Diverticulitis: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Diverticulitis in the intestine

Diverticulitis occurs when pouches form in the wall of the colon and become inflamed or infected. It can be very painful.

Doctors aren't sure what causes diverticulitis. There is no proof that foods such as nuts, seeds, or berries cause it or make it worse. A low-fibre diet may cause the colon to work harder to push stool forward. Pouches may form because of this extra work.

It may be hard to think about healthy eating while you're in pain. But as you recover, you might think about how you can use healthy eating for overall better health. Healthy eating may help you avoid future attacks.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Stick to liquids or a bland diet (plain rice, bananas, dry toast or crackers, applesauce) until you are feeling better. Then you can return to regular foods and gradually increase the amount of fibre in your diet.
  • Use a heating pad set on low on your belly to relieve mild cramps and pain.
  • Get extra rest until you are feeling better.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

To prevent future attacks of diverticulitis

  • Avoid constipation:
    • Include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains in your diet each day. These foods are high in fibre.
    • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • Get some exercise every day. Build up slowly to 2½ hours of exercise a week.
    • Take a fibre supplement, such as Benefibre or Metamucil, every day if needed. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Schedule time each day for a bowel movement. Having a daily routine may help. Take your time and do not strain when having a bowel movement.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe pain or swelling in your belly.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You cannot keep down fluids or medicines.
  • You have new pain that gets worse when you move or cough.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • The symptoms you had when you first started feeling sick come back.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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