Diverticulosis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Dietary Recommendations

Diverticulosis

Diverticulosis, also known as pouches or pockets of the colon, is a prevalent issue. The condition is most likely caused by a low intake of fiber over a person’s lifetime.

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This results in intense pressures in the colon, which gradually, over several years, cause ballooning of small weak points in a person’s colon wall, causing diverticuli.

When these pockets known as diverticulosis become infected, it leads to diverticulitis, a painful and sometimes dangerous condition. Africans in rural areas who consume at least 50 grams of fiber daily over a lifetime rarely report cases of diverticulosis.

Yet, they end up with this condition when they switch to a western diet with low fiber. If you maintain a low fiber intake, it can result in small, tiny, and/or hard pellet stools, which will often result in high pressure within the colon.

This high pressure is what makes these pockets to create balloons, and form diverticuli. Below are dietary recommendations for individuals with diverticulosis. However, any specific advice will greatly depend on a person’s stage of diverticulosis.

Before you start your diet, you must ask questions like; Is what you are dealing with early diverticulosis? Is what you are dealing with advanced with fixed changes in the colon?

Have you noticed any symptoms? Or is what you are dealing with acute diverticulitis where the colon is now recovering from infection around the pockets?

Stages of Diverticulosis

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis simply means that at least of the weak-walled diverticuli have become infected or inflamed. At this point, your doctor will want to put both the bowel and the patient at rest.

Early in the treatment, a diet made of clear liquids is usually prescribed to ensure max bowel rest. As you proceed with recovery, the diet is slowly advanced to a Low Fiber Diet, then gradually progressing to a High Fiber Diet once recovery is complete.

Quiet, early, and moderate diverticulosis

Most people are at this stage. The physician may have found a small number of diverticuli on colonoscopy incidentally while screening for colon cancer.

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Because this finding is just mentioned in passing, there won’t be much importance attached to it. Ignoring it at this stage is a mistake because this is when something can be done about the condition.

Remember, that what causes diverticulosis is the increased amount of pressures that can be exerted by the colon within itself. A bulky stool is all it takes to prevent this. Having enough plant fiber, especially the insoluble type, is the best option.

These are the kinds of fiber that do not cause colon gas. The easiest of this fiber to take are barley, wheat bran, amaranth, and others rich in fiber.

Quiet but advanced, fixed or narrowed diverticulosis

For many older folks, the case of diverticulosis has become severe that the colon, precisely above the rectum, gets fixed, gnarled, or twisted by fibrous tissue within the wall of the bowel.

At this stage, it is less likely for the colon to be massaged back to its usual size. The dilemma at this point is that people can seldom produce large stools, as the only thing that can easily pass through this narrowed part of the colon is tiny, even pellet-like stool.

Yet, it is not a bad idea to try small doses of supplements or additional food fiber to find out what can be accomplished.

The goal here is to gradually increase the daily fiber from 20 to 30 or even to 40 grams a day. This change is not once you want to make all of a sudden, and, especially with high amounts of soluble fiber.

Insoluble Fiber

This fiber is also called bulk or roughage, and it does not dissolve in water, but instead, it hangs onto the water in a person’s large bowel.

This will create a large, soft, but bulky stool. It is known to promote regularity and has also been linked with a reduced chance of getting colon cancer or colon polyps, as doctors believe that cancer inciting agents can be swept via the bowel in a more speedy manner.

Also, if you’re overweight, it may help to promote weight loss and even help to enhance diabetic control. Below are the foods that are known to be high in insoluble fiber:

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  • Wheat bran
  • Whole wheat bread and baked goods
  • Whole-grain bread
  • Peanuts
  • Vegetables and fruits, especially the skins
  • Brown rice
  • Brazil nuts
  • Popcorn

The fiber content of packaged foods is there to offer detailed information on the amount of insoluble fiber such foods contain.

Soluble Fiber

This is the kind of plant fiber that actually dissolves in water. In the colon, the double fiber provides food for the vast number of bacteria that reside and thrive there and provides lots of health benefits in the process.

Soluble fibers are also known to promote regularity by uping the growth of the colon bacteria. Below are foods that are high in soluble fibers:

  • Apples, oranges, grapefruit, peaches, concord grapes
  • Prunes, pears, cranberries
  • Oats in any form – cereal, muffins, etc
  • Beans
  • Psyllium found in dietary supplements and cereals
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Sesame seed

Seeds, Nuts, and Popcorn

From time immemorial, doctors have been advised patients who have diverticulosis to avoid the items above.

The concerns on the doctor’s end make sense as these foods could get inside the colon pockets, sometimes rattle around and cause injury to the colon wall.

Doctors want you to believe that this can be compared to dried seeds stuck inside a gourd that you can hear while it rattles around as you shake.

Well, some doctors beg to differ, as all of the items mentioned become digested or completely soft and soaked by the time they get to the colon. Most importantly, these seeds and nuts contain high amounts of fiber, which is precisely what the colon needs.

So, it is safe for diverticulosis patients to eat popcorn and nuts.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics has been making the headlines recently. These are relatively newly found types of plant fiber that they have been discovered to offer significant benefits to the colon.

These probiotics can be derived from certain plant foods and prebiotic products. With diverticulosis, it is healthy to take supplements and all the soluble fiber foods.

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However, if a person takes too much, then there can be excessive colon gas. Always take these fibers in small quantities and loom out for improvements.

We hope that this article has been helpful. Kindly share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.