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Is yogurt okay with diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is a digestive condition where small pouches called diverticula form in the wall of the colon. These pouches can become inflamed or infected, leading to abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and other symptoms. Many people with diverticulitis find that certain foods make their symptoms worse, especially during a flare-up. Dairy products like milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt are commonly identified as problem foods for diverticulitis. But can you still eat yogurt if you have diverticulitis? Here is a closer look at the connection between yogurt and diverticulitis.

What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulosis occurs when small bulges or pockets develop in the lining of the colon. These pockets are called diverticula, and they form when weak spots balloon outward. This is very common, affecting more than half of all people over age 60 (1). Diverticulosis does not always cause problems. But about 20% of people with diverticulosis go on to develop diverticulitis (2).

Diverticulitis happens when the pouches become inflamed or infected. This can occur when food particles or stool gets trapped in them. Symptoms of a diverticulitis flare-up include (3):

  • Abdominal pain, usually in the lower left quadrant
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Urinary symptoms like burning while urinating

There are a few different stages of diverticulitis ranging from mild to severe:

Uncomplicated diverticulitis

This is a mild attack with minimal inflammation that usually resolves with rest, antibiotics, and a liquid diet.

Complicated diverticulitis

This is a more severe flare-up with abscesses, perforations, fistulas, strictures, or blockages. It requires prescription antibiotics and possibly surgery.

Recurrent attacks

Some people experience repeat episodes of diverticulitis. After two attacks, they have a higher risk of complications in the future.

What causes diverticulitis?

The exact cause is unknown, but some contributing factors include:

  • A low-fiber diet. Fiber helps move waste through the colon. Without enough fiber, waste can get backed up.
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications like steroids or painkillers
  • Chronic constipation
  • Family history

While we don’t know exactly why diverticula form, avoiding these risk factors can reduce the chances of developing diverticulitis.

What foods should you avoid with diverticulitis?

During a diverticulitis flare-up, doctors often recommend a clear liquid or low-fiber diet to give your colon a chance to rest and heal. Soft, bland, low-fiber foods are gradually reintroduced after symptoms improve. But exactly which foods make diverticulitis worse varies from person to person. Some problem foods to be aware of include (4,5):

Seeds, corn, and nuts

Small hard foods like sesame seeds, poppy seeds, tomato seeds, sunflower seeds, corn kernels, nuts, or popcorn can get trapped in diverticula and further aggravate the condition.

Red meat

Red meats are more difficult to digest than chicken, fish, eggs, or plant proteins. The extra work required to break down red meat may irritate the colon.

Processed meats

This includes hot dogs, deli meats, smoked meats, and anything with preservatives like bacon or sausage.

Refined grains

Foods made with white flour lack the fiber and nutrients of whole grains. Sticking to 100% whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals is preferable.

Fried or fatty foods

Excess fats and oils can worsen diarrhea and digestive issues.

Raw vegetables and fruits with skins, seeds, or membranes

The tough skins and fibrous parts of raw veggies and fruits are difficult to digest. Cooked vegetables and peeled fruits are gentler options.

Sugary foods and drinks

These rapidly absorb into your bloodstream and can contribute to diarrhea.


All types of alcohol tend to irritate the digestive tract.


Coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate contain caffeine, which can stimulate the intestines and lead to loose stools.

Dairy products

Milk, cheese, cream, butter, and yogurt are problems for some people with diverticulitis due to lactose and casein.

Are dairy products off limits with diverticulitis?

Dairy often tops the list of foods to avoid with diverticulitis. Up to 75% of people with diverticulitis report that milk and dairy worsen their symptoms (6). There are a few reasons why:

Lactose intolerance

About 30-50% of adults lack enough lactase enzyme to properly digest lactose, the natural sugar in dairy milk (7). Undigested lactose travels to the colon where it can ferment, causing gas, pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Older adults are especially prone to lactose intolerance.

Casein intolerance

Casein is the main protein found in cow’s milk. Like lactose, it can be difficult for some people to digest. This is sometimes called milk protein intolerance.

Fat content

Full-fat dairy products contain significant saturated fat, which may lead to cramps, urgency, and loose stools.

Artificial hormones

Some conventionally raised cows are treated with rBST (bovine growth hormone) to boost milk production, which may influence digestive health. Choosing organic dairy avoids rBST.

So while many people with diverticulitis find relief by eliminating milk, cheese, ice cream, cream, and butter, what about yogurt?

Is yogurt okay to eat with diverticulitis?

In general, yogurt tends to be better tolerated than milk and hard cheeses by those with diverticulitis for a few key reasons:

Live cultures

The probiotic bacteria cultures in yogurt aid digestion and improve gut health. The two main probiotics in yogurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Studies show probiotics can reduce intestinal inflammation and help prevent diverticulitis attacks (8).

