Blood in the stool can be frightening, whether you discover it while wiping after a bowel movement or from a test ordered by your health care provider. While blood in stool can signal a serious problem, it doesn't always. Here's what you need to know about the possible causes of bloody stools and what you -- and your doctor -- should do if you discover a problem.
Many experts believe that a low-fiber diet can lead to diverticulosis and diverticulitis. This may be why people in Asia and Africa, where the diet tends to be higher in fiber, have a very low incidence of the condition.
Diverticulosis usually causes no or few symptoms; leaving many people unaware that they even have diverticula present.
Diverticulitis may need to be treated with antibiotics or, in severe cases, surgery.
Diet for Diverticulitis
If you're experiencing severe symptoms from diverticulitis, your doctor may recommend a liquid diverticulitis diet as part of your treatment, which can include:
Gradually you can ease back into a regular diet. Your doctor may advise you to start with low-fiber foods (white bread, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products) before introducing high-fiber foods.
Fiber softens and adds bulk to stools, helping them pass more easily through the colon. It also reduces pressure in the digestive tract.
Many studies show that eating fiber-rich foods can help control diverticular symptoms. Try to eat at least 25-35 grams of fiber a day.
Here are a few fiber-rich foods to include in meals:
Whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals
Beans (kidney beans and black beans, for example)
Fresh fruits (apples, pears, prunes)
Vegetables (squash, potatoes, peas, spinach)
If you're having difficulty structuring a diet on your own, consult your doctor or a dietitian. They can set up a meal plan that works for you.
Your doctor may also recommend a fiber supplement, such as psyllium (Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel) one to three times a day. Drinking enough water and other fluids throughout the day will also help prevent constipation.
Foods to Avoid With Diverticulitis
In the past, doctors had recommended that people with diverticular disease (diverticulosis or diverticulitis) avoid hard-to-digest foods such as nuts, corn, popcorn, and seeds, for fear that these foods would get stuck in the diverticula and lead to inflammation. However, recent research has noted that there is no real scientific evidence to back up this recommendation.
In fact, nuts and seeds are components of many high-fiber foods, which are recommended for people with diverticular disease.