What is a Diverticulitis Diet?
Our stomachs are responsible for one of the most important tasks in a human body. It is through which most of the nutrients that are supposed to help a certain person to live a healthy life get into the body through. However, complications may arise, and one among these complications, is diverticulitis.
The stomach lining forms small sacs in the colon’s wall called diverticula. Once these small pouches get inflamed or infected, this condition called Diverticulosis. Diverticulitis can be extremely painful and apart from pain, it can also cause other effects such as nausea, fever, bloated stomach among others. This happens if not treated.
Diverticula are found to often exist in the body naturally, especially with the advancement in age. Problems only occur when they get inflamed or infected in which case it is very hard to miss the effects. Sometimes people are unaware that they already have Diverticulosis because it’s either few symptoms can be noticed or occasionally one can experience no symptoms at all.
What is the cause of diverticulitis?
During earlier times, it was believed that foods such as popcorn, nuts and seeds could lodge themselves in the diverticula and will lead to diverticulitis. However, there has no concrete evidence to prove that fact. It is believed that diverticulitis is caused by eating food with less fiber content. Less fiber content means that the waste material after digestion does not pass freely through the digestive tract and therefore this condition can happen.
Once you are diagnosed with diverticulitis by a doctor, the most helpful thing he will do is to put you through a diverticulitis diet immediately. Like any other helpful diet, the purpose of this diet is to allow your digestive system to rest and function properly without complications.
What does the diet involve?
The diet involves a combination of clear fluids and fibrous foods or foods with high fiber content. Clear fluids are introduced immediately and are aimed at allowing your digestive system time to heal first. There are many clear liquids that one can choose from, water being one. These are:
- Fruit juices
- Ice chips
- Ice pops
- Tea and coffee.
This clear fluid diet should be kept up until there are signs of improvement upon which some hard food is added. Considering the fragile condition of your colon, it is important to make sure that soft food is administered. These foods include:
- Fish, eggs and poultry.
- Cooked or canned vegetables such as potatoes and green beans.
- Cooked or canned fruits.
- White bread.
- Cereals (Low-fiber).
- Cheese, yogurt and milk.
- Noodles, pasta and white rice.
- Vegetable and fruit juice.
This will prepare your stomach, and colon for that matter, to foods of higher fiber content which will eventually soften your stool and add bulk to it making it easier to pass through the colon. Moving from a low fiber to high fiber diet will require your doctor’s or dietitian’s assistance and advice. So ask them to help you out.
Fiber rich foods include:
- Pasta, whole-grain bread and cereals.
- Black beans and Kidney beans.
- Fresh fruits such as prunes, pears and apples.
- Vegetables such as spinach, squash, peas and potatoes.
There are a number of phases involved. Remember that the diet will not help you heal. This diet is to help prevent ‘flare ups,’ instances when the effects are too much to handle especially the pain. We are going to look at each phase and a comprehensive diet sheet.
Phase One (also referred to as the Acute Phase)
This is when the doctor diagnoses you with the disease. During this time, the first course of action is to ease digestive tract of all forms of stress. As mentioned before, broth is the best food to start with as it doesn’t need too much hard work for digestion and does not create so much burdening waste.
Broth made from fish, lamb and chicken is a good choice. Not only will it help your stomach by easing the pain, but it will also provide other benefits such as boosting your immune system and reducing cellulite. Broth also ensures that your body has some essential nutrients.
Gelatin is great for its curative properties as well as increasing tolerance to food allergies. Some foods might be introduced to you as this could be an entirely new diet
Gelatin also helps in the breaking down of proteins for easy digestion, therefore, creating an overall healthy environment for your stomach.
Fresh juice should be drunk without pulp. Among the best fruits to make clear juices are grapes and apples. You can always purchase a juicer to help you in making natural fresh juices.
Another beverage you could take is tea and/or coffee. The best beverage you could ever have, however, is water.
Ice chips and ice pops could be used as snacks for keeping your body hydrated. Soda can also be drunk as well as popsicles.
Other foods include Jelly-O and dried toast.
