In the case of the intestinal disease diverticulosis, protuberances form in the intestinal wall. A predominantly vegetarian and high-fiber diet helps prevent these diverticula from becoming inflamed.
The protuberances in the intestinal wall, also called diverticula, usually do not need to be treated. They don’t hurt themselves. In some cases, however, intestinal inflammation occurs, which occurs again and again in flare-ups. They are accompanied by severe lower abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements (diarrhea or constipation).
It has not been finally clarified what leads to the inflammation in individual cases. The fact that seeds, nuts, or grains can get caught in diverticula and then trigger diverticulitis has now been refuted in large studies. What is certain, however, is that low-fiber diets play an important role. Because without fiber, the stool has little volume, often becomes hard, and remains in the intestine longer. A high-fiber, low-meat diet, on the other hand, almost halves the risk of diverticulitis: Vegetarians and vegans are much less likely to have inflamed diverticula.
Change your diet to fiber gradually
Changing your diet to include more vegetables and whole grains shouldn’t be sudden, as it could lead to bloating. The intestines need a few weeks to get used to the indigestible substances. Adequate fluid intake is also important. In particular, if flaxseed or psyllium husks are taken to improve digestion, you have to pay attention to the amount you drink. Otherwise, it can lead to serious constipation and even intestinal obstruction.
Basic diet tips for diverticulosis
- The top rule: Eat mindfully, take your time and chew well! Train your chewing muscles. High-fiber foods often contain coarse fibers that are best broken down before they pass through the digestive tract – in the mouth.
- If you have problems chewing, you should choose baked goods made from finely ground wholemeal flour – such as graham bread or wholemeal toast.
- Wheat flour is less well tolerated by some people – prefer spelled or wholemeal rye flour, for example.
- Sourdough-based bread and bread that are at least a day old are also better tolerated.
- Nuts and seeds are very healthy – but please chew thoroughly or grind if necessary.
- Vegetables and whole grains like whole-wheat bread, whole-grain cereal, brown rice, etc. will help you meet your fiber needs. (But not too much of it during the build-up phase after an inflammatory flare-up!)
- Rely on anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids: for example gently pressed linseed oil and fatty sea fish such as herring, salmon, or mackerel twice a week.
- Drink at least 1.5 to 2 liters a day! Especially tea (green or herbal) and still water (magnesium content > 100 mg/l). Because roughage binds a lot of water and swells in the intestine – there is a risk of constipation.
- Probiotics such as Lactobacillus casei to support the intestinal flora appear to have a beneficial effect.
- Foods fermented with lactic acids such as yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sour milk, and sauerkraut also have a positive effect on the intestinal flora.
- Exercise is important for a healthy gut, so go for a 30-minute walk every day.