Diverticulitis can be acute or chronic. Chronic Diverticulitis is characterized by persistent low-grade inflammation and infection, while acute Diverticulitis is characterized by one or more severe attacks that clear up after treatment. Typically, acute Diverticulitis is caused by a very small perforation in one of the Diverticulum, or pouches, in the intestinal wall. Once treated, the condition will subside until another acute attack occurs.
What are the symptoms of Acute Diverticulitis?
Acute Diverticulitis symptoms are similar to other inflammatory bowel conditions, but the location of the symptoms is different from other GI issues (Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s, etc.). Typically, diverticulitis will present in the lower left abdomen, while other GI conditions cause more widespread pain. Symptoms of Acute Diverticulitis include:
- Pain in the lower left abdomen that persists for several days
- Abdominal tenderness
How is Acute Diverticulitis treated?
Acute Diverticulitis treatment involves antibiotics and temporary dietary changes. The antibiotics are administered to treat the infection. Completing the prescribed antibiotics course is the key component to preventing further complications and ensuring the infection has fully cleared.
After antibiotic treatment, your doctor may instruct you to follow a temporary liquid diet to give your bowels time to heal. Liquid diets include all liquids such as water, juice, electrolyte drinks and liquid-like food substances such as bone broth, Jell-O and popsicles.
Liquid diets are extremely restrictive, and you should only follow it for 2-3 days before reintroducing solid food. Following a liquid diet for longer than 2-3 days can result in nutrient deficiencies.
Prevention is the best intervention for Diverticulitis. Most people with Diverticulosis do not even know they have the condition because they are asymptomatic. However, once the condition progresses to Diverticulitis, the chance of experiencing a flare in the future is much higher. Therefore, preventing a future flare is the best line of defense. Although the cause of Diverticulitis is unknown, researchers suspect that constipation and increased pressure in the colon are the largest risk factors. To avoid chronic constipation, we recommend eating a diet high in dietary fiber because it supports healthy bowel movements and decreases overall pressure in the colon. Below are our tips for adding fiber to your diet:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- We recommend a minimum of 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
- Eat whole fruits and vegetables with the skin on whenever possible
- Whole produce contains more fiber per serving than fruit or vegetable juices.
- Read food labels and look for high fiber food products
- Any product with 2.5 grams of fiber is considered a “good” source and anything with 5 grams of fiber or more is considered “excellent”.
- Choose whole grains
- Whole grains contain significantly more fiber than refined, white products.
- If needed, take a fiber supplement
- Check with your doctor to see if a fiber supplement would be right for you.
Acute Diverticulitis, though uncomfortable, is often a very manageable condition. The best intervention is prevention, so be sure to understand dietary changes that will help prevent a future flare.
For more information on how to manage a diverticulitis flare and improve your diet to deal with your diverticulitis, download our Diverticulitis Nutrition Guide.
Kaitlyn Willwerth is a Registered Dietitian at OnPoint Nutrition. Kaitlyn's work focuses on providing individualized health and lifestyle coaching and, most importantly, support. She is a Certified LEAP Therapist and has also completed the Monash University 'Low FODMAP Diet for IBS' online training course for health professionals.