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You’ve likely heard that eating a high-fiber diet and getting plenty of exercise are important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Not only can these things ward off weight gain and disease, but they can also aid digestion, which helps keep the large intestine and colon healthy. When people don’t follow these wellness recommendations, it can make it more difficult for stools to pass, which stresses the colon. As a result, diverticula, or small bulging pouches, may form.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, about 50 percent of folks over 60 have diverticula. While some people may never know about the small pouches in their large intestine, other folks may develop diverticulitis (die-vur-tik-yoo-LIE-tis), a condition that occurs when diverticula become inflamed or infected. Diverticulitis can cause severe abdominal pain, stomach distention, fever, chills, nausea, and constipation. And in severe cases, diverticulitis can lead to bleeding, tears, or blockages in the digestive tract, says Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, a California-based registered dietitian. (Not sure if you have the condition? See if you relate to any of these eight silent signs of diverticulitis.)
While this all sounds a bit scary, if addressed early on, treating diverticulitis is typically pretty simple. Most patients will be prescribed medication and told to go on bowel rest, which includes a special diverticulitis diet, Koszyk explains. “A diverticulitis diet decreases the number of bowel movements a patient will have, which gives the inflammation a chance to go down,” Koszyk explains. (You may also want to learn more about these eight diets to consider if you have digestive problems.)
Read on to learn which foods are safe to eat during each stage of the diet, which are best to avoid, and how to prevent future diverticulitis flare-ups.
Starting a diverticulitis diet
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After you’ve been diagnosed with diverticulitis, your health care provider will likely prescribe a clear liquid diet. While it’s very restrictive—and not exactly fun to follow—it’s designed to give your digestive system a rest, which can help to ease some of your uncomfortable symptoms.
“During a flare-up, following the right diet is essential. The goal is to decrease fecal bulk. The quicker this is done, the quicker the inflammation will subside,” Koszyk says. For future reference, here’s a list of list of foods that fight inflammation.
Because a clear liquid diet doesn’t provide adequate calories or nutrients, your physician or nutritionist will likely prescribe an all-liquid diet or a low-fiber diet as soon as you can tolerate it.