So you’ve been diagnosed with diverticulitis, a form of diverticular disease. Eating and avoiding certain foods can help you manage and prevent symptoms — but there’s a lot of misinformation out there.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
The best diet for diverticular disease depends on whether you’re having a flare-up, says registered dietitian Anna Taylor, MS, RDN, LD.
Here, she clears up the confusion about how to manage diverticular disease with diet.
Diverticular disease: diverticulosis vs. diverticulitis
Diverticular disease means you have polyps (small growths) called diverticula in your gut. These polyps can exist without causing any symptoms and without you even knowing they’re there. This is called diverticulosis.
If the polyps become inflamed or infected, they can cause symptoms such as abdominal cramping, pain or tenderness in the area, swelling, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. This is called diverticulitis.
How to follow a diverticulosis diet
Constipation often contributes to the development of diverticula. “People develop polyps due to years of excessive muscular contractions as the body attempts to move small, hard stools,” explains Taylor. A high-fiber diet helps fight constipation by softening stool, which then moves through the GI tract more comfortably and easily. There’s also less pressure against the polyps, which prevents diverticulitis flare-ups.
To eat a diet rich in fiber (doctors recommend 25 to 35 grams per day), choose minimally processed plant foods such as:
- Whole grains.
- Legumes including lentils and nuts.
Years ago, doctors thought that eating corn, popcorn, nuts and seeds could inflame the polyps and cause diverticulitis, but there’s no research to support that. “It’s safe to eat these types of foods, including tomatoes and strawberries with seeds,” Taylor notes. “All that normal roughage and fiber is fine.”
To get the most out of a high-fiber diet, Taylor also recommends:
- Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day – more if you’re active.
- Exercise regularly (it helps propel waste through your system).
- Eat a variety of food groups, including five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, three of whole grains and a serving of nuts or beans each day.
- Limit American diet favorites, such as red meat and processed and high-fat foods.
“Diverticular disease may be common in Western societies because our diets are so low in fiber,” Taylor says. “Americans, on average, eat around 14 grams each day — about half of what’s recommended.”
How to follow a diverticulitis diet
“On the flip side, when you have diverticulitis, the polyps are upset, inflamed and maybe even infected. We want to reduce traffic in your GI tract so that nothing…