Tummy troubles of any kind are quite a bummer, aren’t they? But if constant tummy woes like intense pain and stomach upsets are making you miserable because you have diverticulitis, help is at hand. Here’s what you need to know about this condition and tackling it naturally.
People with severe diverticulitis symptoms may need to be hospitalized. Diverticulitis can also cause complications like perforation or a tear in one of the sacs, inflammation in the abdomen (peritonitis), or intestinal obstruction. It can also result in an abscess which may need to be drained or treated surgically. Do see a doctor if you experience severe symptoms or have bleeding from your rectum.1
If you are over 40, chances of small protruding sacs (diverticula) developing in the lower intestine and pushing through weak parts in your colon walls are quite common. While it’s not clear what causes this condition called diverticulosis, people with it seldom have any symptoms or problems. But in a smaller segment of people, these diverticula may get infected or inflamed. This is diverticulitis and happens when stool or bacteria get into a sac or sacs in your colon. A reduction the number of healthy bacteria and an increase in harmful bacteria in your guts may also lead to diverticulitis.
With symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, vomiting or nausea, as well as chills and fever, diverticulitis can become a handful. You also typically experience severe pain in the lower left part of your abdomen which comes on suddenly. Mild pain which worsens over a few days is also a possibility.2 While you may need to see a doctor to assess the severity of the condition and may be given antibiotics, some natural remedies can also help ease the condition and prevent further flare-ups.
1. Rest Up And Have A Liquid Diet
Mild diverticulitis usually gets better when you follow a liquid diet for a while. This allows your colon to rest. Your doctor will chart a diet plan based on your symptoms. You can have clear soups and broths, fruit juices without the pulp, coconut water, and weak tea.
When you get better after a few days, you can slowly add solid foods to your diet. Depending on the severity, you may need antibiotics to tackle the infection. Make sure you complete the course as prescribed. In severe cases, you may need to be hospitalized and antibiotics may be administered intravenously.3
2. Have A High-Fiber Diet
Having more fiber can help to stop painful flare-ups of diverticulitis as well as bleeding. Fiber increases the bulk of stool and reduces the time taken for stool to pass through your digestive system. Try to take in around 20 to 35 grams of fiber in a day. It’s best to get your fiber from vegetables, fruits, and grains. But do remember that you need to increase the amount of fiber in your diet gradually – a sudden increase can lead to problems like bloating and cramps. It’s also important to drink plenty of water when you have fiber since fiber absorbs water and can lead to constipation without sufficient water.4
But there’s an important caveat when it comes to fiber. If you’re suffering from an attack of diverticulitis, you’ll need to stick to a liquid diet for a few days, as prescribed by your doctor. You should also go on a low-fiber diet while you’re recovering so that your digestive system can rest. When your symptoms abate, switch to a high-fiber diet.5
3. Take Probiotics
Research shows that probiotics or helpful good bacteria can help tackle symptoms of diverticulitis and may even prevent it.6 The growth of harmful bacteria may play a role in diverticular disease by increasing inflammation. On the other side, the presence of “good” bacteria can help decrease the growth of harmful bacteria and control inflammation in the colon. Probiotics are naturally present in some foods like yogurt. They can also be taken as a dietary supplement.7
4. Have Wheat Bran
Wheat bran has been found to have a laxative effect. It contains fiber that absorbs water and softens stool and this might be more effective against diverticulitis than fiber found in fruits and vegetables. One study found that when people with diverticular disease had a low-sugar diet and included unprocessed bran in it, they found a marked improvement in symptoms. When a follow-up was done after 22 months, it was found that the participants’ bowel habits had become normal and abdominal discomfort had eased.8
5. Take Slippery Elm
Slippery elm is often recommended to soothe irritated tissue in your digestive system. This herb is a demulcent that forms a protective film over the mucus lining your guts, thereby protecting irritated tissues and promoting healing. Mix in a teaspoon of slippery elm powder with water and drink up 3 or 4 times a day.9
6. Drink Marshmallow Tea
The herb Althaea officinalis, commonly known as marshmallow, is also a demulcent and is recommended for diverticular disease. The roots contain mucilage and counteract excessive stomach acids.
