A healthy gut feels good, but it often requires a lifestyle that promotes a healthy gut in the best way possible. While there are countless conditions and diseases associated with the gut, we will focus on diverticulitis in this article. Keep reading to find out more information about diverticulitis and how you can do your best to prevent it.
What is Diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is a serious and painful condition that develops in people with diverticulosis. Diverticulosis is a condition where small sacs develop in your gastrointestinal tract lining. Overall, most people with diverticulosis do not know they have the condition and can go their entire lives without symptoms.
Diverticulitis, however, occurs when the sacs become infected, inflamed and/or obstructed with food and stool in the intestines. A bout of diverticulitis may appear suddenly and can be dangerous. Complications of diverticulitis include gut perforation, abscesses, bleeding, intestinal obstruction and fistulas.
How to Prevent Diverticulitis
Even though there are many factors that can increase your risk of diverticulitis, here is a list of tips on how to prevent or reduce your risk of a painful flare-up:
Tip #1: Understand the uncontrollable risk factors
As with any disease, there are some risk factors that you have absolutely no control over. Here are uncontrollable risk factors for diverticulitis that you should be aware of. Even though you can’t change these, it will help you determine your risk for this condition:
- Age (risk increases with age)
- Conditions that increase the risk of developing diverticula sacs and/or diverticulitis (polycystic kidney disease, Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Williams-Beuren syndrome, Coffin-Lowry syndrome)
Tip #2: Achieve or maintain a healthy weight
Research shows that obesity and lack of physical activity can increase your risk of diverticulosis and diverticulitis. To help you get active, try out this Sole Fitness elliptical machine for low impact cardio workouts.
Tip #3: Stop smoking
Smoking increases your risk of developing diverticulitis, so it is recommended to stop smoking. In fact, tobacco smoking may even increase the risk of complications from diverticulitis such as intestinal perforation and abscesses (1). To help you quit, ask your doctor about using this Habitrol Nicotine Gum.
Tip #4: Ask your doctor about medications that increase your risk of diverticulitis
Certain medications can increase your risk of diverticulitis, so be sure to go over your medication regimen with your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, opioids, steroids and NSAIDs may increase the risk of diverticulitis. Also, your doctor will be able to better analyze your personal risk of developing diverticulitis.
Tip #5: Familiarize yourself with the most updated information
If you do an Internet search on how to eat when you have diverticulitis, you may find conflicting information. In the past, clinicians told their patients to avoid small seeds (such as those in fruits and vegetables), popcorn and nuts because it was thought that these small particles would get stuck in the intestinal sacs. However, more recent research has shown that these foods can be eaten in people who have diverticulosis and diverticulitis. In fact, these foods may even significantly reduce the risk of a flare-up (2)! Try to get healthy popcorn in a few times per week (click here for our favorite healthy popcorn).
Tip #6: Get enough fiber
Now you are aware of the changes in recent research regarding a diverticulitis diet. Furthermore, those with diverticulosis and diverticulitis should get adequate fiber in the diet. We get fiber in the foods we eat. Depending on the type of fiber consumed, fiber helps add bulk to your stool (helping you go) and/or forms a gel-like substance in your intestines (making your stools soft and easy to pass). Here are sources of fiber to add to your diet:
- Fruit skins and pulp (i.e. banana, apples, berries)
- Vegetable skins and pulp (i.e. carrots, broccoli, spinach)
- Grains and starches, especially whole grains (i.e. bread, quinoa, rice, popcorn, potatoes)
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and legumes
- Fiber supplements (powder and capsules)
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, here are the recommendations for fiber intake based on gender and age:
|Age (in years)||Gender||Daily Fiber Recommendations (in grams)|
|1 to 3||Male and Female||14 grams|
|4 to 8||Female)||16.8 grams|
|4 to 8||Male||19.6 grams|
|9 to 13||Female||22.4 grams|
|9 to 13||Male||25.2 grams|
|14 to 18||Female||25.2 grams|
|14 to 18||Male||30.8 grams|
|19 to 30||Female||28 grams|
|19 to 30||Male||33.6 grams|
|31 to 50||Female||25.2 grams|
|31 to 50||Male||30.8 grams|
|51 and over||Female||22.4 grams|
|51 and over||Male||28 grams|
You can also determine your fiber recommendations based on your calorie intake. It is recommended that people consume 14 grams for every 1000 calories consumed.
Tip #7: Learn how to find fiber on the food label
In foods that have a Nutrition Facts label, you can find out how much fiber is in that particular food. Fiber is listed in grams on the back food label. Remember the fiber recommendations above? Try to consume foods that help you reach your daily fiber goal. For a list of healthy, fibrous foods, click here. In general, a food that has at least 5 grams of fiber per serving is a high fiber food.
Tip #8: Know when to seek medical attention
If you have diverticulosis, you are at risk of developing diverticulitis. However, since many people don’t know that they have diverticulosis, there are some symptoms to look out for that indicate you may have diverticulitis. Abdominal or intestinal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating or a change in bowel movements can be ambiguous symptoms. However, if you notice blood in the stool and/or develop a fever, make sure to see your doctor. Your doctor can do tests to help determine if you have diverticulitis and determine the severity of the infection.
Want to learn more about gut health?
A happy, healthy gut is possible! For more information on having a healthy gut, see our article about probiotics.