It is advised to maintain a liquid diet, such as clear liquids or broths, during the first few days of the diverticulitis attack. This is because constipation is a major cause of diverticulitis. Drinking at least eight ounces of water is recommended to prevent it. Water allows the easy passage of stools through the colon. Thus, water helps the intestinal wall from getting inflamed.
What is diverticulitis?
Diverticula are small pouches formed due to continuous irritation of the intestinal wall. The irritation could be due to constipation or a lack of fiber in the diet. Many people with diverticula do not exhibit any symptoms.
When the diverticula become inflamed or infected (diverticulitis), there could be abdominal cramps (particularly in the left lower abdomen), swelling of the abdomen, abdominal bloating, nausea and vomiting. Nearly 25 to 40 percent of people with diverticula experience diverticulitis episodes.
How is diverticulitis treated?
Treatment of an attack of diverticulitis includes
- Antispasmodics (medications to relieve the abdominal cramps)
- Over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen
- Stool softeners
- Getting rest
- Having a liquid diet
A low-fiber diet is recommended till the symptoms of diverticulitis subside.
Examples of low-fiber foods include
- White pasta
- White bread
- White rice
- White crackers
- Egg whites
- Soft baked fish
- Shredded chicken
- Tender meat
- Lean ground beef
- Canned fruits
- Peaches or pears
- Ripe bananas
- Soft, ripe cantaloupe
Avoid foods with high fiber, such as
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables with their skin and seeds
- Nuts and seeds
In severe cases, where pus-filled pockets (abscess) form or when medications do not help, surgery is the only option. Surgery may include colostomy (removal of the affected portion of the intestine) along with pus drainage. A colostomy involves draining the abscess and creating an opening (stoma) through the skin to allow the intestine to pass on the abscess and stools into a bag placed outside the body.
Certain dietary modifications during periods of remission do play a role in reducing the attacks of diverticulitis. These include
- Low-fat diet
- Prunes or prune juices (a natural laxative)
- High fiber diet
Ginger, green tea and turmeric can also help prevent episodes of diverticulitis through their anti-inflammatory actions. Consult with the doctor before taking any of these either in the diet or in supplemental form.
When should you see a doctor?
If a person has a history of diverticulitis or knows that they have diverticulosis, certain symptoms need immediate medical attention. These include
What are the complications of diverticulitis?
One out of every four people will develop complications of diverticulitis. These complications include
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