Diverticuliltis is a disease that affects the colon and large intestine. It is the inflammation of a small pouch that forms on the outside of a colon, and is itself a symptom of diverticulosis, which is the disorder that causes the formation of the pouches. Diverticulitis most commonly causes lower left abdominal pain. Other symptoms, like fever, nausea, constipation and the elevation of white blood cell counts may also be present in some people. The disease that is the underlying cause of diverticulitis is often pain-free, meaning most people never know they have it until the pouches become inflamed.
Treatment for this problem most often involves a change in diet along with the antibiotics that are necessary to clear up any infection present. It is thought that a diet high in fiber precludes the problem in the first place, so physicians who are treating someone suffering from the effects of the disease often prescribe a diet high in fiber once the condition settles enough to allow consumption of solid food. Fiber helps to soften stool, making it more easily passed through the section of intestine affected by the inflammation. Diverticulitis diets are only prescribed for the treatment, and prevention of symptoms, since they do not actually heal the underlying issues.
The best diet for diverticulitis sufferers depends on which stage they are in. The first stage, particularly if there is an accompanying infection, requires that the patient eat little but liquid. A typical example of a liquid diet includes water, broth, ice pops, fruit juice and Jell-O-type products. After the body is re-accustomed to food, and stops ejecting what is put into the stomach, an intermediate diet may be prescribed. The intermediate diet is often comprised of low-fiber foods such as diary products, white bread, fish, poultry, eggs, and meat. After it has been proven that all of these foods are well-tolerated, a high fiber diverticulitis diet is often prescribed. Examples of high-fiber foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grain breads and pastas. These should be eaten in conjunction with an otherwise balanced diet.
Diverticulitis diets differ very slightly, but it should be noted that there are no restrictions on a typical diet after the initial weaning. A patient can eat whatever they want, but are highly encouraged to add high-fiber foods to their existing meal plans. Fiber supplements like Metamucil, and a great deal of water are also part of a balanced diet for people suffering the painful symptoms. An example of a typical diet follows:
- Breakfast – bran cereal or whole grain oatmeal
- Lunch – A large Salad, or a lean protein sandwich on whole grain bread with leafy lettuce and pieces of fruit or vegetables.
- Dinner – Chicken or fish, a small salad and two cups of vegetables, either raw, steamed, or lightly stir-fried.
- Intermediate snacks – high-fiber snacks, whole-grain chips, fruit and vegetables.
*The daily recommendation of eight to ten glasses of water should also be observed.
Ultimately, though there are any number of dietary requirements for a traditional diverticulitis diet, it is really simply a well-balanced diet. It has long been known that a diet high in fiber, and low in red meat and fats, not to mention sugar and carbohydrates, is, arguably, the most important building block of a healthy body. It really should come as no surprise that a diet consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables and greens is being used to treat the painful symptoms of a disease. A happy coincidence is that people who are overweight and suffering from diverticulitis may lose weight when following the prescribed diet.
Though often not found until the painful symptoms appear, diverticulitis is curable. The medical diets prescribed are often simply ways to treat the symptoms, while curing the disorder is typically achieved by surgery. There is some controversy on the subject, though, since advocates of homeopathy and natural treatments are trying to prove that the diet alone can cure diverticulitis and its underlying causes. Whether a cure or a treatment, the diverticulitis diet can be a lifesaver for anyone who is in pain due to a flare-up of the disorder. With all the uncertainty surrounding health and the diseases that are hitting people hard, it is a wonderful thing to know that the symptoms of one, at least, can be treated and controlled simply by a subtle change in diet.