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Diverticulitis, Fiber, and Probiotics

Updated: Sep 2, 2021

Tips for Aging Well




Sensing I was feeling glum with my second bout of diverticulitis, the ER doctor said, “You’re actually pretty lucky. I’m younger than you and I’ve already had four attacks.” That did pep me up a bit, but I still wasn’t having a great day. He went on to tell me that the diverticula (plural) are marble-sized pouches in our large intestines that can fill up with food or stool, get inflamed or infected, and cause abdominal pain and numerous trips to the bathroom. These pockets occur when the inner layer of the digestive tract pushes through weak spots in the outer layer. He said the antibiotics he was giving me would kill off the good and bad gut bacteria (flora) and that the good would need to be replaced.


When he finished electronically transferring the Rx to my pharmacy, he said to drink Kombucha, a probiotic, to replace my good gut bacteria. I nodded as if I knew what he was talking about, knowing I’ve never heard of the product. Desperate to prevent a third occurrence, I decided to look into it. Google to the rescue!


WebMD, January 21, 2021, quoted Diane R. Javelli, a dietitian with the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. “Kombucha is a sour, fizzy, fermented drink most often made with green or black tea. Some types of kombucha are high in probiotics which are live microbes added to food or supplements with the intent to benefit your body. They are the type [bacteria] that live in harmony with us and help keep us healthy.” She went on to say that, “Probiotics are ‘friendly bacteria’ that are similar to organisms that occur naturally in the digestive tract.”


I bought a bottle in a flavor that sounded appealing and discovered that I liked the tart taste and it had no ill effects. Knowing the pros and cons of Kombucha, I mix a small amount with water and Metamucil every morning and am happy with the results, but it’s not for everyone and its usage should be discussed with your doctor.


I’ve gone out of my way to research diverticulitis and picked up information that may be of interest. For example, an article in the National Institute of Health mentioned probiotics.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ May 6, 2013


· By age 80, about 50 to 80% of individuals in the United States have diverticulosis which is a condition in which diverticula (pockets) are present in the intestine. Once diverticula form, they do not disappear by themselves. Fortunately, most patients with diverticulosis do not have symptoms

· Of the 15–20% symptomatic patients, 75% of them will have painful diverticular disease

· Fiber supplementation has been a common recommendation of clinicians

· Probiotics will restore the normal intestinal flora that may have been altered

· Patients had longer periods of remission and improved abdominal symptoms after receiving probiotic

· The use of fiber [and] probiotics…may be useful in the treatment of symptomatic uncomplicated diverticular disease, improving quality of life and preventing disease recurrence


According to mayoclinic.org, several factors may increase our risk of developing diverticulitis:


· Aging. The incidence of diverticulitis increases with age. The mean age of patients with the first episode of diverticulitis is approximately 65

· Obesity. Being seriously overweight increases your odds of developing diverticulitis

· Smoking. People who smoke cigarettes are more likely than nonsmokers to experience diverticulitis

· Lack of exercise. Vigorous exercise appears to lower your risk of diverticulitis

· Diet high in animal fat and low in fiber seem to increase risk

· Several drugs are associated with an increased risk of diverticulitis, including steroids, opioids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve)

· Alcohol. Excessive consumption of alcohol may raise the risk of diverticulitis by 2-3 times as compared to the general population.


No specific foods are known to trigger diverticulitis attacks, and no special diet has been proven to prevent attacks. In the past, people with small pouches (diverticula) in the lining of the colon were told to avoid nuts, seeds, and popcorn. Surprise, surprise, I had been eating popcorn for a few weeks before my first attack. Could be a coincidence, but I’ve not had any since.


Food that may ward off diverticulitis include:


· High fiber foods such as fruits, including tangerines, prunes, apples, bananas, peaches, and pears

· Tender cooked vegetables, such as asparagus, brussels sprouts, beets, mushrooms, turnips, pumpkin, broccoli, artichokes, lima beans, squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes


About 25% of people with acute diverticulitis develop complications, which may include:


· An abscess, which occurs when pus collects in the pouch.

· A blockage in your bowel caused by scarring.

· An abnormal passageway (fistula) between sections of bowel or the bowel and other organs.

· Peritonitis, which can occur if the infected or inflamed pouch ruptures, spilling intestinal contents into your abdominal cavity. Peritonitis is a medical emergency and requires immediate care.


Based on the above information and my own personal experience, I’ll continue taking fiber and probiotics.

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