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Foods You Can or Can't Eat When You Have Diverticulitis

A foodie and a health nut—I love learning and writing about tips to keep my family and others healthy.

REVIEWED BY
Dr. Keith Kantor, Ph.D. in Nutritional Science, NAMED Program

Are There Foods I Should Avoid If I Have Diverticulitis?

The general advice is to adopt the diverticulitis diet. Avoid foods that are high in fiber (residue) when you have a diverticulitis attack, and once the symptoms go away, slowly increase your fiber intake to restore regular bowel movements and reduce the risk of future flare-ups.

In the past, doctors would advise patients with diverticulitis to avoid certain foods that were thought to increase gut inflammation and worsen the condition. These foods included nuts and seeds, popcorn, some vegetables and fruits, whole wheat, acidic, sugary, and fatty foods, and other processed foods. Sounds crazy, right? What can you eat?

The truth is that few studies have looked at what foods are good or bad for diverticulitis, and none have found evidence supporting the need to avoid certain foods. In fact, a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nut, corn, and popcorn consumption did not increase the risk of diverticulitis. That being said, each person is unique, and certain foods—particularly foods high in fiber and residues—may still trigger diverticulitis attacks some people. This has lead to mixed advice on what should and shouldn't be eaten.

According to Dr. Keith Kantor, a doctor of nutritional science from Atlanta, "Following the three phases (of the diverticulitis diet) is a great idea to gently reintroduce high-fiber foods." When reviewing the recommended foods below, Dr. Kantor recommends finding the least processed (most natural) versions to avoid other harmful effects. For example, sports drinks are recommended when you have a diverticular flare-up because they provide hydration and electrolytes, but opt for natural sports drinks that do not use dyes, syrups, or preservatives.

Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid With Acute Diverticulitis

The currently recommended diet to treat diverticulitis includes eating foods that are low in fiber and avoiding foods that are high in fiber.

Foods to Eat (Liquids and Low Fiber)Foods to Avoid (High Fiber)

Soup stock or broth

Whole-wheat and whole-grain foods

Gelatin, apple sauce

Brown rice

Ice chips or ice pops

Oatmeal, barley, quinoa

White bread

Popcorn

White rice

Seeds (sesame seeds, chia seeds, etc.)

Foods made with white flour

Nuts (peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, etc.)

Potatoes

Peanut butter and other nut butters

Low-fiber cereals (Cream of Wheat)

Coconut

Canned or well-cooked fruits and vegetables w/o skin

Corn

Fruit and vegetable juices without pulp

Popcorn

Sports drinks

Raw vegetables and fruits with skins

Milk and other dairy products (if not lactose intolerant)

Dried fruits and prune juice

Tea or coffee w/o sweetener

Bacon, shrimp, and other meats

How Is Diverticulitis Treated?

In mild cases, diverticulitis may go away on its own, or your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics (intravenous antibiotics if the condition is severe) and put you on the diverticulitis diet.

What Foods Can I Eat If I Have Diverticulitis?

The Diverticulitis Diet

The purpose of the diverticulitis diet is to allow your digestive system to reset and rebuild its health. Initially, you will cut out fiber intake to reduce the symptoms, after which, you will gradually increase your fiber intake as symptoms improve over the course of a few days.

There are three stages: clear liquids, low-fiber foods, and high-fiber foods.

Stage 1: Clear Liquids (~1-2 days)

  • Water
  • Ice chips or ice pops
  • Ice cream or milkshakes
  • Broth, preferably low in sodium
  • Fruit juices
  • Gelatin
  • Pudding
  • Tea or coffee without sweeteners

Stage 2: Low-Fiber/Low-Residue Foods (~2-3 days)

  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Potatoes
  • Low-fiber cereals
  • Peeled and cooked or canned vegetables/fruits
  • Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese)
  • Fish, chicken, and eggs
  • Fruit or vegetable juice (no pulp)

Stage 3: High-Fiber Diet

  • Whole wheat and whole grain foods
  • Fruits and vegetable with skin
  • Beets
  • Brown rice
  • Popcorn
  • Oats
  • Beans
  • Nuts (peanuts, Brazil nuts, etc.)
  • Sesame, chia, hemp seeds
  • Psyllium powder

Risks of the Diverticulitis Diet

Because of the reduced food intake, especially in the first few days, you may not be getting enough nutrients. Speak to your doctor to determine if this diet is safe for you. In most cases, they may supplement those nutrients using an IV.

Although increasing daily fiber intake can help soften stool and facilitate bowel movements, increasing too quickly can cause discomfort, pain, and increase gas (flatulence). It is important to transition to a high-fiber diet only when no symptoms are present with a low-fat diet or when your doctor determines your diverticula are no longer inflamed.

