Can I eat nuts if I have diverticulitis?

William B. Salt II., MD

Most people can.

About one of every three Americans will develop small pouches (diverticula) of the colon (diverticulosis) by age 60, and two of every three will have diverticulosis by age 85. Most people with diverticulosis don't have any symptoms from the condition unless they develop one of two complications: either rectal bleeding or inflammation, called diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis is often mild and heals without treatment, but it can be potentially serious and require antibiotics, hospitalization, and sometimes surgery. The main symptom of diverticulitis is pain in the lower left side of the abdomen (the left lower quadrant). When diverticulitis is more serious, the pain is intense and can be accompanied by fever, soreness to the touch (tenderness) in the left lower quadrant of the belly, constipation, and vomiting. Sometimes, a little bright red blood can be seen in the stool.

Doctors used to advise people with diverticulosis to avoid nuts, seeds, corn, and popcorn, since it was thought that they could get stuck in the diverticula and cause diverticulitis. However, there is no scientific evidence that this is true. Futhermore, a study published in the August 27, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association led by researcher Lisa L. Strate, MD, found that these fiber-containing foods may actually lower the risk of developing diverticulitis.

So I advise patients with diverticulosis that there is not only no evidence of harm from eating these foods, there is scientific evidence of benefit. Still, some believe that these foods trigger their attacks of diverticulitis, so they should avoid them and try to get enough dietary fiber from other sources.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.