What is Diverticular disease?

Diverticular disease, often referred to as Diverticulosis, is the presence of sacs or pockets in the inner lining of the colon.

Diverticula can develop when there is pressure on a weak area of the bowel wall; and therefore diverticular disease is common alongside constipation. Other risk factors include age; smoking, low fibre intake and use of some drugs including steroids. It is important to note that evidence also suggest some people are genetically predisposed to diverticular disease. Whilst you cannot cure Diverticular disease you can manage your symptoms and reduce the likelihood of a flare up.


Diverticula themselves do not cause symptoms and you might have had them for many years without knowing. As you can see from the picture it is easy for waste products to get trapped in these pockets which can cause inflammation or infection and associated symptoms including vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and change in bowel habits and blood in stools.


Photo credit: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
What is Diverticular disease? What can I eat? Image

If you are experiencing a flare up and are symptomatic with fever, significant abdominal pain and/or blood in stools I would advise you contact your GP who might advise you start a course of antibiotics at home or be admitted to hospital for intravenous antibiotics.

Is there a special diet for Diverticular Disease?

In a word, no!


The dietary advice can be confusing for people with Diverticular disease. Frequently clients tell me they were given the diagnosis of Diverticular disease with little or no dietary information and feel confused over whether to include fibre or not in their diet to best manage their gut and bowel symptoms.


The optimal diet Diverticular disease is largely the same for the rest of the population and if you do not have any symptoms you do not need to remove any foods from your diet. However you might want to pay closer attention to your fibre and fluid intake to ensure a regular soft bowel motion to help prevent symptoms and flare ups. Current recommendations are to aim for 18-30g fibre per day from a variety of sources including whole grains such as oats, fruits, vegetables, and pulses. Conversely when suffering with an acute flare up of Diverticular disease you would benefit from reducing your total fibre intake and type of fibre to manage loose stools and abdominal pain


Lets break this down a little further…


There are two different types of fibre and you can include both insoluble and soluble fibre in your diet. Insoluble fibre provides bulk to your stools and sources include wholegrain products e.g. seeded bread, nuts and seeds and skins and stalks of fruit and vegetables e.g. woody stalk of kale leaves, skin of apples etc. Soluble fibre is found in the flesh of fruit and vegetables and other good sources include oats, linseeds and pulses e.g. chickpeas. Soluble fibre acts like a sponge, soaking up water to keep the stool soft to allow easier passage through your bowel

Nutrition and lifestyle tips to support a regular bowel movement include:

  1. Opt for porridge oats in the morning or as the warmer weather arrives try some overnight oats to boost your soluble fibre intake
  2. Add 1-2 tsp ground or whole linseeds to your cereal, yogurt, soups and stews. Ensure you have an extra 150mls water at the same time
  3. Smoothies are a great way to boost your fruit and vegetable intake. A great smoothie choice is banana, strawberries, spinach, greek yogurt, milk and spoonful of peanut butter.
  4. Include more pulses in your diet e.g. add red lentils to shepherds pie, chickpeas to your salads or curries
  5. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids when increasing your fibre intake.
  6. Exercise or physical activity also helps to prevent constipation by increasing muscle contractions in your bowel.
What is Diverticular disease? What can I eat? Image

Will I have to just eat a beige diet when in a flare up?

If you are in a flare up you are likely suffering with pain, nausea and diarrhoea. However you do not need to avoid all fibre and limit yourself to beige foods. By making small changes to your diet you can help manage your symptoms but also feel reassured you are getting a good supply of nutrients


If you suffer with regular bouts of diverticulitis you might benefit from reducing your intake of insoluble fibre temporarily as foods containing pips, seeds and skins are common culprits for getting trapped in the diverticula pockets. Insoluble fibre can also irritate the gut and contribute to pain and therefore simple switches include replacing wholemeal bread with white bread, choosing more refined cereals such as cornflakes instead of branflakes and removing woody stalks from vegetables.

You can still include soluble fibre in the diet and good options include using smooth nut butters instead of chunky nut butters or hummous instead of whole chickpeas. Homemade soups and sauces are a great way to include vegetables in the diet and by blitzing them you mechanically break down the fibres but still retain the nutrients.


What is Diverticular disease? What can I eat? image

If you are confused over how to manage your diverticular disease I would love to advise and support you to find a way to manage your symptoms and continue to enjoy a wide variety of foods.


Contact me by clicking here or by emailing hello@victoriadeprez.co.uk

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