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Read More From Healthproadvice

Understanding Diverticulitis

What is the reasoning behind these dietary restrictions?

Diverticulosis vs. Diverticulitis

Diverticulosis

Diverticulosis is when small pouches (diverticula) form due to the bulging of the intestines—usually the colon—out of the outer intestinal lining. There is currently no consensus on what causes diverticulosis, but there are two possibilities: 1) excessive strain causing pressure to build up (similar to a hernia), and 2) not eating enough fiber.

This is a common condition and is generally asymptomatic—most people don't even notice them.

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is the inflammation of one or more of these small pouches. Again, the exact causes are unclear, though doctors agree that there are many possible contributing factors, including low-fiber diet, lifestyle, genetics, and age.

Symptoms of Diverticulitis:

  • Abdominal pain, especially on the left side
  • Blood in stool
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Bloating
  • Gas
Oats are a great and easy way to get your daily fiber intake once symptoms subside.

Oats are a great and easy way to get your daily fiber intake once symptoms subside.

Benefits of High-Fiber Diet for Digestive Health

Dietary fiber is not digested or absorbed by the body, so it does not contribute any calories. However, fiber can soften and bulk up the stool to ease the passage through the colon. This is why a low-fiber diet is thought to contribute to diverticulosis. Impacted stools require more strain, increasing the risk of forming diverticula.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, if you have diverticulosis, or if you have had diverticulitis, a high-fiber diet may help prevent diverticulitis flare-ups. However, if you have a flare-up, it's best to avoid fiber until symptoms calm down. The added bulk may cause the stool to press against the diverticula, irritating them and causing more pain.

There are two types of dietary fiber:

Soluble Fibers

Soluble fibers are soluble in water and create a pasty, gel-like substance. They help control blood cholesterol and glucose levels. They are also fermentable, meaning they can be digested by your gut microbes to create gas and other byproducts.

List of foods high in soluble fiber:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Psyllium
  • Apples and citrus fruits

Insoluble FIber

Insoluble fibers do not dissolve in water and add bulk to the stool, making you feel full quicker and eases the passage of stool. Supplementing with insoluble fiber is popular for weight management and constipation.

List of foods high in insoluble fiber:

  • Whole grains
  • Whole wheat
  • Bran cereal
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Beans

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Diverticulitis Pain Go Away on Its Own?

Mild cases of diverticulitis may not require treatment. More severe or recurrent cases may require antibiotics and an all-liquid or low-fiber diet until symptoms stop. The pain can generally be managed with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Aspirin and ibuprofen should be avoided because of the risk for upset stomach and internal bleeding.

Can You Prevent Diverticulitis?

Keeping a food journal and maintaining a high-fiber diet can help you avoid flare-ups, although they are not a guarantee.

How Much Fiber Should I Eat Each Day?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, adults should eat 28-34 g of dietary fiber every day.

Can You Drink Alcohol If You Have Diverticulitis?

The common advice is to avoid alcohol when experiencing digestive problems. However, according to a recent meta-analysis published in the Hawai'i Journal of Medicine and Health, regular alcohol consumption was not found to be associated with incidences of diverticulosis or diverticular attacks and did not increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with either condition. That being said—like with all other foods in this guide—it's best to consume alcohol in moderation. If you notice any increases in discomfort, stop drinking immediately.

Can You Eat Pizza With Diverticulitis?

It depends on the person. There are no recommendations against eating pizza. In addition, it does not have much fiber, with just 2.5 g per slice of cheese pizza. However, certain toppings like cheese and peppers may increase irritation. Again, each person is different. Keep a food journal to keep track of what works for you. In general, it's best to eat in moderation. If you have any doubts, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist.

Can You Eat Lettuce or Salads With Diverticulitis?

Most raw vegetables and some cooked vegetables (e.g. corn, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, peas) should be avoided, but leafy vegetables may be okay. Again, you can eat a small amount and see how it affects you.

Disclaimer

This article is meant as a guide to be used for informational purposes and is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition. It is recommended you speak with your doctor for the best treatment plan for your situation.

References

Jackson, Frank W., M.D. (n.d.). Diverticulosis. Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology.

Jackson, Frank W., M.D. (n.d.). High Fiber Diet. Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, Sept. 22). Diverticulitis diet. Mayo Clinic.

NIH. (n.d.) Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis. MedlinePlus.

Stam, M. A., Draaisma, W. A., Wall, B. J., Bolkenstein, H. E., Consten, E. C. and Broeders, I. A. (2017). An unrestricted diet for uncomplicated diverticulitis is safe: results of a prospective diverticulitis diet study. Colorectal Dis, 19, 372-377. doi:10.1111/codi.13505

Uno, Y., van Velkinburgh, J.C. (2016). Logical hypothesis: Low FODMAP diet to prevent diverticulosis. World J Gastrointest Pharmacol Ther. 7(4): 503-512. doi: 10.4292/wjgpt.v7.i4.503

WebMD staff, reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD. (2017, Nov. 30). Should You Try a Low-Residue Diet? WebMD.

