Diverticulosis Dietary Therapy
Diverticulosis, otherwise known as pockets or pouches of the colon, is very common. You can access a full description of this condition at our Diverticulosis disorder page.
The condition is almost certainly caused by a low fiber intake over a lifetime. This results in high pressures in the colon, which very, very slowly, over many years, cause ballooning of tiny weak points in the colon wall resulting in diverticuli. When these pockets become infected, diverticulitis occurs, a painful and, at times,serious condition. Rural Africans who consume 50 or more grams of fiber a day over a lifetime do not get diverticulosis. Yet, they do when they eat a Western diet with low fiber. Low fiber intake can result in small, thin and/or hard pellet stools, which usually means high pressure within the colon. Again, this high pressure is what causes these pockets to balloon out forming diverticuli.
Diverticulosis Diet Treatment
When the diverticuli become inflamed, a variety of uncomfortable and painful symptoms result. This condition is known as diverticulitis and it causes severe abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea or constipation, nausea and vomiting. For obvious reasons, avoiding these symptoms is a top priority for those with diverticulosis. Many people may not even be aware they suffer from diverticulosis, should these pouches never become inflamed. Nevertheless, lower gut experts are convinced that a specialized diet for diverticulosis sufferers can help avoid or reduce these challenging symptoms.
The key to this specialized diverticulosis diet lies in consuming 25 to 35 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber every single day. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people don’t eat nearly enough high-fiber foods. Fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods such as whole wheat bread and enriched pasta, and beans are all tremendous sources of insoluble and soluble fiber. Because the soluble fiber found in foods such as beans can cause gastrointestinal distress on its own — despite their undeniable health benefits — increasing insoluble fiber intake is often recommended.
The Power of Insoluble Fiber
There are two types of insoluble fiber that are particularly effective at fighting the lower gut symptoms that can negatively affect diverticulosis. Inulin and oligofructose, two plant fibers, are remarkably effective at enhancing the lower gut’s production of healthy bacteria. These healthy bacteria keep the bowel walls strong; this boosts immunity, increases the body’s absorption of important vitamins and minerals, enhances the ability of the body to produce important hormones and improves regularity. Because these fibers comprise an important part of Asian and African diets, this at least in part explains why people who live in those countries and follow a traditional diet rarely suffer from the symptoms of diverticulitis.
There are a variety of foods that contain these important insoluble fibers, called prebiotics. Onions and garlic, bananas, whole grain foods, chicory root and Jerusalem artichoke all contain inulin and oligofructose. Unfortunately, many people can’t or won’t eat these foods. Some — such as those who are gluten intolerant — can’t eat grains, so bread and pasta are nearly out of the question. Others object to the taste of foods such as onions and garlic. Still, others won’t eat carbohydrates in the form of bananas or wheat because of these foods’ high calorie count. The good news is, you can still eat a diverticulosis-friendly diet by incorporating an inulin and oligofructose supplement to your diet.
Other evidence suggests that fiber can even help with weight loss and anxiety. The point is, making fiber a part of your everyday eating habits will not only help you avoid the challenging symptoms of diverticulitis, but you’ll also gain from the overall beneficial effects prebiotics provide.
These are dietary recommendations for people with diverticulosis.
However, specific advice will depend on the stage of diverticulosis. Is
it early diverticulosis? Is it advanced with fixed changes in the colon?
Are there symptoms? Or is it acute diverticulitis where the colon is
recovering from infection around these pockets?