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Diverticulosis is a condition that typically affects the lower portion of the large intestine or colon. While the cause of diverticulosis is unknown, it's most common in people over 40. Some people develop sac-like pockets called diverticula along the lining of the colon. When these diverticula get inflamed or infected, diverticulosis becomes diverticulitis. This illness can cause severe abdominal pain, bloating and gas, fever and chills, and abnormal bowel function. The development of diverticula is often linked to dietary habits. Avoid these foods to prevent diverticulosis and control symptoms of diverticulitis.

Red Meat

Those with acute diverticulitis should limit their consumption of red meat. Red meat is tough and difficult to digest. It moves through the bowels more slowly and will agitate an already stressed digestive tract. Red meat also causes constipation in individuals with fewer digestive enzymes. Those with chronic diverticulitis may incorporate some red meat into their diet. However, a Harvard study found that men who consumed the most red meat were more likely to develop diverticulitis than those who ate the least. However, red meat is low in fiber, a nutrient that is important for colon health.

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Fatty Foods

Those suffering from acute or chronic diverticulitis should stay away from fatty foods. These foods move more slowly through the digestive tract and can cause constipation. They may also block the openings of diverticula thus provoking a diverticulitis flare-up. Diets high in fat also lack fiber for colon health. Not consuming enough fiber is linked with a higher risk of diverticulitis. So, it's best to avoid fatty foods during and after an attack of diverticulitis.

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Cruciferous Vegetables

During an acute attack, diverticulitis patients should avoid cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage. Cruciferous vegetables, especially when eaten raw, produce gas in the intestines. During an episode of acute diverticulitis, these vegetables may severely tax the digestive system due to their high fiber content. Individuals with diverticulitis should choose alternatives such as cucumbers, celery, zucchini, squash, and peppers. Raw vegetables of any kind should be consumed sparingly to avoid irritating the colon during an active case of diverticulitis. However, high-fiber vegetables are beneficial for colon health and for preventing future diverticulitis attacks when symptoms are not present.

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Alcohol

Consuming alcohol is highly inadvisable for people with diverticulitis. Even in healthy individuals, alcohol strains the gastrointestinal tract. For those with diverticulitis, alcohol isn't a good option. It can worsen the symptoms of diverticulitis, particularly the pain and bloating. It can also cause dehydration. Some research suggests that alcohol may increase the frequency of flare-ups.

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Carbonated Beverages

Sodas and other fizzy drinks are best avoided if you have diverticulitis. Such beverages can cause bloating, thus worsening symptoms. During an active case of diverticulitis, stick to clear liquids initially. Good choices are broth and clear juices. Since people with diverticulitis should consume as much fluid as possible, a physician can suggest healthy options. Water, of course, is the most highly recommended beverage.

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Nuts, Seeds, and Popcorn

For some time, medical professionals informed people with diverticulitis to avoid hard foods such as nuts, seeds, and popcorn, due to the difficulty some individuals have digesting these foods. Experts said the foods could stick to the colonic lining or become trapped in diverticula, exacerbating the condition. Today, doctors no longer prohibit these foods, as there is no real evidence of nuts or seeds causing flare-ups, and many believe a diet high in fiber -- which is found in many seeds and nuts -- could actually help people with diverticulitis. However, some medical practitioners still recommend avoiding high-fiber foods like seeds and nuts during or immediately after an acute flare-up.

 Seeds

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Whole Grains

Many practitioners recommend people with diverticulitis stay away from whole wheat grains including whole wheat, bran, and rye when in the midst of an acute flare-up, as these food products are high in fiber. Some whole wheat grain products also contain nuts, which may not be good for those with acute diverticulitis. Also avoid whole-grain cereals such as wild rice, pasta, noodles, and brown rice in the midst of a flare-up. Those with diverticulosis, however, should choose whole grains. Their fiber can reduce the development of diverticulitis and promote good colon health.

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Spicy Food

Spicy food can irritate the digestive tract. Therefore, it is best to avoid eating highly seasoned or hot, spicy foods that contain chili peppers during an acute attack of diverticulitis. Stick to blander foods.

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Refined Grains

Though whole grains can be beneficial for those with diverticulosis, refined grains are a different story. These grains have been stripped of their outer shell and most of their fiber, which can contribute to constipation and aggravate diverticulitis.

Foods made from refined grains include white bread, white rice, most types of pasta, and many types of breakfast cereal. They are easier to digest but lack the dietary fiber that is crucial for gut health. Long term, they can disrupt the balance of your gut flora and exacerbate diverticulosis symptoms.'

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Certain Dairy Products

While dairy products are a vital source of calcium and vitamin D, high-fat options like cheese, whole milk, and cream can lead to digestive issues for those with diverticulitis. They are high in fat and can slow down the digestive process, potentially causing constipation and triggering diverticulitis symptoms.

Instead, choose low-fat or non-fat dairy options which are easier on the digestive system. They provide the nutritional benefits without the potential discomforts associated with high-fat dairy.

Different types of cheese, bread and tomatoes Sinan Kocaslan / Getty Images

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Processed Meats

Processed meats like sausages, bacon, and hot dogs often contain additives and are typically high in fat. This can lead to inflammation and potentially aggravate symptoms of diverticulitis due to their slow movement through the digestive tract. They are also typically high in sodium, which can contribute to dehydration and further complicate diverticulitis.

