High-Fiber Diet for Diverticulosis
Research suggests that a diet low in fiber may increase your risk of developing diverticulitis in diverticular disease. Choosing to eat high-fiber foods may help both prevent and manage symptoms of diverticular disease.
Reasons to eat foods a high-fiber diet with diverticulosis include:
Decreased risk of developing diverticulitis
Prevention or treatment of constipation
Following/after a flare-up of diverticulitis
Management of chronic symptoms
Diverticulosis is a condition in which the wall of your colon (large intestine) develops bulges or pouches, called diverticula. You may have no symptoms. However, diverticula can become inflamed or infected. This is called diverticulitis. Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are together known as diverticular disease.
This article reviews how much fiber to eat with diverticular disease, high-fiber food and supplement ideas, as well as what foods to avoid with active diverticulitis.
How Much Fiber Should You Eat With Diverticulosis?
If you have diverticulosis or have had diverticulitis in the past, your healthcare provider may recommend eating a high-fiber diet.
Everyone’s body is different when it comes to daily fiber intake. In general, it’s recommended to get about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. This equates to around 28 to 34 grams per day for adult males and 22 to 28 grams per day for adult females.
When citing health authorities or research, the terms for sex or gender from the sources are used.
Diverticulitis and Too Much Fiber
During a flare-up of diverticulitis, too much fiber may cause symptoms to become worse. It is often recommended to rest your bowels to allow them to heal. To do this, your healthcare provider may suggest a clear liquid, full liquid, or low-fiber diet, depending on the severity of the flare.
As symptoms improve, you may gradually add more solid foods to your diet and increase fiber intake. Do this over several days to a week or two to avoid gastrointestinal (GI) upset.
How Much Water to Drink With Fiber
Fiber and water work together in your digestive tract to help with stool formation and elimination. Drinking plenty of water with a high-fiber diet supports your overall gut health, as well as prevents constipation and dehydration.
There are no official recommendations on how much water to drink per day. Drinking water with meals and snacks and whenever you're thirsty should help keep you hydrated. Some health experts recommend eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. However, others recommend more than that.
How much fluid someone needs will vary based on several factors, such as age, sex, individual diet and health, activity level, and the environment. Water is the best choice of beverage for everyday hydration.
You can also get fluid by eating foods with a high water content, which adds to your daily fluid intake. These foods include soups, smoothies, and most fruits and vegetables.
High Fiber Diet Ideas for Diverticulosis
Fiber is found in many plant foods. Below are good food and supplemental sources of fiber, as well as ideas on how to incorporate fiber into your daily meals and snacks.
Soluble fiber and insoluble fiber are two types of fiber. Both are important for health, but each acts differently within your body. Many plant foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, with some containing more of one than another.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance as it moves throughout your digestive tract. This helps slow down digestion. Sources of soluble fiber include oats, barley, apples, bananas, peas, black beans, lima beans, brussels sprouts, and psyllium (a common fiber supplement).
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It remains mostly whole as it passes through your digestive tract. This adds bulk to your stool, helping you keep your digestive tract healthy and bowel movements regular.
Sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils, berries, spinach, avocado, cauliflower, popcorn, and the skins of many fruits and vegetables.
Foods high in fiber include:
Whole wheat bread, pasta, and tortillas
Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, corn, spelt, and rye
Oats and whole grain cereals
Beans and lentils
Nuts and seeds
High-fiber breakfast foods include:
Egg scramble with sautéed spinach, bell peppers, and onions
Whole grain cereal with berries
Whole wheat toast topped with mashed avocado
Smoothie made with fruit, leafy greens, and flaxseed
Oatmeal mixed with banana slices and chopped walnuts
High-fiber lunch and dinner ideas include:
Green salad with chopped vegetables, nuts, and avocado
Grain bowl with beans and roasted vegetables
Veggie and hummus sandwich on whole grain bread
Whole wheat pasta salad with chopped vegetables and chickpeas
Vegetable soup with whole wheat crackers
High-fiber snack foods include:
Chopped vegetables with hummus
Nuts and dried fruit
Greek yogurt with berries and granola
Fresh fruit with nut butter
Though it’s best to get fiber from whole foods, several over-the-counter (OTC) fiber supplements are available if you struggle with getting enough fiber in your diet.
Common fiber supplements include:
Metamucil (psyllium husk)
While individual fiber supplements have not been proven to offer the same health benefits as eating high-fiber foods, they can still provide some relief for irregular bowel movements, including for constipation and/or diarrhea.
These supplements have not been studied for use in diverticular disease, so be sure to talk with a healthcare provider before taking them.
If added to your diet too quickly, fiber supplements can cause digestive upset, so it’s important to slowly increase your intake over time.
When to Eat a Low-Fiber Diet for Diverticulitis
When you have an active flare-up of diverticulitis, your diet will be different than during times without flares (remission). During an acute (short-term) flare, it is advised to follow a clear liquid, full liquid, or low-fiber diet.
After your symptoms improve, you may slowly increase the amount of solid food and fiber in your diet.
Low-fiber foods and beverages include:
Nutritional supplement drinks low in fiber
Gelatin without any fruit pieces
Popsicles (ice pops) without any fruit pieces
Plain broth or strained cream soups
Lean cuts of meat
Poultry, fish, and shellfish
Breads, cereals, and grains made with refined grains
Potatoes without the skin
Soft-cooked fruit without seeds or skin
Trigger Foods to Avoid With Diverticulitis
In the past, it was recommended that people with diverticulosis avoid eating nuts, seeds, and popcorn. It was thought these foods might get trapped inside diverticula and cause inflammation, leading to diverticulitis. However, this has been found to not be the case and is no longer recommended.
There are no specific foods known to trigger diverticulitis flare-ups. Additionally, no particular diet has been proven to prevent flare-ups.
However, some studies suggest that a high intake of red meat may increase occurrences of diverticulitis. Therefore, eating less red meat may decrease the risk of developing diverticulitis.
Research suggests that a diet low in fiber and high in red meat may increase your risk of developing diverticulitis in diverticular disease. Choosing to eat high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, may help both prevent and manage symptoms of diverticular disease. In addition to whole foods, over-the-counter fiber supplements are available.
However, during a flare-up of diverticulitis, it’s recommended to follow a low-fiber diet. After symptoms have improved you may slowly add more fibrous foods to your diet. Be sure to drink plenty of water each day to prevent gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas, bloating, or constipation.