Diverticulitis FAQs

Mercy's gastroenterologists provide comprehensive care for diverticulitis. Learn more about the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of this digestive disorder.

What's diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis occurs when small pouches in the colon wall become infected with bacteria. The condition can cause severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, gas, bloating and loss of appetite.

Is diverticulitis hereditary?

Some studies suggest diverticulitis may be hereditary or acquired by lifestyle factors that tend to run in families. If you have close family members with a history of diverticulitis or colorectal disease, tell your Mercy provider. You may need screening for diverticular and other colorectal diseases.

What foods trigger diverticulitis?

Doctors used to recommend that people with diverticulitis avoid hard-to-digest foods like popcorn, nuts, and fruits with small seeds. But recent studies haven’t found these foods to be triggers for diverticulitis. Other research suggests red meat and certain types of carbohydrates may aggravate diverticulitis. Talk to your Mercy doctor about whether you should leave specific foods out of your diet. And Mercy dietitians can also help with menu planning and tips for healthy eating.

How do you treat diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis treatment depends on how severe it is. Some cases of diverticulitis are treated with antibiotics and a liquid (or low residue) diet until symptoms improve. But people with high fever, acute infection, abscesses, perforations (punctures in the bowel wall) or obstructions may require hospital care. Large abscesses are drained using a tube placed in the abdomen. Surgery is performed to repair perforations and obstructions. For repeated attacks of diverticulitis, surgery may be needed to remove the affected part of the colon (bowel resection). A temporary colostomy bag (small pouch used to collect waste) may be used. IV fluids or nutrition may also be part of treatment plans.

What should you eat when you have a diverticulitis attack?

During a diverticulitis attack, consuming clear liquids or broths is usually recommended. Contact your Mercy provider or gastroenterologist for recommendations based on your current health and medical history.

What does diverticulitis feel like?

The most common symptom is belly pain, which often becomes severe. Pain is usually located in the lower-left abdomen. People with diverticulitis sometimes experience other symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting or fever.

What's the difference between diverticulitis & diverticulosis?

Diverticulosis is a condition in which small sacs or pouches develop in the colon. Sometimes these pouches become infected with bacteria, causing the illness diverticulitis. Only about 5% of people with diverticulosis ever develop diverticulitis. 

Can diverticulitis be cured?

Diverticulitis can be managed with medication to get rid of the infection and inflammation ― but it may return. Diverticulosis (pouches in the colon wall) is usually a permanent condition. People with severe diverticulitis who don’t respond to treatment may need surgery to remove the affected part of the colon.

How do you prevent diverticulitis?

Maintain a healthy diet with plenty of fiber, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Staying hydrated also helps move food through the digestive system and prevents constipation. And regular exercise strengthens muscles and promotes regular bowel movements.

Some experts believe probiotics — foods or supplements with beneficial bacteria — can help prevent diverticulitis. But probiotics haven’t been scientifically proven to prevent the condition.

Find a Gastroenterologist

Mercy has diverticulitis specialists across most our communities. 

Find a gastroenterologist near you.