High-fiber diet to prevent or treat diverticulitis

Topic Overview

Eating a high-fiber diet is thought to help prevent development of pouches (diverticula) in the colon.

Doctors recommend that you eat 25 g to 35 g of fiber every day. Packaged foods and fiber supplements include the amount of fiber content in the nutritional information. You should increase the amount of fiber in your diet slowly so that your stomach can adjust to the change. Adding too much fiber too quickly may cause stomach upset and gas. To get adequate fiber in your diet:

  • Choose whole-grain breads and cereals. Buy bread that lists whole wheat, stone-ground wheat, or cracked wheat in the ingredients. Eat brown rice, bulgur, or millet instead of white rice.
  • Eat 6 to 11 servings of grains (breads, cereals, rice, pasta) each day. For example, a serving is 1 slice of whole wheat bread, half a whole wheat bagel, or half a cup of whole wheat pasta or brown rice.
  • Eat several servings of fiber-containing fresh fruits and vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables rich in fiber include raspberries, apples, figs, oranges, pears, prunes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, corn, peas, and beans.

Some doctors recommend adding bran to your diet to help boost the fiber content. If you do this, start slowly with 1 teaspoon a day. Gradually increase the amount to several teaspoons a day.

Some people avoid nuts, seeds, berries, and popcorn (because of the hulls), believing that the seeds and nuts may get trapped in the diverticula and cause pain. But there is no evidence that seeds, nuts, and berries cause diverticulitis or make it worse.1

Drink lots of fluids every day to help keep your stool soft. High-fiber diets need lots of fluid in the body to work properly.

If your diet is high enough in fiber, your stools should become softer, larger, and easier to pass.

  • Changing your diet may relieve constipation, but it may not help relieve abdominal pain.
  • If you don't have any improvement within a week or two, talk to your doctor about your diet.
  • Talk to your doctor if constipation continues or gets worse. Another medical problem or a medicine may be causing constipation.

When trying to change what you eat, it is easy to get off track without realizing it. It may help to keep a food diary.

References

Citations

  1. Davis BR, Matthews JB (2006). Diverticular disease of the colon. In M Wolfe et al., eds., Therapy of Digestive Disorders, 2nd ed., pp. 855–859. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

Credits

Author Monica Rhodes
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
Last Updated July 30, 2008

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