How to Prevent Diverticulitis Flare-ups

Feb 06, 2023

How to Prevent Diverticulitis Flare-ups

Whether you’ve had a bout with diverticulitis or have diverticulosis and know that you’re at risk, here are some tips that go a long way toward keeping the painful inflammation at bay.

About one-quarter of people with diverticulitis develop complications, such as peritonitis or bowel obstruction, which explains why 200,000 people are hospitalized yearly in the United States.

Even when there aren’t complications, diverticulitis can be a painful experience that you don’t want to repeat or experience in the first place if you know you’re at risk.

To help you ward off diverticulitis, the skilled team of colorectal experts here at Fairfax Colon & Rectal Surgery presents a few prevention tips in this month’s blog post.

Diverticulitis basics

Before we get into our diverticulitis prevention tips, let’s quickly review this condition. Diverticulitis occurs when you develop diverticula in your colon, which are small bulges in the ordinarily smooth walls. 

If you have two or more of these bulges or pouches, you have diverticulosis, which affects a good number of people as they get older — 70% of people over the age of 80 have diverticulosis.

Fortunately, most people don’t develop complications due to the diverticula, but diverticulitis is a clear and present danger. This issue occurs when stool and/or bacteria get trapped in one of the diverticula, leading to infection and inflammation.

Know your risks for diverticulosis

Because diverticulosis is the precursor to diverticulitis, we’re going to focus on doing what you can to prevent small pouches from forming in your colon.

We discussed the role that age plays as one area over which you have no control.

There are, however, several risk factors that are well within your power to change, including:

  • Having obesity — people with a BMI of 30 or more are more prone to diverticula
  • Inactivity — your digestive system works better when you exercise
  • Smoking — tobacco use increases your risk for diverticulitis

Certain medications also increase your risks for diverticulosis and diverticulitis, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, opioids, and corticosteroids. If you’re taking any of these medications under doctor’s orders, please speak with your provider about alternatives if you’re worried about diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis and your diet

Now we want to touch on the area where you can make the biggest difference — your diet. You want your diet to contain foods that best support your digestive system, which means foods that are high in fiber.

A high-fiber diet is one of the best ways to prevent diverticulitis because fiber accomplishes many roles in your lower gut, such as bulking your waste for easier passage and avoiding constipation. As well, fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in your colon, which promotes overall better digestive health.

Some great examples of high-fiber foods include:

  • Pears
  • Avocados
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Beans and peas
  • Oats
  • Popcorn
  • Dark chocolate
  • Nuts 

When it comes to how much fiber, there’s no such thing as too much. That said, women should aim for at least 24 grams, while men should get 38 grams, minimally.

The benefits of a diet high in fiber are significant and include avoiding a potentially painful and problematic bout of diverticulitis.

If you have more questions about diverticulitis prevention, please contact one of our offices in Fairfax, Fair Oaks, Alexandria, Gainesville, Woodbridge, or Lansdowne, Virginia.