Diverticulitis is a digestive disease in which diverticula form, small bags in the digestive tract that become inflamed or infected. Many people, especially over 40 years of age, can develop this kind of bags or sacs in the colon. It is what is called diverticulosis and it does not have to be a problem.
Diverticulitis, a disease closely linked to food
A person can have diverticula and not experience inflammation or infection: what is known. What diverticulosis. Many of the people with diverticulosis will not experience problems. However, if they do, it is diverticulitiswhich occurs when these diverticula become inflamed, causing significant pain and risk of sepsis.
This can appear due to increased pressure in the colon by stool or gas, or by the presence of small pieces of hard stool that are stuck inside the diverticulum. Although the symptoms depend on the degree of inflammation, the most common are usually:
- pain in the lower and left part of the abdomen.
- certain urinary signs such as burning when urinating.
If not treated in time, diverticulitis can be complicated by the appearance of abscesses due to the accumulation of pus in the diverticula, the formation of an intestinal obstruction or a fistula between the intestines and the bladder, or a peritonitis (the rupture of a diverticulum that spills into the intestinal cavity and must be treated as a medical emergency).
One of the causes of this increase in pressure, which affects almost 50% of cases over 50 yearsespecially women, is attributed to a low fiber diet and rich in refined or rapidly absorbed carbohydrates, according to the Spanish Foundation for the Digestive System (FEAD).
This would explain why it is a disease with a lower incidence in countries such as Asia and Africa, where the diet tends to be richer in fiber, than in Western countries.
Thus, and according to research published in 2021, these are elements that are associated with an increased risk of diverticulitis:
How diet helps in the prevention and treatment of diverticulitis
In general, diverticulitis is a disease with a good prognosis that can be treated, in milder cases, with rest, drugs and changes in habits. The benefits of the diet center around reducing, or at least not increasing, inflammation and maintaining healthy bowel movements. The most important guidelines after an attack are:
1. Follow a liquid diet at first
This recommendation would be valid until intestinal normality is restored and solid foods can be added gradually. Water, fruit juices or broth may be some liquid diet options for diverticulitis.
A period of bowel rest is advised during an uncomplicated acute attack in order to get the person comfortable again.
In this case, it is best to follow a low-fiber diet until symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea disappear. This recommendation is supported only in the event that the patient needs it since, according to a revision Several studies do not show that bowel rest is necessary in all cases.
2. Carry a high fiber diet (30-35 grams daily)
Fiber helps keep stool soft, which helps reduce pressure inside the colon.
Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and their skins (apple, pear, eggplant, zucchini, etc.) and whole grains (wheat, rye, spelled, etc.) soften waste and help speed its movement through the colon.
This relieves pain, abdominal distension, constipation (considered a risk factor for diverticular disease), and thus prevents the diverticula from becoming obstructed by the presence of compact stool.
3. Drink lots of fluids
Fiber is a great ally in preventing diverticulitis because it acts by absorbing water and increasing the amount of soft stool (soluble fiber). But it doesn’t act alone because, if we don’t drink enough liquid to replace what is absorbed, fiber can produce just the opposite.
Four. Vitamin D
It has been described that low levels of this vitamin can be related to the appearance of diverticulitis, so it is advisable to follow the levels we have. In addition to food (oily fish, eggs, meat and dairy), exposure to the sun is one of the main sources of vitamin D.
The general guidelines of a diet for diverticulitis should start by paying attention to how we feel when we eat a certain food. We can notice certain connections between intestinal symptoms and certain foods, which will help us to adapt the most suitable eating plan for us.
The diet can be complemented with another habit, such as doing moderate physical exercise (30 minutes daily) to help promote intestinal transit and reduce colon pressure.
If you don’t want to miss any of our articles, subscribe to our newsletters