Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a small commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no additional cost to you. For more information please visit our Disclaimers page.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help manage diverticulitis symptoms. However, if you’re prone to flare-ups of the condition, it can be a challenge to figure out what foods are safe for your gut.
Fortunately, there are several diets that can be beneficial to you and your body. Learn more about these diets below, and find out which ones are right for you.
1. The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is one of the best diets for diverticulitis because it’s low in sugar and saturated fat and focuses on eating whole, plant-based foods. It also favors foods high in fiber and antioxidants, which reduce inflammation in the body and keep waste from building up in the large intestine.
This diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish, as well as nuts and legumes. It limits red meat and dairy, which are high in saturated fats. It also promotes a healthy balance of gut bacteria and supports weight loss.
Another benefit of this diet is that it’s easy to follow and maintain. It’s based on the eating patterns of many Mediterranean countries, so it is flexible and customizable.
It’s also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. This is because the Mediterranean Diet limits refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, which raise your blood sugar levels, and instead encourages foods rich in fiber, protein and antioxidants.
The diet is full of delicious, flavorful foods that are naturally low in calories and high in nutrients. Some of these include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, olive oil, legumes and seeds.
In addition to eating a lot of these healthy, nutrient-rich foods, Mediterraneans also focus on regular physical activity and socialization. This is important for overall health, as it can help you lose weight and improve your mood.
The diet can also help you feel more satisfied, which is crucial for reducing the risk of overeating. Eat slowly to tune into your hunger and fullness signals and stop when you’re full.
2. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is a nutritional regimen that focuses on eating whole, unprocessed foods. It is popular among people with inflammatory bowel diseases, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
The diet eliminates certain types of carbohydrates based on their chemical structure. It is designed to balance the gut microbiome, thereby preventing inflammation and other symptoms.
While the specific carbohydrate diet is a very restrictive eating plan, it can help relieve symptoms of diverticulitis. It can be especially helpful for people who are experiencing severe symptoms, or those who have been diagnosed with small intestine bacterial overgrowth syndrome, also known as SIBO.
It is important to note that although many people on the SCD experience relief from their symptoms, this is not a cure for diverticulitis or other intestinal disorders. It is a long-term diet that can be challenging to follow, and it may lead to malnutrition and unhealthy weight loss if not followed properly.
In order to get started on the SCD, you need to avoid all foods containing two or more linked sugar molecules. These include dairy products, grains and most legumes.
You should also avoid processed foods, additives and preservatives. These ingredients are known to contribute to inflammation and have been linked to digestive conditions such as IBD, autoimmune diseases, autism, cystic fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease and other conditions.
A person who wants to try the SCD should consult with a health care professional before beginning the diet. The doctor can recommend a plan that is right for you and help you achieve the results you are looking for.
3. The Low-Fat Diet
In some cases, a low-fat diet may help treat diverticulitis. In others, it may increase the risk of flare-ups.
A high-fiber diet has also been linked to a lower risk of diverticulosis and diverticulitis. However, recent research suggests that this relationship is weak and inconsistent.
Fortunately, there are other ways to help prevent flare-ups and manage the condition. These include staying hydrated and exercising regularly.
Exercise reduces constipation, which can trigger the formation of diverticula and worsen symptoms of diverticulitis. It can also reduce inflammation and ease symptoms of the disease.
Eating a low-fat diet can also lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. These are both risk factors for the development of diverticula and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to eating for diverticulitis, UCSF Health medical specialists recommend following a diet high in fiber, especially after a flare-up. A clear liquid diet is best during flare-ups and you’ll slowly reintroduce low-fiber solid foods back into your diet over the course of a few days after symptoms subside.
Other important considerations when deciding on a diet include avoiding foods that are known to aggravate the condition and identifying your personal dietary triggers, says Joshua Rubin, MD, assistant clinical professor of gastroenterology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. For example, he says it is helpful to avoid certain foods that can exacerbate symptoms, such as nuts and popcorn.
It’s also important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The best way to get the nutrients you need is by eating a balanced diet that includes all of these food groups. If you have trouble finding nutritious foods that are low in fat and palatable, ask your doctor or a dietitian for recommendations.
4. The Paleo Diet
One of the best diets for diverticulitis is the Paleo Diet, which focuses on eating foods our ancestors naturally ate. It cuts out processed food, sugar-sweetened beverages and refined vegetable oils. It also avoids dairy products, legumes (like beans, peas and lentils) and most grains.
The diet is high in protein and contains a healthy mix of fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. It is low in carbohydrate and a good choice for those with diabetes, as it improves blood glucose levels.
However, there are some limitations with this diet, and you should consult a registered dietitian before you start it. For example, you may not get enough calcium because the diet excludes dairy and certain grains.
You can still eat healthy fats on this diet by using nuts and seeds, as well as avocados and olive oil. They are rich in essential fatty acids, and they can help keep you feeling full.
Another important nutrient to focus on is fiber, which helps your digestive system function properly and reduces the risk of developing diverticulitis. Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. It makes you feel full and satisfied after a meal, and it can help reduce the pain associated with constipation and diarrhea.
If you have digestive disorders like diverticulosis, a paleo diet can be difficult to follow, because many of the foods you should eat contain gluten, which is considered an allergen for people with wheat allergy and celiac disease. The diet is also high in meat, which can be a problem for those with diverticulitis because it increases the size of your stools and can cause abdominal pain.
If you have a digestive disorder, it’s best to work with your doctor or dietitian to develop a plan that works for you. You may need to change your diet and add in new foods gradually until you find a plan that is right for you.
5. The Weight Loss Diet
There are many diets out there that claim to help you manage or prevent diverticulitis, but the truth is that they all work in different ways. The best diet for you depends on your needs and your goals, says registered dietitian Anna Taylor, MS, RDN, LD.
For example, if you are having a flare-up of your diverticulitis, you may be advised to follow a clear liquid or low-fiber diet until symptoms subside. Once symptoms go away, your doctor will advise you to return to a normal diet, including foods that are high in fiber.
Getting enough fiber is important, because it helps keep your stools soft and adds bulk to them, so they pass more easily through your colon. It also reduces pressure on the colon and prevents constipation.
If you aren’t getting enough fiber, your doctor may recommend a fiber supplement (psyllium or methylcellulose) one to three times a day. This will help soften and move stool through your colon and can also be helpful during a flare-up of diverticulitis, Taylor says.
Another option is to limit red and processed meats. These types of foods are linked with higher risk of diverticulitis, so limiting them can help. Replacing them with poultry, fish, and plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes can also be a good way to get your recommended intake of fiber.
Whether or not a high-fiber diet can help control diverticulitis is an ongoing debate, and research on the topic is often conflicting. For now, it seems that most doctors agree on a general rule of thumb: You should eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.