A typical Western diet is high in red meat and refined grains, and has a lower fiber content. A 2017 study associated this type of diet with an increased risk of diverticulitis.
The UCSF note that it is safe for people with diverticulitis to eat nuts, popcorn, and seeds, including pumpkin and sesame seeds. Experts also say that it is OK to eat the seeds in tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, strawberries, and raspberries. In the past, doctors may have advised people to remove these foods from their diets.
However, each person is different, and some may find that particular foods worsen their symptoms. Anyone who notices that a certain food causes pain or a change in symptoms should eliminate that food and talk to their doctor or healthcare provider.
High FODMAP foods
FODMAP is an abbreviation for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are carbohydrate foods that research suggests can cause digestive symptoms, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
In Dietary Patterns and Whole Plant Food in Aging and Disease, the author comments that low intake of FODMAP foods may help to lower the risk and alleviate symptoms of diverticular disease.
A 2016 hypothesis suggests that a high fiber diet, when combined with FODMAP foods, may cause excess gas, which could contribute to diverticulitis symptoms.
Some high FODMAP foods include:
- onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, and garlic
- apples, apricots, dried fruit, pears, peaches
- dairy foods, including milk, yogurts, and cheeses
- legumes and pulses
- bread and cereals
- sugars and sweeteners
As some of these foods also contain beneficial fiber, it is important to discuss food choices and elimination with a healthcare professional. Each person will have different dietary needs and sensitivities, so doctors recommend individualized professional guidance.
Research has linked higher intakes of red meat and processed meat to diverticulitis. One 2017 study found that if people stick to a healthful diet and lifestyle, it might be possible to prevent 50% of diverticulitis cases. Recommendations include consuming no more than 51 grams (g) of red meat per day, eating about 23 g of dietary fiber daily, doing at least 2 hours of vigorous exercise each week, maintaining a healthy weight, and never smoking.
Another study published in the journal Gut looked at males in the U.S. The study found that higher intakes of red meat, particularly unprocessed red meat, was associated with an increased risk of diverticulitis. They suggest that substituting red meat with poultry or fish may reduce risk.
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