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Diverticular Disease

Living With Diverticular Disease

Last modified: 
21/03/2012 - 18:51

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Living with diverticular disease involves:

A High-Fiber Diet

Usually the simple remedy of a high-fiber diet may well prevent the development of complications from diverticular disease. People hospitalized for complications of diverticular disease typically start a high-fiber diet while still in the hospital.

Fiber keeps stool soft, keeps the contents of the intestines moving, and lowers the pressure in the colon. So fiber decreases the likelihood that new diverticula will form or that diverticula that are already present will become infected and inflamed.

A good diet should contain approximately 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. The average American eats less than half of that. The following are good sources of fiber:

  • Whole grains (bran has the highest fiber content, about 25 to 45 percent)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • A dietary supplement of fiber products such as Citrucel orMetamucil

How-To Information:

When incorporating more fiber in your diet:

  • It's best to start slowly, especially if you tend to become constipated. Introduce high-fiber foods gradually, over two to four weeks.
  • Eat a wide variety of plant foods (foods that come from plants, as opposed to meats or dairy products).
  • Choose foods whose fiber content has not been depleted through processing.
  • Read food labels to learn how much fiber is contained in the various foods you eat.

Studies have shown that a high-fiber diet has widespread health benefits. And unlike many other treatments, fiber in the diet has no danger of adverse reactions, toxicity, or dangerous side effects.

For further information about fiber, go to Fiber: Its Importance In Your Diet.

Need To Know:

Q: Do I have to get my fiber from food? Is taking a fiber supplement enough?

A: Supplements provide only a very restricted type of fiber. Eating a diet of high-fiber foods usually incorporates various kinds of fiber, and that's healthier. Fruits, vegetables, and oats have plenty of soluble fiber. Whole grains, bran, legumes, and many fruits and vegetables are full of insoluble fiber.

Both soluble and insoluble fiber add bulk and softness to the stool. Insoluble fiber remains pretty much unchanged by the time it reaches the intestines, whereas soluble fiber acquires a soft, jelly-like texture. Both make stools easier to pass.

Treating Mild Symptoms

For mild symptoms:

  • To relieve cramps, a source of heat, such as a hot water bottle, can help. If the cramps are more severe, the doctor may prescribe pain medication.
  • To treat diarrhea, drink plenty of liquids, avoid solid foods, and rest until the diarrhea stops. Eat bland, low-fiber foods to start. Gradually return to a varied, high-fiber diet.
  • To control muscle spasms in the colon, medication such as Pro-Banthine (Propantheline), which is an anti-spasmodic, are prescribed.

When symptoms first arise, or if they worsen or recur, it's important to see a doctor and follow the prescribed treatment.

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.