What Is a Low Residue Diet and Is It a Good Fit for You?

A low residue diet is a diet that is sometimes prescribed when you have diverticulosis, in some instances of Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or inflammatory bowel disease. But precisely what is a low residue diet, and is it a good fit for you?
 

If you're experiencing digestive issues, a low residue diet could be part of an excellent treatment plan for you. Let's dive into answering the question: What is a low residue diet?

What Is a Low Residue Diet?

The "residues" in a low residue diet are what we call the components of food that pass through the intestine without being digested. These are things like fiber, which is then meant to be expelled from our bodies. Foods low in residues are easy to digest and absorb. Low residue foods leave less waste in your body and thus decrease bowel movements, allowing the intestines to rest. So, what is a low residue diet? To put it simply, it's a specialized, low fiber diet.

Now that we've answered the question, what is a low residue diet, let's see if it's a good fit you and your dietary needs.

Do You Need a Low Residue Diet?

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What is a low residue diet good for? The consumption of foods low in fiber helps to slow down your bowel movements. This helps decrease diarrhea, gas, and inflammation. Your doctor may recommend that you follow a low residue diet if you have:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diverticulitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

A doctor or nutritionist may put you on a low residue diet temporarily after certain types of intestinal surgery, such as an ileostomy or colostomy. You may have to follow this diet only for a short time to give your bowel a break. Or, you may have to stay on the low residue diet longer.

To give your bowel time to heal, you'll need to cut back on fiber.

Types of Fiber

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There are two types of fiber:

  • Soluble fiber
  • Insoluble fiber

We can hardly find foods that contain only one type of fiber. Among the foods rich in insoluble fiber, we have whole grains, nuts, little ripe fruits with skin and dried, and certain vegetables (spinach, beans, peas, etc.).

Among the foods rich in soluble fiber, we find skinless and well-ripened fruits such as apples, bananas, pears, quince, legumes without skin, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, flour of corn, and refined white rice.

The type and quantity of fiber available can be modified based on the maturity of the fruit and how it is prepared.

Why Eat a Low Residue Diet?

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The purpose of this diet is to limit bowel movements, in order to:

  • Absorb nutrients
  • Avoid gastrointestinal irritation
  • Recover and/or maintain nutritional status
  • Prevent the formation of intestinal obstructions
  • Maintain the digestive tract at relative rest
  • Decrease weight and waste volume to avoid abdominal distension
  • Slow the gastrointestinal process

What Can You Eat and Drink on a Low Residue Diet?

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It won't do any good knowing the answer to "what is a low residue diet" if you don't know what foods you can eat and what beverages you can drink. A diet low in fiber can include foods that you usually eat, such as cooked vegetables, fruits, white bread, and meats. Your doctor may give you a list of things you can or can not eat or drink. Read food labels and choose foods and beverages that have the lowest possible amount of fiber.

These are the general guidelines to be aware of before discussing what is a low residue diet with your doctor or nutritionist.

Foods Not Allowed on a Low Residue Diet

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A low residue diet does not include foods that are high in fiber or foods that cause gas. These foods are:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Raw vegetables and fruits or their juices
  • Vegetables and fruits with peel
  • Nuts and seeds

Your doctor or nutritionist will also tell you not to eat more than a certain number of grams of fiber per day, such as 10 to 15 grams.

Foods Allowed on a Low Residue Diet

Here are some recommended foods for a diet low in fiber and waste, also known as a low residue diet. It is still possible that some of these foods disturb your body. Talk to your doctor about your diet and any signs that food is making your problem worse. A nutritionist can help you with appropriate meal planning.

Dairy Products

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You can consume up to two cups total of soft dairy products per day. This includes:

  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Milk
  • Pudding
  • Creamy soup
  • Hard cheese

Avoid dairy products that have added nuts, seeds, fruits, or vegetables.

