If you are experiencing tummy problems such as bloating, nausea, and cramping on a regular basis that you can’t explain, there’s a chance it may be diverticulitis. Like most other stomach and intestinal conditions, lifestyle and especially dietary choices can go a long way toward resolving symptoms of diverticulitis and help you get your life back on track.
Before we discuss how to deal with symptoms of diverticulitis, let’s take a closer look at this relatively common diverticular disease.
What is diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is an inflammation of the pouches called diverticula that can form in the large intestine. These pouches can exist without any problems, in which case they are often called diverticulosis. However, if they become infected or inflamed, then you have diverticulitis and a condition you need to manage because it can develop into a troublesome infection.
How do you know if you may have diverticulitis? Many people have diverticulosis, which affects about 35 percent of adults 50 years or younger and 58 percent of those older than 60. Most people with diverticulosis don’t have any pain or other symptoms.
Less than 5 percent of people with diverticulosis develop diverticulitis, in which the diverticula become inflamed and infected. If you are experiencing abdominal cramping on your left side that disappears after you pass gas or have a bowel movement, it could be diverticulitis. Other signs are bright red blood in your feces, constipation, chills, and fever.
Not all diverticulitis is the same. Some cases are acute, others chronic. If you have the acute form, you may experience one or more severe attacks and symptoms that then disappear. In chronic cases, inflammation and infection don’t clear up completely. Over time, you may have a bowel obstruction and diarrhea, constipation, and more consistent stomach pain.
What causes diverticulitis?
The diverticula become infected or inflamed when they are blocked with feces or they tear. Risk factors for developing diverticulitis include smoking, overweight/obesity, being sedentary, a diet rich in animal fat and not much fiber, and the use of steroids, opioids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. These causes and risk factors give us a clear picture of how to prevent and treat the disease.
Because symptoms of diverticulitis can look like other health challenges, your doctor will need to evaluate a number of factors. After asking about your symptoms, your doctor may schedule blood, stool, and urine tests to look for infection. A computed tomography (CT) scan may be ordered to look for infected or inflamed diverticula, and a liver enzyme test can help rule out liver problems.
Let’s feed diverticulitis
Lifestyle and diet are important factors to look at when deciding to treat diverticulitis naturally. One of the first things doctors do is recommend a liquid diet or low-fiber diet, which helps your intestinal tract heal. For example, some doctors suggest you consume only liquids for several days, such as clear broth (e.g., bone broth), herbal tea, ice chips, coffee, water, gelatin, and diluted fruit juices.
Then you can progress to a diet that includes low-fiber foods until your symptoms improve. Some suggestions are fruit and vegetable juice (pulp-free), canned or cooked fruit, canned or cooked vegetables (without skin), low-fiber cereals, white pasta and bread, eggs, and poultry.
Supplements for diverticulitis
A number of natural supplements can be helpful in managing symptoms of diverticulitis.
- It’s been suggested that people who have low levels of vitamin D may be at greater risk of developing diverticulitis. Vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency are common problems, so it’s a good idea to have your levels checked with a simple blood test. Then you will know how much vitamin D you need to take. Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (mackerel, tuna, salmon), eggs, some mushrooms, and fortified foods such as plant beverages and breakfast cereals.
- Probiotics may reduce symptoms and recurrence of the disease. These beneficial bacteria help balance the flora in the digestive tract and maintain intestinal health. Probiotics that have been used successfully in studies include Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. plantarum, L. casei, L. mesalazine, and Saccharomyces boulardii.
- Frankincense (Boswellia serrata) is an herb with anti-inflammatory properties that may be helpful. Take according to package directions.
- Garlic has natural antimicrobial abilities, but since it also contains high amounts of certain carbohydrates that can disrupt the digestive system, a pure allicin supplement is suggested.
- Turmeric contains curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory agent. You can use curcumin as a supplement or add it to your food in fresh or dried form.
- Fiber supplements can help increase fiber intake. Soluble fiber supplements such as flaxseed and oat bran may be less irritating than insoluble choices (e.g., psyllium, glucomannan). Ask your doctor which one may be best for you.
- Glutamine is an amino acid that aids intestinal function, although there’s no evidence it can reduce diverticulitis symptoms specifically. A dose of 400 mg four times daily between meals is suggested, but talk to your doctor first.
- Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) is high in fiber and is a bulk-forming laxative, which can speed up stool through your intestines. A dose of 15 grams daily can be helpful in treating diverticulosis.
- Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentos) had anti-inflammatory powers. Avoid this herb if you are pregnant, have an autoimmune disease, or have leukemia.
- You can soothe your intestinal tract with a daily dose of slippery elm (Ulmus fulva), which protects irritated tissues. Begin with 60 mg daily and gradually increase to a comfortable level, but don’t go over 320 mg daily.
- If you are experiencing spasms and inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract, licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may be helpful. Don’t take licorice for longer than 10 to 14 days or if you have heart failure, kidney disease, hypokalemia, or high blood pressure. Only take supplements that have contain DGL, which means the substance that can raise blood pressure has been removed.
- If you want to try homeopathic remedies, there are a few designated for diverticulitis. One is belladonna, which may relieve cramping and abdominal pain. Bryonia may be helpful if your abdominal pain gets worse when you move and improves with heat. Sharp, cramping abdominal pain that gets better with pressure may be helped by colocynthis. Consult a homeopathic practitioner to discover the best remedies suited for you.
Diverticulitis can disrupt your lifestyle. However, you have the power to manage your symptoms by adopting certain foods and trying natural remedies. It’s best to consult with a knowledgeable health practitioner when adopting new strategies to treat diverticulitis.