Written by Dr. Daniela Steyn
Co-authored by medical writer Gerda Venter
Are you one of the millions of people worldwide who suffer from diverticulitis? If so, you know how painful and uncomfortable the condition can be. As a Hospitalist doctor, I often admit people with severe complications from diverticulitis. Fortunately, most people do not need to be admitted to the hospital for diverticulitis. You don't even have to take antibiotics every time you get a diverticulitis flare. Suppose your family doctor has done bloodwork or a CT scan, and you do not need antibiotics. In that case, several natural remedies can help alleviate symptoms and can help prevent a diverticulitis flare-up from happening. This post will explore some of the most effective natural treatments for preventing a diverticulitis flare.
What is diverticulitis?
Diverticular disease is a common digestive condition due to inflamed diverticula symptoms. Diverticula are small, bulging pouches that form in the digestive tract lining. They're found most often in the lower part of the large intestine (colon). Diverticulitis occurs when small pieces of food or feces get stuck in these pouches and become inflamed or infected.
Symptoms of diverticulitis
Symptoms of diverticulitis include abdominal pain (usually on the lower left side of your abdomen), nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, diarrhea, loss of appetite, gas or bloating, and constipation. Diverticulitis can also lead to rectal bleeding and, if left untreated, can cause serious complications, such as perforation of the intestine, abscesses, and even death. Diverticulitis is a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention. If you think you may have diverticulitis, it is vital to see a doctor as soon as possible, as severe or recurring diverticular disease and diverticulitis may require prescription medication or surgery.
Chances are that if you have ever been diagnosed with diverticulitis, you will do anything to prevent a future flare-up. The exact cause of the formation and inflammation of diverticula is not yet known, but the following strategies have been proven to reduce the risk of a diverticulitis flare-up:
1. Reduce stress
Stress can cause a flare-up of diverticulitis symptoms and even worsen the symptoms. When you are stressed, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can weaken the immune system and make it harder for the body to fight infection. This can lead to a flare-up of symptoms.
While more research is needed to confirm the link between stress and diverticular disease, managing stress may help to reduce the risk of developing a flare-up. Here are a few easy tips to reduce your stress levels today:
Meditate - Meditation will improve relaxation and reduce stress for hours after the actual meditation is over.
Spend time in nature – Ecotherapy uses nature and the outdoors to improve mental health and physical well-being. Ecotherapy has been helpful for many diseases, including heart disease, autoimmune disorders and mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, stress, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Live a mindful life - As soon as you begin to practice mindful living, you will be more aware of how and with who you are spending your time, what you eat, what you consider essential and how it affects your overall health and well-being. This will significantly reduce your stress levels.
Strengthen your relationships - Friends provide emotional support, social interaction, and a sense of belonging. They also help you reduce stress, improve your mental health, and recover from illness.
Laugh your stress away - A good belly laugh doesn't just lower your stress levels. It has also been shown to reduce the body's stress hormone called cortisol.
Focus on sleep - A lack of sleep can increase stress throughout the day.
2. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of fluids is essential for good health, but it's especially important if you're constipated. Constipation occurs when there is a build-up of stool in the intestine, making it difficult to have a bowel movement. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to soften the stool and makes it easier to pass. In addition, fluids help to keep the intestines lubricated and prevent the stool from becoming stuck in the intestine. Drinking at least eight glasses of water daily is an excellent way to stay hydrated and avoid constipation. You can also try drinking prune juice, which contains natural laxatives to help constipation. Magnesium supplements act as a laxative and have the added benefit of helping your bowels relax.
3. Eat high-fibre foods
Without fibre to add bulk to the stool, the colon must work much more challenging to push the stool forward. This can cause pouches to form in weak spots along the colon. A high-fibre diet has many benefits, including the promotion of regularity, prevention of heart disease and stroke, and control of blood sugar levels. Foods high in fibre include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are not only good for the digestive system, but they also help to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
During the flare-up, you'll want to avoid as much fibre as possible, as fibre creates waste that can irritate the infection even further. Once the attack is over and you're feeling better, you can switch to a high-fibre diet to help avoid future attacks.
4. Avoid processed foods, sugar, and artificial sweeteners
Processed food is any food that has been altered from its natural state. This can include anything from adding preservatives to changing the texture or flavour. Processed foods are often high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. They can also contain artificial sweeteners linked to weight gain, headaches, and digestive problems. While avoiding processed foods entirely is not always possible, you can limit your intake by reading labels carefully and choosing products with whole, unprocessed ingredients. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with natural sugars like honey or maple syrup. You can help keep your diet healthy and delicious by making intelligent choices. Make things easy by scanning your food with an app like Yuka or Dirty Thirty or a similar app, to help identify foods containing harmful additives.
5. Exercise regularly
One of the most important things you can do for your digestive health is to get regular exercise. Exercise helps to keep your bowels moving and prevents constipation. It also helps to reduce stress and can help you to maintain a healthy weight, which is essential for overall health and well-being. Of course, it is important to find an exercise routine that works for you and to start slowly if you need to get used to exercising regularly.
6. Increase probiotic intake
Probiotics are live microorganisms similar to the beneficial bacteria in the human gut. When taken as supplements, they can help to maintain a healthy balance of gut flora. In addition to supporting digestive health, probiotics have been linked to many other health benefits, including improved immunity, reduced inflammation, and better skin health. Probiotics are typically found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut. However, you can include probiotics in your diet in supplement form. If you're considering probiotics, speak with your healthcare provider first to ensure they're right for you.
You can prevent diverticulitis by reducing the risk factors through lifestyle changes. Eating enough fibre, exercising, quitting smoking, and drinking more water are great lifestyle changes to help prevent diverticulitis. Here are some additional tips:
Be aware of not taking too many NSAIDs, opioids, and steroids. Only take these medications as needed or as directed by your doctor.
Reduce drinking coffee as well as alcoholic beverages.
Try not to strain during bowel movements. Take your time and allow sufficient time.
Cut back on factory-farmed red meat and processed meats.
Avoid tobacco in any form.
Consider vitamin B-complex and omega-3 fatty acid supplements after consulting your doctor.
While there is no surefire way to prevent a Diverticulitis flare-up, implementing these tips can naturally reduce your risk. By reducing stress, drinking plenty of fluids, eating high-fibre foods and probiotics, and exercising regularly, you can take control of your diverticulitis and improve your overall health. Do you have any other tips that help you prevent flare-ups? Let me know in the comments below!
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