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Diverticulitis Self-Care Essentials

Self Care for Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is an infection or inflammation of small pouches interspersed along the gastrointestinal tract in patients suffering from diverticulosis. The pouches form along the intestinal lining and become infected due to tears or pathogenic infection. 

The symptoms of a diverticulitis episode include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Bloody stool
  • Constipation 

While these symptoms are similar to those of IBS, the main difference is the formation of the pouches in the intestinal lining. Differentiating between these conditions requires medical testing.  

Some patients may suffer from post-recovery symptoms after recovering from an acute episode of Diverticulitis due to continued low-grade inflammation and disordered motility, causing irregularity and lingering symptoms that are often mistaken for those of IBS. This condition is known as Symptomatic Uncomplicated Diverticular Disease (SUDD), or Post Diverticulosis Syndrome.  

Defining Self Care 

When medical practitioners speak about self-care, they are not referring to bubble baths or long walks on the beach (though mental health is important to the self-management of symptoms). Rather, they’re referring to maintaining healthy lifestyle practices conducive to reducing symptoms and avoiding flare-ups. 

Diet and appropriate exercise can do wonders for diminishing the frequency and severity of flare-ups, and reinforcing positive mental health has a well-documented impact on decreasing symptoms. 

Patients should always seek the consultation and advice of a licensed medical professional if they have questions or concerns about their condition. That said, there are several strategies physicians recommend for self-management at home.  

Immediate action during a diverticulitis flare-up 

A flare-up is the sudden appearance or increase in the severity of symptoms. Diverticulitis patients can experience a variety of conditions or many symptoms concurrently during a flare-up, and it is important to receive medical advice if the flare-up lasts more than three days or suddenly worsens. 

Some home treatments such as a liquid diet can decrease abdominal pain and other symptoms. This is because liquid passes through the gastrointestinal tract much more easily than solid foods, and is less likely to cause bloating, cramping, or nausea. Reducing the consumption of fiber can also slow bowel movements since the food is digested at a diminished rate. This leads to a higher uptake of nutrients while allowing more time for material to be processed in the gut, making passing the material less painful. 

While it can be tempting to reach for OTC pain medication, it is important for diverticulitis patients to avoid taking NSAIDs, or commercial painkillers like ibuprofen. NSAIDs reduce pain through the reduction of inflammation in the GI tract, however, the biological pathway of NSAIDs in the body can also lead to bleeding in the diverticula or the pouches embedded in the intestinal lining. 

Diet & Nutrition for Diverticulitis 

As with any GI tract-related illness, it’s best to avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and other classic gut irritants to reduce inflammation. Cutting out sugary sodas and fried fats is also a good move towards reaching appropriate nutritional goals and decreasing bloating factors in the body.  

Generally, when not in a flare-up, doctors will recommend a high-fiber diet. Since many diverticulitis patients struggle with constipation, consuming more fiber can prevent potential flare-ups. A 2017 study conducted over decades also correlated a Western-style diet (high in red meat and processed foods) with a higher risk of developing diverticulitis. 

On the other hand, patients consuming a high-fiber diet rich in fruits and vegetables saw a lower risk of developing diverticulitis. For best results, consuming a high-fiber diet should be combined with drinking lots of water (around 64 oz a day) and appropriate exercise, since hydration and physical activity aid in digestion.  

During a flare-up, a low-fiber diet can aid in returning your condition to remission. Like a liquid diet, a low-fiber diet also allows your gut to rest. A doctor might recommend a low-fiber diet for a mild flare-up and a liquid one for severe or post-surgery care. Low-fiber starches that are contained in white grains, potatoes (without their skins), and dairy products like cottage cheese and Greek yogurt provide easily digestible nutrients. 

Choosing proteins like eggs, egg whites, and light meat helps give your body the energy it needs to fight off the infection causing the diverticulitis and heal. These should be easier to digest while still providing the material needed for the body to function. 

Lifestyle Modifications for Diverticulitis 

Making room in your schedule for appropriate exercise is essential to maintaining remission and preventing flare-ups.

By increasing circulation, metabolism increases. Metabolism is the sum of all reactions in the cells through the exchange of materials, regulating the uptake of nutrients and the expulsion of waste products. Through improving metabolism, gut health is increased. Exercise also has a direct effect on the rate of food moving through the digestive tract. 

Peristalsis, the wave-like movement of food through the intestine, can be sped up and maintained through consistent activation of the abdominal muscles. Therefore, even low-impact exercise like walking around your neighborhood can affect how food is digested. Does this mean you should walk around while you eat? Absolutely not! However, establishing a healthy exercise routine and sticking to it is beneficial for patients with diverticulitis.  

Finally, practicing mental health is essential. Besides caring for your emotional well-being, much of the receptors for neurotransmitters related to stress are also located in the gut. There is a strong correlation between feeling stressed and the appearance of symptoms, therefore avoiding high-pressure environments when possible, talking to a professional, or taking time for yourself can be the best preventative medicine when it comes to diverticulitis.  

Natural Support for Diverticulitis 

When managing diverticulitis, many patients choose to take natural supplements to aid in digestion and fend off flare-ups. Any supplements should be taken with the advice of your doctor, and patients should self-monitor for any adverse effects. 

Berberine (found in Coptis) is a common supplement, derived from a salt, and inhibits the reproduction of foreign DNA in the body. Coptis has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine and continues to show much success in clinical trials for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Berberine is also associated with an increase in metabolism, which can help regulate abnormal bowel movements and speed up peristalsis.  

If you’re interested in trying natural supplements for Diverticulitis, take our free online assessment to receive a tailored program developed by GI experts.

Summer Pitocchelli-Schwartzman


Summer Pitocchelli-Schwartzman


This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options. The claims made regarding specific products in this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Summer Pitocchelli-Schwartzman


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