Diverticulitis occurs when small, bulging pouches (diverticula) in your digestive tract become infected and inflamed — causing severe abdominal pain, fever and nausea. Treatment of diverticulitis depends on the severity of your symptoms and whether this is your first attack. Mild cases of diverticulitis can be treated with changes in diet, rest and antibiotics. Severe cases may eventually require surgery to remove the diseased portion of your colon.
During a mild attack of diverticulitis, your doctor may recommend a clear liquid diet or a low-fiber diet. This helps the area of infection to heal.
Foods allowed on a clear-liquid diet include:
- Plain water
- Fruit juices without pulp
- Broth (bouillon or consumme)
- Gelatin Popsicles without bits of fruit or fruit pulp
- Tea or coffee without cream
Foods allowed on a low-fiber diet include:
- Enriched white bread
- White rice or plain pasta, noodles or macaroni
- Low-fiber cereals
- Most raw, canned or cooked fruits without skins, seeds or membranes
- Fruit juice with little or no pulp
- Canned or well-cooked vegetables without seeds, hulls or skins
Tender meat, poultry and fish
Smooth peanut butter
- Milk, yogurt or cheese without seeds or nuts
- Desserts without seeds or nuts
Once your symptoms improve — often within a few days — you can gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Start by adding about 5 to 15 grams of fiber a day to allow your digestive system to adjust to the higher fiber intake.
To prevent attacks of diverticulitis:
- Eat more fiber. High-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, soften waste and help it pass more quickly through your colon. This reduces pressure within your digestive tract. Aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. If you have a difficult time consuming this much fiber every day, consider using a fiber supplement, such as psyllium (Metamucil, Nature's Way) or methylcellulose (Citrucel).
- Drink plenty of fluids. Fiber works by absorbing water and increasing the soft, bulky waste in your colon. But if you don't drink enough liquid to replace what is absorbed, fiber can be constipating.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise promotes normal bowel function and reduces pressure inside your colon, decreasing your chances of forming diverticula.