Breads and Grains

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You can consume refined white breads as long as these foods have less than two grams of fiber per serving. This includes:

  • Dry cereals (like corn flakes)
  • Non whole grain pasta
  • Crackers

Stay away from breads and grains that have over two grams of fiber per serving.

Raw Vegetables

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You can eat the following vegetables raw:

  • Lettuce (in small pieces, starting with small amounts)
  • Cucumbers (without peel or seeds)
  • Zucchini

You can eat the following vegetables if they are canned or cooked well. You can also take the juices made from them if they do not contain seeds or pulp:

  • Yellow pumpkin (without seeds)
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Butter beans
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Carrots

Avoid eating any vegetables that are not in the previous list. Stay away from fried vegetables. Avoid vegetables and sauces with seeds.

Fruits

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On a low residue diet, you can consume fruit juices without pulp and many canned fruits or fruit compotes, such as apples. The raw fruits that you can consume are:

  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet Melon
  • Watermelon
  • Nectarines
  • Papayas
  • Ripe plums

Avoid all other raw fruits. Other fruits to avoid are:

  • Canned or raw pineapple
  • Fresh figs
  • Berries
  • All dehydrated fruits
  • Fruit seeds
  • Prunes and prune juice

Protein

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What is a low residue diet without a list of foods you can and cannot eat? A low residue diet offers many protein options. You can eat:

  • Cooked meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Creamy peanut butter
  • Tofu

Protein and meats should be tender and soft, not difficult to chew.
Avoid eating:

  • Cold meats
  • Hot dogs
  • Sausages
  • Roasted peanut butter
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Tempeh

Fats, Oils, and Sauces

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Luckily you can still indulge in fats, oils, and sauces on a low residue diet. You can eat:

  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Oils (olive, vegetable)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Whipped Cream
  • Sauces
  • Smooth dressings
  • Mild seasonings

Refrain from eating:

  • Spicy foods
  • Spicy dressings
  • Thick condiments
  • Pickles
  • Fried foods with lots of oil

Other Foods and Beverages

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You can still eat sweet desserts and drink delicious beverages. However, do not eat or drink things that contain:

  • Nuts
  • Coconut
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially if you are experiencing diarrhea.

Is a Low Residue Diet Safe?

The low residue diet is recommended in acute phases of ulcerative colitis and enteritis. It is also used as a pre or post-surgical diet. For this reason, a low residue diet should not be considered a long-term lifestyle change.

Restricting fiber consumption for extended periods can lead to vitamin deficiencies. If your doctor has recommended a long term plan for a low residue diet, make sure to follow their instructions. When considering what is a low residue diet and whether it's right for you, remember that bland foods can get boring quickly, leading to binge eating. This could also cause intestinal upset.

Side Effects of Low Residue Diets

By eating foods low in fiber that the body can easily digest, you will effectively decrease bowel movements. Generally, the goal is to eat less than 10 to 15 grams of fiber each day. This must be carefully balanced with vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that are needed. A low residue diet can be a healthy one.

Although it is true that if this diet is maintained for a long time, you may find it necessary to take some supplements (such as folic acid and vitamin C). Besides getting bored with bland food, a low residue diet can lead to anemia or vitamin C deficiency, which can lead to scurvy. Another common side effect of this diet is constipation. Make sure to stay hydrated to avoid this.

Is a Low Residue Diet Right for Me?

Now that we've answered "What is a low residue diet," and "Is it right for me?" you may have additional questions. You will probably continue this diet for a short period only since low-residue foods generally do not provide all the nutrients needed to maintain good health.

General Advice for a Low Residue Diet

When choosing foods for a low residue diet, select foods with low sugar content and added fat. When developing a strict diet plan like a low residue diet, your body may not be receiving all the vitamins and minerals it needs to stay healthy. Therefore, you may have to take supplements, such as a multi-vitamin.

Your doctor will tell you how long you should follow this diet, and you may also recommend specific vitamins to ensure you get enough nutrients. Always check with your doctor or dietitian before beginning any supplement treatments.

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