Back

Diverticulitis Diet

What Is It, Food to Include and Avoid, and More

Author:Nikol Natalia Armata, MD

Editors:Alyssa Haag,Józia McGowan, DO,Kelsey LaFayette, DNP, RN, FNP-C

Illustrator:Jessica Reynolds, MS

Copyeditor:Stacy Johnson, LMSW


What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis refers to the inflammation or infection of intestinal diverticula, which are pouches that form along the walls of the digestive tract. The condition in which diverticula are present at any portion of the digestive tract but not inflamed or infected is called diverticulosis.  Usually, diverticulitis occurs in the large intestine (i.e., colonic diverticula), but it can occur in the small intestine, esophagus, or stomach. When the diverticula contains all layers of the intestine, they are termed true diverticula. On the other hand, when the diverticula only contains the mucosal and submucosal layers, they are called pseudo or false diverticula.

Diverticulitis most commonly presents with abdominal pain, usually in the lower left quadrant of the abdomen, which may persist for several days. Individuals may also experience nausea, vomiting, and a fever. Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or (more rarely) diarrhea, may also occur. 

Large intestine with small, inflamed pouches, or diverticulitis.

What is a diverticulitis diet?

A diverticulitis diet includes the suggested dietary guidelines for people with diverticulitis. It is usually recommended for a short period of time: until the symptoms of acute inflammation regress. Initially, clear liquids are administered (e.g., soups, jello) until food options low in fiber (e.g., pasta, meat, dairy) are added in gradually. Long-term dietary suggestions encourage the introduction of a larger amount of fiber (e.g., whole grain products, vegetables like broccoli, fruits like apples, and legumes) in the diet. 

Excited Mo character in scrubs
Join millions of students and clinicians who learn by Osmosis!
Start Your Free Trial

How does a diverticulitis diet improve diverticulitis?

Individuals experiencing episodes of diverticulitis are recommended to adjust their diet as it has been proven to significantly improve most of their symptoms. More specifically, during flare-ups, a clear liquid diet, which includes water, broth, soups, and foods like jello or popsicles, is initiated as part of the treatment. 

Multiple research studies have confirmed the role of diet and other modifiable lifestyle factors in the progression of diverticulitis. Lifestyle factors associated with increased risk for diverticula formation include Western dietary patterns (i.e., diets high in red meat, fat, and refined grains), obesity, and smoking. On the other hand, dietary fiber intake and diets high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains seem to reduce the risk of diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Nuts and seeds do not appear to affect the risk of developing diverticulitis, and in some studies, nuts and popcorn were even associated with a reduced risk to develop diverticulitis. Physical activity, particularly aerobic (like running), is associated with a decreased risk as well. Lastly, it is not clear whether alcohol use affects the risk of developing diverticulitis.

What foods are best on a diverticulitis diet?

When an individual experiences diverticulitis, immediate initiation to a clear liquid diet is medically advised for about 2-3 days. For that period of time, the foods suggested to consume are broth, soups, clear juices with low fiber (e.g., apple, cranberry juice), jello, and popsicles. As the symptoms of diverticulitis resolve, low fiber solids are gradually re-introduced into the diet until returning back to each individual's usual diet. Introduction of pasta, white bread or rice, eggs, dairy products (e.g., milk, cheese), and well-cooked meat or vegetables can begin (after medical indication) as bowel movements return to usual habits and pain or other symptoms improve. Once diverticulitis is resolved, resumption to a high fiber diet (e.g., fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, grains) is strongly recommended as fiber absorbs more water, which adds volume to and softens the stool. Soft stool is easier to pass; therefore, such diets prevent constipation, and consequently, less pressure in the colon is applied, which can prevent diverticula

What foods should be avoided on a diverticulitis diet?

During an episode of diverticulitis and until all symptoms improve, solid foods, especially those high in fiber, are typically recommended to be avoided. High-fiber foods are harder to digest, and they trigger bowel movements, which may not be easily tolerated by the inflamed intestines.

According to research, in order to correct or improve diverticulitis, the goal is to prevent high pressure in the colon. Therefore, foods high in FODMAP carbohydrates (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols), like plums, prunes, beans, and lentils, which increase the pressure in the colon, are recommended to be avoided. Additionally, consuming red and processed meats, such as beef, pork, and lamb could increase the risk of developing diverticulitis or aggravate symptoms of diverticulitis. Lastly, high fat, sugar, and low fiber Western diets should also be avoided.

What are the most important facts to know about a diverticulitis diet?

Diverticulitis occurs when small pouches, called diverticula, which form along the walls of the digestive tract, become inflamed or infected. All individuals experiencing symptoms of diverticulitis are recommended to follow a diverticulitis diet for a short period of time until the acute inflammation regresses. Initially, clear liquids are administered (e.g. soups, jello) until  food options low in fiber (e.g., pasta, meat, dairy) are gradually added. Long-term dietary suggestions encourage an increased amount of fiber (e.g., whole grain products, vegetables like broccoli, fruits like apples, and legumes) in the individual’s diet to prevent future flares. 

Quiz yourself on Diverticulitis Diet

3 Questions available

Quiz now!

16 Flashcards available

Quiz now!

Watch related videos:

Mo with coat and stethoscope

Want to Join Osmosis?

Join millions of students and clinicians who learn by Osmosis!

Start Your Free Trial

Related links

Diverticulosis and diverticulitis
Diverticular disease: Pathology review

Resources for research and reference

Akbar, A., & Shreenath, A.P. (2022). High Fiber Diet. In StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559033/ 

Carabotti, M., Falangone, F., Cuomo, R., & Annibale, B. (2021). Role of dietary habits in the prevention of diverticulitis diet disease complications: A systematic review. Nutrients, 13(4): 1288. Retrieved September 18, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33919755/

Strate, L. L., & Morris, A. M. (2019). Epidemiology, pathophysiology, and treatment of diverticulitis. Gastroenterology, 156(5): 1282–1298.e1. DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.12.033