Diverticulitis diet causes too much weight loss — help!

Originally Published: March 21, 2008
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Dear Alice

I suffer from diverticulitis and have difficulty in determining exactly what I can and cannot eat. When I request a clear cut answer I am told that a diet which includes fresh fruits and vegetables are a necessary part of my diet, but the problem with that is that I have followed that advice and as a result I have lost over 30 lbs in 6 months... which I can ill afford. My question is can I eat a more varied diet such as diary, meats, sweets, etc. I would greatly appreciate some clarification on this matter. Thank you for your anticipated answer.

—Henny

Dear Henny,

Part of the difficulty with managing diverticulitis (a condition where small sacs form in the intestine and become inflamed) is that the recommended dietary regimen can be quite complicated. What to eat with diverticulitis? gives an overview of recommended foods and what to avoid. But in a nutshell (er… if those aren't off limits!) you can probably eat a more varied diet than the one you describe in your question.

To figure out how many calories you should be eating each day, go to MyPyramid to get a personalized plan to help you maintain a healthy weight. If you are trying to gain weight, you will need to eat approximately 500 extra calories per day than you are now; the easiest way to do this may be to add one or two substantial snacks throughout your day. You may also consider adding healthy fats such as fats from nuts, avocados, and/or olive oil during meals or snacks.

Nuts and seeds may be a good option for you, though there is some confusion regarding whether they help prevent or trigger diverticulitis attacks. Including them in your diet is a personal choice. If you have had any trouble with them in the past, you should avoid eating them. However, if you body is able to handle these foods, they offer a healthy fat source and protein.

Although fruits and vegetables are a healthy addition to your diet, too many may make it difficult for you to maintain a healthy weight if you aren't also getting calories from the other food groups. There are other ways to add fiber to your diet that can help increase your overall calorie intake. Many whole grains, which are high in fiber, are also calorie-dense. For example, consider dipping whole grain bread in olive oil or adding sliced avocado to brown rice dishes for a fiber and calorie boost. You may also consider adding dried fruits to your diet. Since their water content has been removed, you may be able to eat more.

Low-fiber foods are sometimes recommended during mild attacks of diverticulitis. These may include smooth peanut butter, eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese, all of which provide some fat and protein. If your diet can include low-fiber foods, these may aid in maintaining (or even gaining) some weight. You may also consider a meal supplement such as Ensure, which can replace much-need calories in your diet.

Check out previous questions on this topic including the one mentioned above and Diverticular disease and diet. There are many people that struggle to get the right balance in their diet, especially with a condition like diverticulitis. Considering the complicated recommendations for people with diverticulitis, it may be worth your while to visit a nutritionist, who can give you specific recipes to use and foods to add to your shopping list. If you're a Columbia student you may take advantage of Columbia's nutritional services by calling x4-2284.

Take care of yourself!

Alice