Less lactose

The culturing process converts most of the lactose in milk to lactic acid, leaving only about a third of the original lactose in yogurt. Greek yogurt is even lower in lactose due to the straining process. This makes yogurt easier to digest for the lactose intolerant.

Slow transit time

Yogurt’s thicker texture slows its movement through the colon compared to milk and provides calming probiotics along the way.

Fewer hormones

Some, but not all, yogurt brands are produced from organic or rBST-free milk. Choosing an organic yogurt avoids synthetic hormones.

Less fat

Regular yogurt is lower in saturated fat than whole milk, cheese, butter, and ice cream. Greek yogurt is especially high in protein yet low in fat.

For all these reasons, many people with diverticulitis report yogurt being gentle enough to enjoy in moderation during symptom-free periods as well as recovery. Let’s take a closer look at the best yogurt options for diverticulitis.

Choosing the best yogurt with diverticulitis

When selecting a yogurt, opt for products with:

Active cultures

Choose yogurts labeled “contains active cultures” and list specific strains like L. bulgaricus. Avoid yogurts with “made with” active cultures, as the cultures are destroyed during processing. The more strains, the better.

Low fat

Aim for low-fat or nonfat Greek or regular yogurt. Full-fat yogurts provide too much saturated fat.

Low or no lactose

If lactose is a trigger, look for lactose-free yogurt or yogurt marked 99% lactose-free.


Choose yogurt made from organic milk whenever possible to avoid synthetic hormones like rBST that may be inflammatory.

No added sugar

Yogurts flavored with fruit, honey, or syrups mean extra sugar. Opt for plain nonfat yogurt and flavor it yourself with fresh fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, or other natural ingredients.

No artificial additives

Some yogurt contain artificial colors, flavors, thickeners, and sweeteners that may irritate your gut. Check the ingredient list and choose simple, clean ingredients.

Some of the best yogurts for diverticulitis include:

  • Siggi’s Plain Nonfat Yogurt
  • Nancy’s Plain Organic Yogurt
  • Stonyfield Organic 99% Lactose-Free Yogurt
  • Maple Hill Creamery Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Vivoli 99% Lactose-Free Organic Plain Yogurt

Be sure to read ingredient lists carefully and avoid any yogurts containing triggers like seeds or nuts, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and high fructose corn syrup.

Are there any risks to eating yogurt with diverticulitis?

For most people with mild to moderate diverticulitis, incorporating small amounts of low-fat, Greek-style yogurt into an otherwise high-fiber, diverticulitis-friendly diet poses little risk. But a few precautions are warranted:

  • Start slowly. When adding yogurt back in, stick to a few tablespoons daily and monitor symptoms for a flare-up.
  • Avoid drinking milk kefir, a fermented beverage. The probiotics are beneficial but the lactose content is too high.
  • Stop eating it if diverticulitis symptoms occur and resume a clear liquid diet until the flare-up eases. Then try yogurt again.
  • Avoid yogurt completely during severe episodes, sticking to clear broth until symptoms improve.
  • Some doctors recommend avoiding dairy for 2 weeks after finishing antibiotics for an acute diverticulitis attack.

For those highly sensitive to dairy, any form may need to be avoided. But for most, plain Greek yogurt in small portions is unlikely to cause problems. Those with lactose intolerance can try lactase enzyme drops added to yogurt to improve digestibility.

What’s the verdict?

Anecdotal reports from diverticulitis patients find that plain Greek yogurt is often tolerated and can be reintroduced to the diet during symptom-free periods. Thanks to the probiotics, lower lactose and fat, and higher protein versus milk, small four- to six-ounce portions spaced throughout the week may be okay for many individuals in recovery. But as with any new food, advance slowly and stop immediately if symptoms flare up. For severe cases poorly managed with diet, cases unresponsive to antibiotics, or chronic repeated episodes, all dairy including yogurt may need to be avoided long term. But for less severe diverticulitis, incorporating some plain, low-fat yogurt appears an acceptable option to aid digestion and nutrition. Just be sure to choose quality products and pair it with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes for a balanced, gut-friendly diet.

The bottom line

Yogurt contains beneficial probiotics that can support intestinal health and is often easier to digest than milk and cheese. While some need to avoid all dairy products, most people with mild to moderate, well-managed diverticulitis can likely tolerate plain, Greek-style yogurt with no additives in small amounts. But pay attention to your own tolerance levels, stick to low-fat organic varieties free of added sugars, and be ready to stop eating it if symptoms occur. With the right yogurt choice and careful reintroduction, yogurt can be part of an overall healthy, high-fiber diet for diverticulitis. Just take a slow and steady approach when adding it back in.