How is diverticulosis treated?
A high-fiber diet and pain medications help relieve symptoms in most cases of diverticulosis. Uncomplicated diverticulosis with mild symptoms usually requires the person to rest, take oral antibiotics, and be on a liquid diet for a period of time. Sometimes an attack of diverticulitis is serious enough to require a hospital stay, intravenous (IV) antibiotics, and possibly surgery.
Increasing the amount of fiber in the diet may reduce symptoms of diverticulosis and prevent complications such as diverticulitis. Fiber keeps stool soft and lowers pressure inside the colon so that bowel contents can move through easily. The American Dietetic Association recommends consuming 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. The table “What foods have fiber?” shows the amount of fiber in some foods that a person can easily add to the diet.
The doctor may also recommend taking a fiber product such as methylcellulose (Citrucel) or psyllium (FiberGI) one to three times a day. These products are available in powder, pills, or wafers, and provide 2 to 3.5 grams of fiber per dose. Fiber supplements should be taken with at least 8 ounces of water.
Avoidance of nuts, popcorn, and sunflower, pumpkin, caraway, and sesame seeds has been recommended by physicians out of fear that food particles could enter, block, or irritate the diverticula. However, no scientific data support this treatment measure. Eating a high-fiber diet is the only requirement highly emphasized across the medical literature. Eliminating specific foods is not necessary. The seeds in tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, strawberries, and raspberries, as well as poppy seeds, are generally considered harmless. People differ in the amounts and types of foods they can eat. Decisions about diet should be made based on what works best for each person. Keeping a food diary may help identify what foods may cause symptoms.
If cramps, bloating, and constipation are problems, the doctor may prescribe a short course of pain medication. However, some pain medications actually cause constipation.
Treatment for diverticulitis focuses on clearing up the inflammation and infection, resting the colon, and preventing or minimizing complications.
Depending on the severity of symptoms, the doctor may recommend bed rest, oral antibiotics, a pain reliever, and a liquid diet. If symptoms ease after a few days, the doctor will recommend gradually increasing the amount of high-fiber foods in the diet.
Severe cases of diverticulitis with acute pain and complications will likely require a hospital stay. Most cases of severe diverticulitis are treated with IV antibiotics and a few days without food or drink to help the colon rest. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.