My doctor said I’ve got diverticular disease, what should I eat?
Diverticular disease affects the large bowel, it causes small pockets or pouches to stick out beyond the bowel wall.
Damage to the bowel wall is common in older Australians. One in two people over 70 have ‘pocketing’ (diverticula). This ‘pocketing’ of the bowel wall (diverticular disease), is found during routine check ups, or in procedures like colonoscopies.
Mostly, people have no symptoms or problems with diverticular disease. However some people with diverticular disease have:
- Blood in their stools.
If you have these symptoms they should be investigated to rule out other, more serious problems.
Diverticulitis is the acute and painful condition caused by an infection to these pockets and can result in:
- Severe pain
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding and changes in bowel habits.
Diverticulitis is usually treated very successfully with antibiotics and some people never experience another attack. If you have more than one attack of diverticulitis there are risks of further problems.
Research has shown that diverticular disease is more common in people whose diet is lower in fibre. So there is another reasons to eat plenty of fibre-rich foods, as recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating – it may reduce your chances of developing diverticular disease.
A high fibre diet is also recommended for those who already have diverticular damage to their bowel wall. Including fibre-rich foods will reduce the chance of the acute condition of diverticulitis.
A high fibre diet includes:
- Plenty of fruit including skins and seeds
- Wholegrain breads and cereals.
Fibre adds bulk to faeces, making them easier to pass. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids, at least two litres per day, to ensure the stools are moist and soft. Some people with diverticular disease use a fibre supplement such as psyllium to ensure their stools are easy to pass.
During inflammation or diverticulitis you may need to try a lower fibre diet until the swelling goes down. Once resolved you can then go back to your high fibre diet.