Ask the experts
I have diverticulosis. Is there anything that I should avoid eating?
Your diet does have an impact on your diverticulosis. Let me begin by briefly explaining what diverticulosis is and what the difference is between this and diverticulitis. Your colon is the final part of your digestive tract where your stool forms for elimination. As a person ages, pressure within the colon causes bulging pockets of tissue (sacs) that push out from the colon walls. A small bulging sac pushing outward from the colon wall is called a diverticulum. More than one bulging sac is referred to as diverticula. Diverticula can occur throughout the colon but are most common near the end of the left colon, which is called the sigmoid colon. The condition of having these diverticula in the colon is called diverticulosis.
It is possible to have diverticulosis and not know. Many people only find out that they have it when one or more of the pouches becomes inflamed or infected, a condition called diverticulitis. Once the inflammation or infection has been treated, the condition is back to being diverticulosis. While the medical and dietary treatments are different for each of these conditions, you may be able to prevent the pouches from becoming inflamed or infected (diverticulitis).
You asked what foods you should avoid eating and the answer lies in what foods you should be eating. The dietary treatment for diverticulosis is also one of the primary ways to prevent it, a high fiber diet. A low-fiber diet is linked to causing diverticulosis and also linked to the onset of diverticulitis. Your goal will be to cut back on the low fiber foods and increase the high fiber ones. The first thing to do is find out how many grams of fiber per day you need to consume. The Dietary Reference Intake for fiber is:
- Males: 9 to 13 years old = 31 grams/day
- Males: 14 to 50 years old = 38 grams/day
- Males: 50+ years old = 30 grams/day
- Females: 9 to 18 years old = 26 grams/day
- Females: 19 to 50 years old = 25 grams/day
- Females: 50-plus years old = 21 grams/day
High fiber foods are the ones with whole wheat, oat, bran, whole grain cereal, vegetables, fruit, and legumes. Incorporate these into your diet by:
- Replacing your white bread, rice and pasta with whole wheat ones;
- Having at least two meals a week where you have legumes in place of meat. Legumes include beans, including soy beans, peas and lentils;
- Consuming cereal with more than five grams of fiber per serving;
- Eating fruit with the seeds and/or skin;
- Having vegetables with your meals and snacks. You can add vegetables to the foods that you are eating or have soup, salad or cooked vegetables on the side;
- Increasing your fiber intake slowly;
- And taking in enough fluids along with the high fiber foods. Go for water, seltzer, club soda, and herbal teas.
It took time to develop preferences for the foods that you eat. If these foods are not ones that you are used to eating, give yourself time to get used to the taste. Your health is worth the effort.
Medically reviewed by Venkatachala Mohan, MD; Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Gastroenterology
"Patient education: Diverticular disease (Beyond the Basics)"