Zeratsky, K., R.D., L.D. (2016, Sept. 20). I have diverticular disease. Should I avoid eating nuts and seeds? I've heard conflicting advice. Mayo Clinic.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

Clark M on July 27, 2020:

I've been suffering with Diverticulitis for a few years now. Flare-ups are the worst part, but I'm trying to sustain the symptoms without going through surgery. For whatever it's worth, I've been drinking the calming blends diverticulitis tea and it seems to help A LOT. They're at www.calmingblends.com, but I buy mine from Amazon. Good luck everyone.

mclegend on November 24, 2019:

but i like popcorn

grandma on April 05, 2018:

I would like to see a list of what I can eat

Jackie on March 16, 2018:

So, I'm looking at this list of foods that I can't eat. What's left to eat. Main focus on fruit and vegetables.

Rick on February 24, 2018:

As found in a few comments here, this list is a bit confusing and overwhelming. It is clearly aimed at an active episode of Diverticulitis (infection) and not the diet that needs to be followed by a person with Diverticulosis (underlying condition). I have had several severe bouts of Diverticulitis confirmed by CT Scan, two requiring hospitalization, a few that required antibiotics at home and following the dietary suggestions in this article. Everybody is different but if you are new to having Diverticulosis, or have had a bout of Diverticulitis I would start out following the no seed, no nut theory and see how you do. Some people can reintroduce seeds and nuts with little to no problems and some people eat anything they want. I’m not one of those people with nuts and seeds indeed being big trouble for me. I do miss out on a lot of foods but unless I am having a full blown bout of Diverticulitis I can eat quite a few of the foods in this article minus the nuts and seeds.

Moe on January 04, 2018:

I have been diagnosed with Diverticulosis for some 5-7 years. I had my first bout of Diverticulitis 3 days ago. There is a difference between Diverticulosis (the general underlying disease) and Diverticulitis (infection and inflammation of the Diverticula). The information above is absolutely correct for/during episodes of "Diverticulitis" (you want to east things that are easy on your system to help it heal). There is a post some 21 months below (by KT) which is correct, it's worth your time to scroll down and look. After your diverticulitis has passed (mine requires help from my doctor and antibiotics, and probably 15 days to make sure) , it should be safe to go back to a normal "healthy" diet which can contain high fiber foods such as whole grains, nuts and seeds (but please consult your physician). You do not want Diverticula to rupture, death from infection (Sepsis) is not out of the question.

Tovalady on December 25, 2017:

Most of the advice on this is ancient old and BS.

IT'S A MATTER OF FACT NUTS AND SEEDS ESPECIALLY POPCORN BEEN PROVEN TO BE BENEFICIAL FOR PEOPLE WITH DIVERTICULITIS IT'S A MATTER OF FACT NUTS AND SEEDS ESPECIALLY POPCORN BEEN PROVEN TO BE BENEFICIAL FOR PEOPLE WITH DIVERTICULITIS!

Some of this stuff should have to be updated by the date...this information is from 2010...

Me on October 28, 2017:

I agree .. What can we eat with this.. They should show us what we can eat .. on here it shows we can't eat anything ..

swag on October 11, 2017:

Is there anything that i can eat and survive??????

Dean on October 06, 2017:

Is it ok to eat a soft taco frin tacobell?

Alexandra Fermin on October 03, 2017:

I have problem every time I eat I throw up and get serious of pain I have diverticulitis my dr said but don't know what to,do

Barbara Monroe on September 08, 2017:

So, as far as popcorn. I usually eat a tub of it at the movies. I have been spitting out the hard seeds and just eating the popcorn. Is this ok? I usually flick it forward and hear it hit the floor while the people turn around to see where it came from.

Dan on September 01, 2017:

Jackie I can sympathize with your dilemma and the information is confusing. A cause for Hope though as you read through the information the diet for Recovery along with your antibiotics is almost the opposite of what you will have on a daily basis when you have put this into remission. Very low fiber products are recommended immediately following the diagnosis. After that 10-day Mark you can begin to introduce higher fiber foods gradually and that is the goal over the Long Haul. I hope this helps.

Jackie on August 30, 2017:

I was diagnosed a month ago with diverticulitis, at first the doctors thought my pelvic pain was caused by Scar Tissue the formed when I had a hysterectomy 9 years ago he said if it is scar tissue then we'll remove it via laparoscopy, well after a CAT scan with contrast it was determined that I had diverticulitis, it is horrible I cannot eat anything because in my case when I try to eat things I'm not supposed to I feel pain , I'm in pain right now as we speak, taking 875 mg of antibiotics for 10 days , I would've much rather preferred the car tissue because that would have been taken care of with a surgery , all these websites are so confusing one tells you to eat fiber the other one tells you not to , all I know is that I can't even see meat . right now I'm dealing with being upset and frustrated, glad to found this site with that can relate to this mess.

