|Ice cream containing dried fruit, nuts or coconut
Products containing “chunky fruit” pieces
Flavored milk with added fiber
|Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes||All meat, chicken or fish.
|Legumes e.g., baked beans, lentils, soy beans, kidney beans
Foods to eat and avoid with diverticulitis
As mentioned, foods you can eat are high-fiber foods for the most part, which are whole grains, rice, quinoa, vegetables, fruits like apples and bananas, potatoes, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
At first, you may opt for low-fiber foods until you start feeling better, then you can incorporate high-fiber foods.
Make sure you drink plenty of fluid to avoid constipation.
Foods to avoid with diverticulitis include:
- Gassy vegetables like broccoli
- Whole grains that contain nuts or seeds
- Dried fruit
- Sugary foods and soda
- Acidic food
- Refined food
- Fried food
- Corn and corn products
These foods can aggravate diverticulitis and prolong the healing period.
Diverticulitis meal plan to follow
The below sample meal plans for diverticulitis have been developed at Queensland University. Always consult with your doctor prior to beginning a meal plan.
|Sample low-fiber meal plan||Sample high-fiber meal plan|
|Breakfast: Cornflakes or Rice-bubbles, Milk, apple juice , white toast, margarine & honey
Lunch: white bread sandwich, chicken and avocado filling, vanilla yogurt
Dinner: grilled steak, mashed potato, steamed pumpkin, ice cream and tinned peaches
Snacks: Custard, yogurt, low fiber fruits (e.g. pawpaw, rockmelon, water melon), plain biscuit
|Breakfast: wholegrain cereal such as porridge, All BranTM or muesli low fat milk banana, wholemeal toast
Lunch: wholemeal or wholegrain sandwich or roll chicken and salad, apple fruit yogurt
Dinner: grilled steak, jacket potato, broccoli and corn fruit salad, and ice cream
Snacks: Fruit, nuts, wholegrain biscuits or muesli bars
Other ways to maintain good digestive health and prevent diverticulitis
There are also some preventative measures you can try to lower your risk of diverticulitis.
Regular exercise, in particular, is beneficial for preventing diverticulitis because it helps keep bowels regular. Exercise also works to reduce pressure on the colon. Added pressure on the colon can lead to the formation of diverticula.
Other ways to maintain good digestive health include minimizing your intake of red meat, avoiding fatty foods, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, responding to bowel urges, reducing your use of NSAIDs (which have been linked to diverticulitis bleeding), and staying well hydrated.
Tips to help promote healing of diverticulitis include:
- Resting your bowel – temporarily going on an all-liquid diet
- Killing off bad bacteria in the gut with oregano oil
- Re-populating the gut with good bacteria by taking probiotics
- Resolving nutritional deficiencies – talk to your doctor about multivitamin supplementation
- Detoxifying your environment – stop using toxic pans for cooking, for example
- Resolving constipation
By implementing these tips as well as following any diverticulitis treatment your doctor recommends, you can have better success in improving your digestive health while preventing and treating diverticulitis.