To make marshmallow tea, steep 5 grams of the dried root in a cup of boiling water. Then strain and drink after it cools down. However, marshmallow can interact with certain medicines such as those for diabetes, so check in with your doctor about possible interactions before use.10 11
7. Eat Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds are a rich source of fiber and may help tackle diverticulosis. They speed up the movement of stool through your intestine and soften stool, functioning as a laxative. Try taking around 15 grams of ground flaxseeds in a day to stop the problem in its tracks.12
8. Sip On Chamomile Tea
Another herbal remedy that’s often recommended by experts for diverticular disease is chamomile tea. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties and may help counter the inflammation that plays a role in diverticular disease. Having 1 to 3 cups of chamomile tea in a day should help.
To make the tea, steep 3 grams of the herb in a cup of boiling water and strain. Do note that chamomile is not suitable if you’re pregnant, using birth control pills, or have a history of cancers related to hormones since it may have female hormone-like effects.13 14
9. Avoid Red Meat
Research indicates that having red meat increases your risk of developing diverticulitis. One study found that men who ate red meat frequently (around 13 servings in a week) had a 58% higher chance of developing diverticulitis than those who ate it sparingly (around 1.2 servings in a week). It was also found that substituting fish or poultry for one serving of unprocessed red meat every day reduced the risk by 20%. According to the researchers, when you eat red meat, bacteria in your gut may produce a “toxic metabolite” that weakens the wall of your colon and causes the formation of sacs.15 16
10. Go For Runs Or Exercise Regularly
A morning run can be quite invigorating. But did you know that it might help ward off diverticular disease too? Rigorous cardio activities like jogging and running are thought to speed up the movement of stool through your digestive system. One study found that men and women who ran 8 km or more per day had a 48% lower risk of developing diverticular disease than those who ran 2 km or less. In fact, the risk appeared to decrease 6.2% per km run. But the distance run doesn’t appear to be the only factor here. The study also found that people who ran more than 4 meters per second had a 70% lower risk for diverticular disease than those who did 2.8 meters or under per second.17 Even if you’ve had an episode, prevent further problems by lacing up for a run or jog every day.
|↑1, ↑2||Diverticular Disease. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3, ↑6||Diverticular Disease. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑5||Diverticular disease and diverticulitis. National Health Service.|
|↑7||Tursi, A., A. Papa, and Silvio Danese. “the pathophysiology and medical management of diverticulosis and diverticular disease of the colon.” Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics 42, no. 6 (2015): 664-684.|
|↑8||Painter, Neil S., Anthony Z. Almeida, and Kenneth W. Colebourne. “Unprocessed bran in treatment of diverticular disease of the colon.” Br Med J 2, no. 5806 (1972): 137-140.|
|↑9||Diverticular disease. University of Maryland.|
|↑10||Valiei, Mahdi, Ali Shafaghat, and Farshid Salimi. “Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of the flower and root hexane extracts of Althaea officinalis in Northwest Iran.” Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 5, no. 32 (2011): 6972-6976.|
|↑11, ↑12, ↑14||Diverticular disease. University of Maryland.|
|↑13||Srivastava, Janmejai K., Eswar Shankar, and Sanjay Gupta. “Chamomile: a herbal medicine of the past with a bright future.” Molecular medicine reports 3, no. 6 (2010): 895-901.|
|↑15||Aldoori, Walid H., Edward L. Giovannucci, Eric B. Rimm, Alvin L. Wing, Dimitrios V. Trichopoulos, and Walter C. Willett. “A prospective study of diet and the risk of symptomatic diverticular disease in men.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 60, no. 5 (1994): 757-764.|
|↑16||Harvard researchers link diverticulitis to red meat. Harvard Medical School.|
|↑17||Williams, Paul T. “Incident diverticular disease is inversely related to vigorous physical activity.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 41, no. 5 (2009): 1042.|