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Expert Q&A

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Can probiotics helpprevent diverticulitis?

Asked by Jessica Smith, Connecticut

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I've heard that probiotics can help with diverticulitis. What is the strain of probiotics that would work best? Is there a brand name you can recommend? Should it be taken with antibiotics or after the 10-day prescribed course of antibiotics? I realize there is no cure for diverticulosis; I'm trying to be proactive.

Expert Bio Picture

Conditions Expert Dr. Otis Brawley Chief Medical Officer,
American Cancer Society

Expert answer

Dear Jessica:

Diverticulosis is a condition wherein small pouches bulge out at weak spots in the lining of the colon (each pouch is called a diverticulum). Diverticulitis is a bacterial infection at the base of the diverticulum. It can cause fever and significant abdominal discomfort.

The flare-ups of diverticulitis are best treated with antibiotics and once they quiet down they are best prevented by increasing the roughage in the diet. Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives may also prevent flare-ups.

Probiotics are so called "good bacteria." The concept is, if you populate the colon with these good bacteria, the bad bacteria are crowed out and are less likely to grow and cause pain. This appears true.

Rather than spending money on probiotics, I recommend increasing your use of active culture yogurt, which is easily found in grocery stores. Active culture yogurt has lots of the good bacteria. In addition, a diet with five to nine fruits and vegetables per day may help decrease the number of diverticulitis attacks.

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