Diverticulosis is a condition in which small, bulging pouches (diverticula) form in the walls of the small intestine. When the diverticula become infected or inflamed, the condition becomes Diverticulitis. Once you develop diverticula, they do not go away unless you have surgery to remove them…surgery is very uncommon.
Most people who develop diverticula will not experience a flare. In fact, only about 5% of people with Diverticulosis will develop Diverticulitis. If you do experience a flare, the current treatment for Diverticulitis depends on the severity of your signs and symptoms.
There are also a few home remedies that may be effective in managing the pain and discomfort often experienced with Diverticulitis. We’ll explain the most widely used Diverticulitis treatments below.
Traditional Diverticulitis Treatment
The first line of defense during a Diverticulitis attack is antibiotics, which treat the infection directly. It is extremely important to complete the prescribed antibiotics course. This ensures that Diverticulitis does not escalate into a more serious problem.
Temporary liquid diet
Doctors will often recommend a temporary liquid diet to help alleviate symptoms and give your body time to clear the infection. A liquid diet includes all liquids such as electrolyte drinks, water and juice as well as “liquid-like” food substances such as bone broth, Jell-O, and popsicles. Your temporary liquid diet should only last for 2-3 days before you re-introduce solid food back to your diet.
Home Remedies for Diverticulitis
Although the traditional course of treatment includes antibiotics and a temporary liquid diet, home remedies for Diverticulitis may be used in conjunction with traditional treatment methods. We recommend you consult your doctor and dietitian to make sure that these home remedies complement your primary treatment plan.
Some research supports using probiotics to reduce instances of Diverticulitis and symptoms during a flare. People with a healthy population of “good” bacteria in their gut have fewer reported instances of Diverticulitis, and when they do experience a flare, the symptoms are less severe.
Digestive Enzymes may also be helpful for digestive pain relief such as abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, and bloating. However, research does not explore the connection between Digestive Enzymes and Diverticulitis. Digestive Enzymes can be a helpful tool to create a healthier, more efficient gastrointestinal system and therefore are hypothesized to help avoid Diverticulitis flares.
Functional Foods and Herbs
Garlic: Research shows that garlic has antimicrobial and antiviral effects that may help prevent and reduce infection, which can be helpful for Diverticulitis. However, it’s important to know that Garlic is also high in FODMAPS, which are short chain carbohydrates, and are not digested well in the small intestine. For people who know they have sensitivity to garlic, a pure allicin supplement is recommended in its place.
Tea: Green tea has anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and antibacterial properties- all of which would be helpful for Diverticulitis treatment. However, there are many other teas that may calm Diverticulitis symptoms as well. Anti-inflammatory teas such as slippery elm, marshmallow, and chamomile may help lessen intestinal inflammation. Antibacterial teas such as goldenseal are known to have antibacterial properties but have not yet been proven effective in humans. Some researchers believe that antibacterial teas can help prevent Diverticulosis from escalating to Diverticulitis.
Essential Oils: There is no scientific evidence that links essential oils to diverticulitis relief. However, many people claim that these oils have helped with symptom relief. Essential oils have been proven to promote relaxation, relieve stress and reduce pain. One study concluded that topical lavender oil had similar pain relief to a prescription pain medication. For these reasons, essential oils may be an effective treatment in reducing pain and stress during a Diverticulitis attack.
Home remedies can be a great way to help manage symptoms during an attack. However, because the link between home remedies and diverticulitis treatment is scientifically robust, we recommend these tips in conjunction with your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan.
The bottom line is, if you have experienced Diverticulitis, follow your doctor and dietitian’s treatment plan. We expect an effective treatment plan to include antibiotics and a clear liquid diet. Depending on your preferences, you may consider adding home remedies to your protocol too!
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.