Diverticulitis is a medical disorder that is characterized by inflammation or infection of the diverticula or pouches that have developed on the wall of the large intestine. Presence of diverticula without inflammation is called diverticulosis. Diverticulitis presents as pain in lower abdomen along with constipation or cramping. Many physicians advised in the past that people who have developed diverticula should avoid foods that contain small seeds including strawberries and tomatoes as the seeds could get trapped in the pouches and produce inflammation. So, what is the relationship between diverticulitis and seeds?
Can Diverticulitis Patients Eat Foods with Seeds?
Seeds present in vegetables, grains and fruits are rich in fiber. These foods can be consumed while the diverticular disease is in its chronic phase as during this time foods rich in fiber help in controlling symptoms and in avoiding attacks of diverticulitis.
However, during a flare up of diverticulitis when you are having symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, cramping, chills and constipation, you should not eat seeds. You will be recommended to consume a clear liquid diet for 2-3 days to rest your colon. You can gradually add low-fiber foods to your diet after your symptoms improve; however, foods containing seeds should be avoided until the flare up of diverticulitis is over.
Don't Eat These Foods During the Flare-up Phase of Diverticulitis
- Fruits Containing Seeds: Avoid fruits such as cherries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and all other kinds of berries. Avoid dried fruits including figs, dates, apricots, prunes and raisins. Avoid raw fruits that are eaten with skin and have seeds including plums, apples and pears. Hence, diverticulitis and seeds have a strong relationship.
- Vegetables Containing Seeds: Avoid consuming baked beans, split peas, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, dried beans, black beans, pinto beans and other legumes during a flare up. Avoid frozen or fresh green peas, snap beans or pole beans. Also avoid frozen or fresh corn, cucumbers, tomatoes and squash due to skin and seeds.
- Cereal and Grains Containing Seeds: You can consume enriched low-fiber cereal or white bread during a flare up of diverticulitis; however, avoid whole-grain food products. Avoid cereals and bread containing seeds including caraway, pumpkin, rye, sunflower and sesame seeds. White rice can be eaten in limited amounts, but avoid wild or brown rice.
- Meat Alternatives and Meat Containing Seeds: Avoid meat dishes that have seeds. Avoid sources of protein in which dill, sesame, caraway or other seeds have been used for flavoring. Diverticulitis and seeds are a big no. Also, don’t eat red meat.
Diet Plan for Diverticulitis
Food List for a Flare-Up
During a flare-up of diverticulitis, your physician will prescribe antibiotics for the illness. They will also recommend that you consume a clear liquid diet for at least 2-3 days or until your symptoms resolve. During this period, avoid consuming solid foods and consume clear broth, ice pops, clear juices without pulp and gelatin.
Food List During Recovery
Once the symptoms of your illness become less, your physician will suggest you to gradually include solid foods in your diet. Start by consuming low-fiber foods that are easily digested such as eggs, dairy products, pasta, low-fiber bread and cereal, white rice and soft or canned vegetables and fruits without skin or seeds. Add 5-15 g of fiber gradually per day to your diet until you are able to consume a diet high in fiber.
Diet Plan to Prevent Diverticulitis
The occurrence of diverticulitis can be prevented by consuming a high-fiber diet. Females should consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day, whereas males should consume at least 35 grams of fiber per day. Foods rich in fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals and breads, brown rice, legumes such as beans and peas and nuts. Here you can have diverticulitis and seeds together.
More Ways to Help Manage Your Diverticulitis
Supplements for the Management of Diverticulitis
- Slippery Elm: Slippery elm has been used by Native Americans for centuries to calm digestive problems. Presently, it is advised for relieving symptoms of Crohn’s disease, IBS, GERD and digestive upset. Begin by consuming 500 mg thrice daily while you are on a diverticulitis diet. Make sure that you consume it with a glass of some clear liquid or water.
- Aloe: Aloe juice helps in digestion, to normalize body’s pH levels, to regularize bowel processing and to promote growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. It is recommended to consume 12-16 oz. of aloe juice per day. You should not take more than the recommended amount as it can cause irritation of your system.
- Digestive Enzymes: Individuals who have digestive problems can consume digestive supplements containing essential enzymes that promote digestion. These enzymes help in the breakdown of foods and make the absorption of nutrients easy.
- Licorice Root: It reduces acid levels in the stomach, relieves heartburn and also works as a mild laxative and clears your intestine of waste. It increases the secretion of bile, thereby, helping in digestion of foods. Consume 100 mg daily when you are having symptoms of diverticulitis.
- Probiotics: You should include probiotics in your diet to negate sensitivity to foods and relieve symptoms of digestive upset such as gas, bloating and constipation. Probiotics are good bacteria that form a lining on your intestines to fight infection. If you are suffering from a flare up of diverticulitis, you require these bacteria to help in healing your colon and prevent recurrence of disease.
Lifestyle Changes Required for the Management of Diverticulitis
- Chew your food thoroughly until it is almost liquefied. The more food is broken down before it reaches the stomach, the easier it is for the nutrients to get absorbed.
- According to studies, a combination of high fiber diet and physical activity helps in preventing diverticulitis. Running daily helps in relieving symptoms and reducing flare-ups of diverticulitis. Hence, do regular exercise. Even doing moderate intensity exercise regularly helps in regulating bowel functions, reducing stress and maintaining healthy weight.
- Manage stress by learning effective mechanisms to cope with it. Stress has an effect not only on the psychological health but also on the physical health.
- Avoid straining while passing stool as too much pressure can result in small tears in the colon. Elevate your feet slightly by keeping them on a stool to reduce straining.
Consult your physician if you believe that your symptoms are due to diverticulitis. Although an uncomplicated, mild case of diverticulitis may get better with oral antibiotics, liquid diet and bed rest for a couple of days; however, hospitalization may be required in a severe case. Diverticulitis, if left treated may lead to blockage or bleeding in the colon, along with peritonitis, which may even lead to death of the patient.