Becky Griggs on August 24, 2017:

The foods listed above are totally different than other health sites I have recently read. The other ones says that you need to eat fruits, vegetables, navy beans. How do you know which one to believe if you have Diverticulitis??????

Mary Myszka on August 23, 2017:

Ok, that is list of many foods. Now tell me what foods I can eat! No vegetables? What fiber can I eat so I can go to the toilet without boughten fiber crap!!!

Joanne Karmik on August 20, 2017:

What can I eat??????

bridgett on August 17, 2017:

All I know is I haven't had a flare up in yrs I ate,sun fower,seeds n 2 days,ago..n now,I'm sick as,a,dog..got some meds..not eating nothing stayn on a clear liquid diet

Jayne Luttinger on July 23, 2017:

Can anyone tell me if it is safe to eat a lovely ripe avocado?

Virgie on July 06, 2017:

So after reading this I come to the conclusion that you can only drink sterilized water and should wear a face mask covering your nose and mouth to prevent breathing in or smelling any food. Get all your personal affairs in order because you are fixing to die from malnutrition.

Helen` on July 04, 2017:

Quick Message to buttrfligirl: I just wanted to let you know that my doctor told me that he is "old school" and truly believes that nuts, seeds, and berries CAN cause issues. The two times I have been to him (4 years in between) have been within a day or two of having popcorn at the movies! This caused a flare-up and a round of Flagyl cured it both times. So I'm going to listen & have nachos or something else next time :)

Helen on July 01, 2017:

This article should have included foods that you CAN eat, if there are any. (No wonder I feel so good when I fast from eating.) Probiotics would be good, as long as you are not on Flagyl, which would just wipe out the probiotics!

Jeff on July 01, 2017:

My goodness..... Can I eat anything!! UNREAL

Joan on June 27, 2017:

Everything that's listed on this site I cannot eat I might as well not eat at all...

Robyn on June 18, 2017:

This is the most frustrating disease! I was first dx with diverticulitis in March and am 6 days into my antibiotics for a flare up! I did indulge in peanuts and almonds recently and feel that is what triggered it. The antibiotics are horrible ... Flagyl is so strong and I feel dizzy and nauseous. Once I am done with antibiotics and can return to a somewhat normal diet, I plan to majorly increase my fiber intake! Wondering if anyone knows that if your fiber is high enough couldn't you eat whatever you want!?! Also, my doc never discussed probiotics... any advice would be appreciated.

Tiffany47 on June 18, 2017:

I just read all 76 comments. Wow I wish I would of found this site 13 days ago when I thought I would never be normal again which I wont. I have learned a lot from all your comments way more then the doctors ever told me. I do believe my first attack came on from eating way to many nuts and I mean a lot as I love nuts well no more for me. I am to the point to where I am adding more fiber everyday and picking the foods I eat VERY carefully. Heck I have lost 20 pounds since the first of the month. I do agree with no nuts, seeds or popcorn I know what they taste like I will survive. :)

Gail on June 13, 2017:

So basically eat nothing. I am vegetarian so I guess I am goi g to have problems.

KitPar on June 12, 2017:

POPCORN! It's free at Rural King and on Memorial Day they give you a very large bag to take home for yourself. I are the hell out of it for 2 days straight. Hid it from the wife and kept eating the hell out of it.

ZUCCINI! At the same time I ate all that popcorn I was harvesting about 4lbs of zuccini every other day from my garden. I was eating zuccini on and in everything!

A few days after eating these types of food I came down with serious pain, I thought I was passing a kidney stone since I'm fortunate to pass those quite a bit also. I was diagnosed with Diverticulitis. In a real short conversation he said you have diverticulitis, don't eat nuts or seeds and you will be on Metamucil every day for the rest of your life. I'm 45 by the way. He prescribed me an antibiotic, and that was all, so I researched and I'm still researching what others say about this desease. There's a lot of conflicting stories about nuts and seeds. From reading everyone's comments here, I'm making the change to avoid them, and especially popcorn. I called a specialist the other day just to see if they would chat on the phone about and they did. That office said the same, and they were certain popcorn is what caused it. After reading the blogs here, I've made the connection with zuccinni as well. If anything I believe it was either one of the two, or both. With zuccini and tomatoes, I'll be careful to pick out the seeds like the other blogger mentioned. Better safe than sorry.

Lynne on June 05, 2017:

1st bout few months ago & landed in ER followed by 3 different antibiotics. Been searching for more info & my IM