Here is an example of a friendly combination. You could combine dried toast with Jelly-O and a glass of grape juice for breakfast.
There are a number of ways to combine these different foods for maximum benefits. You can always be creative in planning but within the limits required.
Phase Two (also known as the Recovery Phase)
During this phase, which normally comes after about one to three days after the first phase, you are now ready to introduce foods with low fiber into your body. This should be done gradually and carefully because we do not want to upset your stomach.
At this point, most of the infections in your colon are healing nicely and it is time to introduce fiber into your body.
At this point you can easily include:
- Hard and soft boiled eggs
- Canned foods without pulp
- Desserts without nuts or seeds
- Lower-fiber milk and cereals
- Smooth peanut butter
- Macaroni, rice and plain noodles
- Well cooked vegetables without skins
These are among the low-fiber foods that are going to go well with your stomach.
A point to note is that in the event the pain persists, it is always advisable to go back to the previous phase as it shows you are not ready to bring in a different type of food.
And example of some easy combination of foods for a meal could be:
- A hard boiled egg with cheese and some dried toast. You can add a glass of fruit juice.
You might have noticed that foods from the first phase have still been added into the second phase. This is to show you that you do not just change the kind of food you are eating over a night. It should be gradual.
The Last Phase
During this phase, any effect of the diverticulitis disease should have stopped and the pain should also have subsided or gone away completely. The diet and the medication given will greatly help.
During this phase, you will be needed to introduce foods with high fiber content. This will prevent the disease from cropping up again. The fiber content will help ease the excretion of fecal matter from the body. During this time, your digestive system should be ready to handle everything.
These are the kinds of recommended foods:
- Brown rice, wild rice.
- Fruits with pulp can be eaten at this point as well.
- Whole-grain cereals and breads.
- Yogurt, cheese and dairy products.
- Dried beans and Lentils.
- Fish, poultry and meat.
- vegetables, seeds and nuts.
However, it would be wise to space the nuts and seeds. Here is how, on the first day, you may take nuts and on the following day, you may take seeds. This will certainly help in the event that any of them make you feel any sort of discomfort or pain.
Fresh vegetables can be eaten as frequently as one pleases as they have plenty of fiber. You should also make sure that you are well hydrated to avoid constipation.
Can we recommend the same thing for everyone?
No. Like any other disease, diverticulitis has levels of advancement. A person’s level of advancement could be very different from another. Again, the issue of consulting your doctor comes up and highly recommended. He will have to run a test and determine whether you even have diverticulitis and how you are going to move toward taking care of it.
For some patients, simple dieting makes the big difference while for others, hospitalization would suffice. A doctor will not only tell you what to do but also tell you what level you are in.
Should one Take Alcohol?
The issue of alcohol brings confusion to many. Some people may argue that a little alcohol is good for the body. A glass of wine might seem ideal, but the truth of the matter is that it is not, at least in most cases. Whether you are going to take alcohol or not should be according to the advice of your physician.
The idea of the diet is to help your digestive system to rest by giving it something that it can handle easily. Adding alcohol might seem a little too much. This is because Alcohol can worsen the symptoms one is already suffering. Alcohol acts like that harsh type of food you are trying to avoid. It will cause abdominal pains and may induce vomiting among other harsh effects.
In most cases during diverticulitis, the doctor will recommend painkillers and antibiotics. Mixing the two with alcohol may bring about undesirable side effects such as dizziness, stomach upset, diarrhea and vomiting.
There are, however, instances when your doctor will allow you to have an occasional sip of alcohol. If your physician allows you to take alcohol then the good thing to do is to practice moderation. The best thing to do however, is to avoid alcohol completely.
The diverticulitis diet is not really hard to follow, and the good thing about it is that in most cases, your doctor or dietician will be with you in every step of the way. In case you have decided to do it by yourself, always make sure that you consult a physician before doing anything.
While diverticulitis diet will not cure you, it will absolutely help you in reducing the pain and discomfort therefore, allowing you to have a healthy and stress-free life.