Low Residue/Low Fiber Diet
The purpose of a low residue diet is to restrict fiber in certain medical conditions such as acute- or sub-acute diverticulitis, and acute phases of inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. A low fiber diet may also be recommended after certain types of intestinal surgery as a transition to a normal diet. It may also be used after ileostomy or colostomy surgery for a period of time.
What is Dietary Fiber?
Fiber is the part of a plant that holds together its structure and is resistant to human digestion. It includes cellulose, polysaccharides, hemicellulose, gums, pectins, lignins, and mucilages. This resistance to digestion is what makes fiber so important when it comes to the normal functioning of the bowels, as well as disorders of the colon and large intestine.
A low residue/low fiber diet usually contains adequate nutrition according to Recommended Dietary Allowances, however, a strict diet that needs to be followed over a longer period of time may not contain enough nutrition from vegetables and fruits or there may not be adequate calcium included. In such cases multivitamins or liquid nutritional supplements may be required.
What is a Low Residue Diet?
A low residue diet restricts or totally eliminates high fiber foods such as cereals, whole grains, seeds, nuts, raw vegetables, and raw or dried fruits. Residue refers to undigested matter, including fiber, that makes up the stool after the initial stages of digestion. This matter often contains a large amount of fiber as the body is unable to digest it. It is similar to a low fiber diet but excludes certain foods that could stimulate bowel contractions. The goal of a low residue diet is to have smaller and fewer bowel movements per day and is meant to increase the time that food spends in the digestive tract. A slowed down digestive process decreases the volume of stool produced and provides more time for the body to absorb essential nutrients. It may also reduce the prevalence of diarrhea which is sometimes associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
How Does a Low Residue Diet Work?
If you are on a low residue diet you should be supervised by a doctor or a dietitian to monitor the types and amounts of food you consume as well as how long the diet should be followed. People who do not suffer from inflammatory bowel conditions can consume between 25 to 38 grams of dietary fiber daily. On a low residue diet fiber is limited to 10 to 15 grams per day. Dairy products should also be avoided as they may cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping. If any discomfort or abdominal cramps are experienced you should immediately notify a doctor or your dietitian. Lots of water and additional fluid intake is important to avoid constipation while on a low residue diet that is intended to reduces the volume of your stools. After a period of time without symptoms, your doctor may allow the gradual introduction of foods with more fiber into your diet.
Foods consumed while on a low residue diet should be well cooked by steaming, boiling, poaching, simmering, or braising to enhance absorption and avoid irritating the digestive system. Cooking methods that make food dry and tough such as roasting, grilling and broiling should be avoided.