A lot of debate exists about the dietary management of diverticulitis. Current research suggests a variety of foods to avoid and include in a diet for those with this gastrointestinal disorder.
An Eating Plan for Diverticulitis
Although the research is ever-changing about the management of diverticulitis, the recommended dietary treatment of acute diverticular distress has remained mostly constant. Management involves three stages to regain intestinal health. Refer to the Diet Sheet for Diverticulitis to see those stages broken down to promote gastrointestinal healing.
In the first two stages of dietary therapy for diverticulitis, foods eaten are minimal or limited to clear liquids. This means the nutrient quality of those diets is pretty poor. However, the last stage of diverticulitis nutrition therapy is a transition from low fiber foods to a high fiber diet. Both of these diets can be healthful and nutrient-dense while promoting intestinal healing.
Low-Fiber, Nutritious Foods
As symptoms of gas, cramping, and discomfort disappear, a well-rounded diet can be initiated. This will begin with low-fiber foods to continue to rest the intestines and ensure you will be ready for later integration of more fibrous foods. However, a low-fiber diet can still be nutritious and include all the food groups.
- Fruits – Enjoy canned fruit without skin. To keep this fruit choice healthy, choose canned in 100 percent fruit juice and drain the juice before eating.
- Vegetables – Again, choose canned vegetables to minimize fiber content. Select low-sodium canned vegetables and rinse them before consuming. Cooking the canned vegetables can help further break down those hard to digest fibers.
- Proteins – Most proteins are naturally low in fiber. Select eggs, poultry, and fish for a more nutritious protein source.
- Grains – On a low-fiber diet, grains suggested are refined or more processed grains. These also tend to be less nutritious. These are okay to have on a temporary low-fiber diet but be sure to consume other food groups too. Low-fiber grains include white bread, crackers, and white noodles.
- Dairy – All dairy is typically low in fiber so yogurt, cheese, and milk can be a nutritious choice on a low-fiber diet. When selecting yogurt, always check the sugar content as it can be pretty high in some yogurts.
Once you feel confident low-fiber foods are well tolerated, you can slowly introduce high-fiber foods. A slow introduction is important as it takes time for the digestive tract to get used to high-fiber foods. A high amount of fiber in one meal may cause gas, bloating, etc. A nutritious high-fiber diet contains 25 to 40 grams of fiber as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Remember to introduce these foods one by one.
- Fruits – Fruits can be very high in fiber content. Consuming fruits with the skin on ensures you are getting the most fiber possible. Fruits highest in fiber include raspberries, apples and pears with their skin, strawberries, avocados, and bananas.
- Vegetables – Just about every vegetable contains fiber. The highest fiber vegetables include artichokes, peas, greens, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans are also very high in fiber but can cause gas if over consumed. Start with a small amount if eating legumes.
- Nuts and Seeds – Nuts and seeds are extremely nutritious as they are full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. High-fiber nuts and seeds include almonds, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.
- Whole Grains – Switching your grain intake from refined to whole increases your fiber intake. Whole grain sources high in fiber include bran-containing foods such as oat bran and wheat bran, amaranth, barley, oats, popcorn, and bulgar.
One Day of Fiber
Many health professionals recommend high-fiber diets and provide an amount to strive for. However, actually putting those recommendations into practice can be challenging. Below is one day of high-fiber foods containing 25 to 40 grams of fiber.
- Breakfast :
- 1 cup oatmeal – 4 grams of fiber
- 1 banana – 3 grams of fiber
- 3 figs – 4.5 grams of fiber
- Large kale salad topped with raw chopped vegetables of choice – about 10 grams of fiber
- 1 apple with skin – 4 grams of fiber
- 1 ounce (23) almonds -4 grams of fiber
- Choice of meat with 1/2 sweet potato and 1/2 cup cooked broccoli – 4.5 grams of fiber
The day above provides roughly 34 grams of fiber. This would be considered a high-fiber eating plan and appropriate for someone in recovery from a flare-up of diverticulitis.
Nutrition therapy recommendations are constantly changing as new evidence is published. However, current recommendations transition individuals from a low to high-fiber diet. Both diets can be nutritious when all of the food groups are incorporated.