Diverticula are small pouches that may occur in the intestine, causing a condition called diverticulosis. Diverticulosis in and of itself is generally harmless, but the condition changes to diverticulitis if the diverticula become infected and inflamed. Diverticulitis may be extremely painful and may cause serious complications. While mild cases of diverticulitis are often able to be treated with oral antibiotics at home, severe cases may lead to a spreading of infection, abscesses, or fistulas, and may require surgery. The pain and potential for complications may lead one to wonder: Can I prevent diverticulitis?
It is not completely certain what causes diverticula to form in the intestines, but research strongly suggests diet and bowel habits may have a significant impact. This means eating a diet high in fiber, drinking plenty of water, and getting regular exercise may help prevent this painful condition. The American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily, as well as a minimum of 64 ounces of water. These recommendations are for all people, regardless of presence or absence of diverticula. Fiber is found in all plant-based foods, though some plant-based foods contain a higher amount, such as whole-grain breads, cereals, or crackers; berries; fruits; vegetables; brown rice; and bran. There has been much speculation that nuts, popcorn, and foods containing small seeds (such as strawberries) may make diverticulitis worse, suspecting these seeds of getting stuck in diverticula and causing further inflammation. This is no longer believed to be a hard and fast rule. Some individuals may experience exacerbation of symptoms after eating certain foods, but such triggers vary on a person to person basis and nuts, seeds, and popcorn are generally regarded as safe to eat. Drinking plenty of water helps keep your body and your colon hydrated. This helps comfortably move solid waste along and reduces the strain and constipation.
If you have diverticulitis symptoms, seek medical attention. Symptoms of diverticulitis are very similar to symptoms of many other abdominal conditions, making a proper diagnosis extremely important. Depending on your current eating habits, your doctor may recommend adding a fiber supplement to your daily routine.