Bowel disease, ranging from irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease to diverticulitis and cancer is on the rise in America. Many health professionals agree that modern Western diet, deficient in whole foods and consisting mostly of highly-processed foods is the culprit. Filled with sugar and fat, these refined foods not only wreak havoc on health but also specifically, the bowel. So, what is diverticulitis and what are the best ways to manage this disease using diet?
What Is Diverticulitis?
Diverticula are pouches or herniations found in the bowel due to weakened areas of the colon wall that manifests in the descending and sigmoid colon. It is not uncommon for men and women over fifty years old to begin to develop diverticula. However, diverticulitis is not just for the older population. In addition to age, these weakened pockets can be formed due to chronic constipation and straining of the bowel, pregnancy, smoking, and obesity.
When multiple diverticula are found in the colon, it is referred to as diverticulosis. Diverticulitis, on the other hand, is the condition when these diverticula become infected and inflamed resulting in abdominal pain and cramping in the lower left quadrant, which is the location of the descending and sigmoid colon.
Learn more about the symptoms and available treatments now!
Symptoms And Treatment
In addition to abdominal pain and cramping, a person may experience symptoms of fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. A diagnosis can be made with an ultrasound of the colon, and once the diagnosis is made, the first line of treatment is typically antibiotics to treat the infected diverticula. Acute onset of diverticulitis will often clear up after a single course of antibiotics. However, in some cases, the degree of this condition may require surgical intervention.
Continue reading to find out what foods to consume when suffering from diverticulitis.
When suffering from a severe attack of diverticulitis, it is recommended that a patient avoid high-fiber foods. With the bowel already in a state of distress, these hard-to-digest foods can lead to additional cramping and bloat. During this acute phase, the bowel will need to rest and heal, and as a result, many physicians recommend a diet of easily-digestible foods. These foods include broth, gelatin, fruit juices and ice pops without pulp or seeds, and coffee and tea without cream. Typically, this acute-phase diet will not last more than one to two days, as it lacks in full nutrition which can lead to weakness and further complications.
Find out now what low-fiber foods to reintroduce back into a healthy diet when healing from diverticulitis.
The Healing Power Of Low-Fiber Foods
During the next phase of healing, noted by a decrease in cramping and bloating, the inclusion of low-fiber foods can be introduced. These include canned or cooked fruits and vegetables without skin or seeds, proteins such as eggs, fish, and poultry, cheese, milk, refined bread, pasta, and low-fiber cereals. These low-fiber foods will encourage continued healing by adding more dense nutrition while still being gentle on the bowel.
After a course of antibiotics, when the bowel has rested sufficiently, and inflammation of the diverticula has subsided, the acute phase is past, and the state of the bowel is considered to be back to diverticulosis. However, maintaining a diet to promote bowel health is paramount in controlling further acute diverticular attacks. Fiber intake, balancing your gut flora, calming herbs and teas, as well as drinking plenty of fluids can further aid with diverticular recovery.
Next, let’s find out the importance of a fiber-rich diet!
The Importance Of Fiber
Once the resting phase is completed, it is time to implement a diet rich in fiber with a recommended intake of twenty-five grams of fiber per day. A diet rich in fiber is the foundation to a healthy bowel. Fiber-rich foods include fresh fruits such as apples, berries, mangoes, plums and pineapple, nuts such as walnuts, cashews, pecans, and almonds, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, cruciferous vegetables such as Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. Other healthy foods include winter squashes such as butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash, whole grains such as pasta, bread, oats, rice and quinoa, legumes such as black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and peanuts.
How can fiber be incorporated into a healthy diet? Continue reading to find out!
Ways To Incorporate More Fiber Into A Diet
Some fun and delicious ways to incorporate high-fiber into a balanced diet can include making a smoothie with frozen berries, fruit juice or milk, and including a handful of frozen spinach to increase the amount of fiber and offer a day's worth of iron as well. Other options include grabbing a handful of nuts, as they are not only rich in fiber, but vitamin E and heart-healthy fats, and adding fiber-dense vegetables like Brussel sprouts and asparagus to your evening meal as a side. Individuals can also toss some fresh kale into a salad for an extra dose of fiber, and also have fresh granola on hand for a quick snack. Also ensure that when choosing bread and pasta, look for whole grain varieties rather than refined.
Let’s discover another essential element of gut health: probiotics!
The Good Bacteria: Probiotics
Maintaining a healthy gut is the key to keeping diverticulitis at bay. Considering the colon is a host of both good and bad bacteria, it is important to keep a healthy ratio of both bacterias. Good bacteria, also known as probiotics, can be found in many fermented foods such as yogurt, kraut, kefir, kombucha, herbal teas, peppermint, chamomile, ginger, and turmeric. Ensure when choosing yogurt as a source of probiotics, look for the words, 'live and active cultures,' in either the ingredient list or on the label itself. Also, unpasteurized kraut is the best way to eat this fiber-rich cabbage, so make sure that the packaging mentions that the product is unpasteurized before purchasing it.
Next, let’s learn more about what bad bacteria in the gut is.
How Bad Bacteria Affects Colon Health
As mentioned when discussing probiotics, the gut contains a mix of good and bad bacteria. When bad bacteria, consisting of candida, also known as yeast, outnumbers the good bacteria, the bowel can become distressed, resulting in constipation, flatulence, bloating and abdominal cramping. For diverticular patients particularly, keeping bowel movements regular and avoiding straining when constipated is incredibly important. The good news is that yeast bacteria can be managed by avoiding certain foods, specifically foods that contain high sugars and starches. Examples of these foods would be bread and pasta made with refined flour, excessive pastries and sugary desserts, and alcohol.
In the past, it was thought that certain nuts and seeds, as well as popcorn, should be avoided at all costs for diverticulitis patients. The ideology behind this practice was the assumption that small particles would become lodged in the sac of the diverticula and cause infection. However, new findings conclude that this not the case. Nuts, seeds, and popcorn are recommended food sources of a fiber-rich diet.
Discover the importance of water in healing the bowel now!
The Healing Benefits Of Water
Eight to ten glasses of water per day is recommended by health professionals for an individual to remain hydrated and healthy. Some studies have shown that consuming warm water (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) can have a favorable effect on the bowel and help in reducing spasms as well as initiate bowel movement. An easier bowel movement will alleviate the need to strain, and also reduce the risk of increased herniations on colon walls. Besides ensuring that the patient is drinking enough water on a regular basis, being proactive and eating a healthy, fiber-rich diet is a valued and inexpensive means to take control of your bowel health.