While many diet plans are designed to help you lose weight, some are intended to alleviate symptoms of disease. One such plan is the low-residue diet. People with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, or diverticulitis, as well as those who have undergone intestinal surgery may benefit from eating foods easy to digest and avoiding foods that aren't.
Also called a low-fiber or fiber-restrictive diet, the low-residue diet can help relieve the diarrhea, pain, and weight loss associated with certain bowel conditions. To learn what a low-residue diet looks like, keep reading.
A fiber-rich diet helps maintain regularity and ensures food moves smoothly through your digestive tract, something people with certain bowel conditions need no extra help with. This is why eating a diet low in fiber is often recommended for those with IBD.
After your colon is finished digesting food, fiber and other substances are left in the colon that weren't completely digested. These leftovers are known as residue and are what makes up stool. So, less fiber equals less stool, a good thing for those with flares of cramping, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Most weight-loss diets encourage the consumption of foods high in fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, beans, nuts, and seeds), while the low-residue diet discourages fiber-rich foods that contribute to excess stool.
When low-fiber foods are carefully chosen you can get the nutrition your body needs, but it's important to work closely with your doctor or dietician while on a low-residue diet. In many cases, a low-residue diet is needed only for short periods of time. When symptoms subside, fiber can be slowly reintroduced. Just be sure to work with a professional to ensure you do it properly.
Not sure what a low-fiber, low-residue diet looks like? That’s about to change. Here are some examples of foods to eat from each food group.
Fruits and vegetables are known to be high in fiber, but the fiber is found mostly in their skin and seeds. Cooked vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, green beans, spinach, beets, mushrooms, pumpkin, and tomato sauce are acceptable on a low-residue eating regimen, while corn, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, and peas aren't. Ripe bananas, honeydew melon, applesauce, canned pears, and avocados are recommended fruits, but you’ll want to steer clear of dried fruits.
You hear all the time how important it is to choose whole-grains over refined grains, but on a low-residue diet, the opposite is true. To skip the fiber found in grains, choose white breads; crackers; pastas; noodles; rice; and cereals like grits, cream of wheat, corn flakes, or rice puffs.
Dairy products like milk, some yogurts, and cheese are fiber-free and generally safe to eat in moderation, but if you are intolerant of lactose—the sugar found in milk—look for lactose-free products.
Like dairy, meat doesn't contain fiber, so it's fine to eat lean, tender portions of beef, chicken, fish, and pork. Eggs are also a great option to get your protein. However, beans, tofu, lentils, nuts, seeds, and deli meats are to be avoided.
Good news! Foods like sweets, oils, and sauces are also low in fiber, so they're acceptable to eat in moderation on the low-residue diet.
Don't forget about drinks. Besides water, safe things to drink include milk, tea, decaffeinated coffee, soda, and juices without pulp.