The Best and Worst Foods for Diverticulitis (2024)

The Best and Worst Foods for Diverticulitis (1)
Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on May 26, 2024

Written by Stephanie Watson,Timothy Gower

5 min read

As you get older, you can develop little bulging pouches in the lining of your large intestine called diverticula. When you have them, it's a condition called diverticulosis. It's common not to have any symptoms or problems with diverticulosis -- you won't even know the pouches are there.

But sometimes, the pouches can become inflamed or infected, which leads to a condition called diverticulitis. This can cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, fever, constipation, or diarrhea.

When you’re having a bout of diverticulitis, it’s helpful to give your digestive system a rest by drinking liquids and eating easy-to-digest, low-fiber foods.

Diverticulitis Liquid Diet

When your diverticulitis flares up, giving your gut a break can often help ease your symptoms. Your doctor may tell you to stop eating and drinking altogether for a short time so that your digestive system can rest and recover. This pause in eating is sometimes called a bowel rest. After this brief break, your doctor may recommend that you avoid solid food and only consume liquids for 2-3 days. Be sure to choose clear liquids. Some good choices include:

  • Clear, fat-free broth
  • Fruit juice, as long as it has no pulp
  • Water (plain or carbonated)
  • Sports drinks
  • Tea or coffee, but don’t add milk or cream

You can also chew on ice chips or eat gelatin (without fruit) or ice pops (as long as they don’t contain fruit or pulp).

Foods to Eat With Diverticulitis

You should begin to feel better after a short period on an all-liquid diet. If your symptoms are improving, your doctor will probably recommend that you slowly begin eating solid foods. It’s important to choose low-fiber foods during this time. That may seem surprising if you have ever heard that eating a high-fiber diet reduces the risk for diverticulitis. That’s true, but it’s best to avoid fiber in your diet when you are having diverticulitis symptoms.

Continue with a low-fiber diet for 2-3 days, or as long as your doctor suggests. Some low-fiber foods include:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Fish
  • White bread, rice, and pasta
  • Canned or cooked fruits (be sure they have no skin or seeds)
  • Canned or cooked vegetables (with no skin)
  • Fruit and vegetable juice (with no pulp)
  • Low-fiber cereals
  • Milk, yogurt, and cheese

BRAT diet for diverticulitis flare-ups

You may have heard or read that a meal plan called the BRAT diet can ease symptoms if you’re having a diverticulitis flare-up. BRAT stands for:

Bananas

Rice

Applesauce

Toast

These foods are bland and easy to digest, which might help diverticulitis. Other foods that may be part of the BRAT diet include saltines, oatmeal, and potatoes. The BRAT diet may be worth trying to help control a diverticulitis flare-up. But keep in mind that this meal plan is very low in nutrients, so you shouldn’t consume the BRAT diet for long. As always, it’s best to talk to your doctor about what diet makes sense for you.

Diverticulitis Diet: What Not to Eat

When your diverticulitis is flaring up, it’s important to let your digestive system relax and heal. That means avoiding foods that are high in fiber. Normally, it’s a good idea to include plenty of high-fiber foods in your diet, as they have many health benefits. But high-fiber foods are harder to digest, and avoiding these foods during a flare-up can help get your symptoms under control. Some high-fiber foods to stay away from during this time include:

  • Fresh fruit, especially apples, pears, and raspberries
  • Vegetables (other than canned), especially green peas and broccoli
  • Beans and other legumes, such as lentils
  • Whole wheat and rye bread
  • Oat bran muffins
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Popcorn
  • Pistachios

Foods to Prevent Diverticulitis

When your diverticulitis is under control and you’re not having a flare-up, eating a well-balanced diet can help prevent future attacks. Your diet should include plenty of high-fiber foods, which studies show help prevent diverticulosis, the condition that can lead to diverticulitis.

Some good high-fiber choices include:

  • Whole grains, such as 100% whole wheat bread, quinoa, bran cereal, and popcorn
  • Beans and other legumes
  • Vegetables, especially spinach and other greens, broccoli, and carrots
  • Fruit, especially berries, apples and pears (leave the skin on), and oranges
  • Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds, pistachios, and other nuts

Increasing your fiber intake can make you feel gassy and bloated, so start slowly and build your way up. Drinking plenty of water every day can help you make the transition to a high-fiber diet. Your goal for daily fiber intake depends on your sex and age:

  • Women aged 50 or younger: 25 grams
  • Women over 50: 21 grams
  • Men aged 50 or younger: 38 grams
  • Men over 50: 30 grams

Can foods trigger diverticulitis?

For many years, doctors told people with diverticulitis to avoid certain foods, including seeds, popcorn, and nuts. This warning was based on the theory that these foods could become stuck in diverticula (pouches in the lining of the intestines) and trigger an attack of diverticulitis. However, there is no evidence about that being true. In fact, seeds, popcorn, and nuts are good sources of fiber, which appears to prevent these attacks. No other foods or beverages seem to trigger diverticulitis.

Takeaways

Diverticulitis occurs when pouches in the intestines called diverticula become infected or inflamed. Giving your digestive system a rest, briefly abstaining from food, and making certain diet changes can help control diverticulitis symptoms. Once a diverticulitis attack is under control, eating high-fiber foods can help prevent future flare-ups.

Diverticulitis Diet FAQs

What's the worst thing for diverticulitis?

If you’re having a diverticulitis flare-up, eating foods that are high in fiber may make it worse. During a flare-up, you should eat low-fiber foods, which are easier than high-fiber foods to digest. Giving your digestive system a chance to rest will help ease your symptoms.

How do you calm inflamed diverticulitis?

To calm inflamed diverticulitis, doctors usually recommend first taking a brief pause from eating and drinking, then adopting a diet of only clear liquids for a few days. As your symptoms improve, you can gradually add low-fiber foods to your diet. When your diverticulitis symptoms are under control, you can resume your normal diet.

Is salad bad for diverticulitis?

Your doctor can tell you whether you can eat salad when you're having a diverticulitis flare-up. Lettuce and other salad ingredients can be high in fiber. Typically, you should stick to well-cooked or canned vegetables without skin.

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The Best and Worst Foods for Diverticulitis (2024)
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