It's best to choose lean protein sources instead, such as poultry or fish, which are less likely to cause problems.

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Caffeinated Drinks

Caffeine stimulates the muscles in your digestive system, which can lead to diarrhea and further irritate an inflamed digestive tract, worsening diverticulitis symptoms. This category includes coffee, certain types of tea, and some soft drinks. Opt for decaffeinated beverages and plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Herbal teas, especially those with soothing herbs like chamomile, can be an excellent alternative.

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Fast Foods

Fast foods are typically high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and salt, all of which can be problematic for individuals with diverticulitis. They can lead to a low-fiber diet that promotes constipation, exacerbating symptoms. Additionally, the high sodium content can contribute to dehydration. For better gut health, choose home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients, where you have control over the ingredients used and their quality.

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Some Fruits

While fruits are usually recommended for a healthy diet, some like raspberries and strawberries have small seeds that can potentially irritate the digestive tract and become lodged in diverticula. Despite these fruits being healthy and high in fiber, they might need to be avoided during an active flare-up of diverticulitis. Choose fruits with smoother textures like bananas and melons during this time.

Strawberry Dove Lee / Getty Images

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Foods with Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin may cause gas and diarrhea, leading to discomfort for those with diverticulitis. Avoid foods and drinks that contain artificial sweeteners. Opt for naturally sweet foods like fruits, or use natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, but remember, moderation is key as these still contain sugar.

Assorted Artificial sweeteners Juanmonino / Getty Images

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High-Sodium Foods

Excessive sodium intake can lead to dehydration, making stools harder and potentially worsening constipation. This is particularly harmful for those with diverticulitis, where maintaining a healthy hydration level is critical. High-sodium foods to avoid include canned soups, salty snacks, and fast food. Instead, opt for fresh foods and make sure to drink plenty of water.

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Certain Baked Goods

Many baked goods, including cookies, cakes, and pastries, are made with refined flour and are high in sugar and unhealthy fats. These can contribute to constipation and inflammation in the colon, which may trigger diverticulitis symptoms. Opt for whole grain alternatives, which contain more fiber, promoting better digestion and reducing the risk of constipation.

Fresh sweet pastry on a display in bakery Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

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Certain Condiments

While condiments can add flavor to your meals, spicy and acidic ones like hot sauce, salsa, and certain types of mustard can irritate the digestive tract and exacerbate diverticulitis symptoms. Opt for milder condiments like olive oil, or those made with non-acidic vegetables. Remember, everyone's tolerance is different, so be mindful of your body's reactions.

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Certain Seafood

Seafood, especially shellfish like lobsters, crabs, and shrimps, can be difficult to digest and may irritate the digestive tract, potentially triggering diverticulitis symptoms. Instead, opt for easier-to-digest lean fish such as cod or tilapia, which provide beneficial omega-3 fatty acids without the digestive strain.

Blue Crab being prepared for a meal Mark Schepker / Getty Images

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Certain Types of Beans

While beans are generally a good source of fiber, some, like red kidney beans, are harder to digest and can lead to gas and bloating, potentially exacerbating symptoms of diverticulitis. Lighter beans such as chickpeas or lentils may be a better choice. Remember, everyone is unique, and your tolerance to certain foods may differ from others, so adjust your diet accordingly.

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High-Fructose Corn Syrup

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a common sweetener found in numerous processed foods and sugary beverages. Consuming HFCS can lead to a spike in blood sugar levels and may contribute to gastrointestinal discomfort, especially for individuals with diverticulitis. Excess sugar intake can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and potentially worsen symptoms of the condition. You can check food labels for the presence of HFCS and opt for products with lower sugar content that don't have the ingredient.

Selective focus of high-fructose corn syrup or hfcs food and beverage sweetener in dark brown glass bottle inside a laboratory.

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Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are renowned for their high vitamin C content, but their acidic nature can be troublesome for individuals with diverticulitis. The acidity of these fruits may irritate the digestive tract and exacerbate discomfort. Instead of citrus, choose fruits with a milder acidity, such as apples or pears, to support digestive health.

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Strong Spices and Seasonings

Strong spices and seasonings like black pepper, chili powder, and hot sauces can be harsh on the digestive system for those with diverticulitis. These additives may irritate the colon and intensify symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating, as they trigger increased release of stomach acid. During an active flare-up, opt for milder herbs and seasonings like basil, oregano, or thyme to add flavor without causing digestive distress.

Indian spices and many spices grown in the Indian subcontinent. Red chili, coriander, black pepper, cinnamon and cumin. Glass jars in a cafe on a shelf.

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High-Fat Salad Dressings

High-fat salad dressings, which often have creamy textures, can pose challenges for individuals with diverticulitis. Dressings rich in fats may slow down the digestive process and lead to constipation, which can exacerbate symptoms. Opt for lighter salad dressings that are lower in fats, such as vinaigrettes, to ensure a smoother digestive experience while still enjoying salads.

Variety of homemade sauces and salad dressings in mason jars including vinaigrette, ranch and honey mustard

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Raw Onions and Garlic

While onions and garlic are common flavor enhancers in many dishes, they can be harsh on the digestive tract when consumed raw. These pungent ingredients can cause gas and discomfort for individuals with diverticulitis due to their high soluble fiber content. During an active episode, it's wise to opt for cooked or processed versions of these ingredients, which are gentler on the stomach and easier to digest.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.