Like many people, you might have diverticulosis and not know it, but you can prevent the disease or make it more bearable by eating right.
Some doctors and nutritionists think diverticulitis can be avoided by eating foods high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Read on to learn why.
Starts With Diverticula
Diverticula are small pouches that can form in your intestinal wall. When you put too much pressure on your intestines, like when you’re straining because of constipation, it weakens the wall and forms small, sac-like projections. It’s a little like stretching part of a balloon before blowing it up. When you put air in it, the stretched part will form an extra pouch. Once this happens, you have what approximately 33 percent of the population over age 45 in North America has – diverticulosis.
Diverticula are usually painless until bits of food get stuck in them. When this happens, bacteria can form and lead to an infection. Called diverticulitis, this painful condition causes fever and severe pain, usually in your lower left abdomen. If you have these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. The infection could make a hole in your intestinal wall, requiring emergency surgery. Even if you already have the little pouches, you can avoid infection by eating lots of fiber to keep your digestive system squeaky clean.
Constipation has often been blamed on diets high in refined foods, which are also low in fiber – much like the typical American diet. It’s no surprise that diverticulitis, then, is almost unheard of in third world countries. People in industrialized countries tend to get this disease because of their poor and unbalanced diet. To avoid the disease, get rid of foods like white breads, pastries, and processed foods and reach for high-fiber foods instead.
Here’s the type of foods you should be eating if you want to stop diverticulitis from happening to you:
Whole grain – Instead of white bread, try whole grains like whole wheat and rye; also, substitute brown rice for white rice instead. The heavy texture and nutty taste of whole grain foods might take some getting used to, but before you know it white varieties will taste bland by comparison.
Eating grains flavored with small amounts of meat is better than eating the meat itself. Try brown rice casseroles, pilafs and even whole-wheat pizza. Just add a little extra fiber gradually, so your body can adjust to it – or you could end up with uncomfortable gas and bloating.
Fruits, veggies and legumes – Whole fruits and vegetables give you a bonus that you don’t get from juice – fiber. An orange will help your digestive tract a lot more than a glass of orange juice, even though both are nutritious. You can also use fruit toppings on your cereal or yogurt for an energy-boosting snack when you need it. Your green veggies and beans are also a huge plus in the fiber department. The fresher and more lightly cooked, the better.
Water – Like many people, you may be dehydrated and not even know it. If you are often constipated, even if you eat a lot of fiber, you may need more water. This will help make your stools softer and lower your chances of developing diverticula. If you eat fiber a lot, water is a MUST; otherwise, you could end up with a dangerous intestinal blockage. Six to eight glasses is sufficient for most people.
Avoid eating red meat, but rather eat lean meats like chicken and fish since red meat could lead to diverticulitis. Red meat creates unfriendly bacteria as it is digested, and the fat in red meat has been linked to diverticular disease.