When you hear (or read) the word die, it often conjures up images of painfully thin people exercising on treadmills or other torturous gym equipment. However, the word diet simply refers to the kinds of food that you eat. A low residue diet is often suggested to ease bowel complaints.
What Is A Low Residue Diet?
Residue refers to the undigested food that is excreted through your feces. A low residue diet is one that consists of food that is easy for your body to digest.
If you’re suffering from ailments such as Crohn’s Disease, irritable bowel syndrome or diverticulitis, a low residue diet may be helpful, particularly with symptoms like diarrhea, gas, and stomach cramps.
A low residue diet does not just consist of limiting fiber, it also limits wholegrains, raw vegetables, and some fruits. Milk and dairy products can be eaten but only in moderation and all vegetables should be cooked, not raw.
As a diet, low residue eating should only be a temporary measure.
Many nutrients that your body needs are contained in fiber and whole grains so ask your doctor if you need to take supplements.
What Is Fiber And Where Does It Come From?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is found in plant-based foods. The difference between fiber and other carbohydrates is that fiber is not digested as it travels around the body. However, this does not mean that fiber is not needed in the body. The nutrient plays a major part in blood sugar regulation, cholesterol levels, and weight management.
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble.
Insoluble fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains, and doesn’t dissolve in water. When people talk of roughage, insoluble fiber is what they’re referring to.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can be found in some fruits, avocados, oats, barley, and peas. This is the type of fiber that produces bacteria in the gut that improves immunity in your system. It is also known for improving mood.
Neither type of fiber is good or bad and your body needs both to function properly. Soluble fiber reduces cholesterol levels which is good for your heart. It helps manage blood sugar levels, keeps you feeling full for longer, and promotes healthy bowels and bowel movements.
Insoluble fiber also helps keep you full so it is important for weight management. It can relieve constipation and help prevent hemorrhoids and diarrhea.
All sources of fiber contain both soluble and insoluble components but either one is usually dominant.
What Conditions Can Be Helped By Eating A Low Residue Diet?
The conditions that can be helped with a low residue diet are those that affect the bowel. Your doctor can refer you for tests to diagnose any symptoms that you may be experiencing. Because fiber can be used to increase or decrease bowel movements, it’s particularly important that you receive the correct diagnosis. Confirming a diagnosis for any of the following conditions is usually done through a blood, urine, or stool test or a colonoscopy.
Crohn’s disease occurs as an inflammation of the digestive tract and can cause severe symptoms such as:
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease and the causes are unknown. If unchecked, the condition causes other serious problems such as eye conditions, jaundice, hepatitis, and inflammation of the lower back and spine.
Treatment for Crohn’s disease typically involves anti-inflammatory medication and a change of diet.
As symptoms occur periodically, some people may experience extended periods of wellness followed by flare-ups when symptoms are at their most severe.
As the name suggests, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder which occurs as a cluster of symptoms and can be affected by stress and diet. Symptoms include:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is greatly affected by diet and stress can also bring on symptoms. For sufferers, it is often a matter of trial and error to discover which food causes symptoms to occur.
Diverticulitis is an inflammation or infection in or around the diverticulum. It is thought to be caused by a lack of fiber in the diet and attacks of the disorder can be extremely painful. Symptoms can include:
Diverticulitis can turn into a serious condition if not treated properly. Sufferers may need to be admitted to the hospital if diverticular bleeding occurs. Again, the best treatment is often a change of diet.
The above conditions are not the only reasons why your doctor may recommend a low residue diet. Some medical professionals are recommending the diet to patients who are about to have a colonoscopy.
What To Eat On A Low Residue Diet
Some foods shouldn’t be eaten raw, but are fine to be eaten if they’re cooked.
It’s fine to eat some fruits if they have a soft, pulpy center and you avoid the skin. If you’re at all unsure if a food is suitable for a low residue diet, the best advice is to avoid it.
As we mentioned before, a low residue diet is not a permanent solution so any food that you aren’t able to have now, you will be able to have later. Adhering to a low residue diet gives your body time to heal from its symptoms or its condition which is why it is often recommended after surgery.
Foods You Can Eat on a Low Residue Diet
Foods You Cannot Eat On A Low Residue Diet
What Does A Low Residue Diet Look Like?
At first glance, a low residue diet may seem very restrictive and boring, but it doesn’t have to be. Ask your doctor to refer you to a nutritionist or dietitian who may be able to provide you with recipes or a meal plan that allows for variety.
A low residue diet is for people who are experiencing bowel problems. It is not a diet to help you lose weight and it is not sustainable for any extended length of time. If you are finding this way of eating to be too restrictive, remember that it is only temporary.
Here’s an example of daily meals on a low residue diet which you can follow or adapt to your own preference (following the recommended eating guidelines).
The Risks Of A Low Residue Diet
A low residue diet is often necessary to manage bowel conditions, but as we’ve already mentioned, it should not be continued for an extended length of time. This is because while you’re eating this way, your body can also miss out on some vital nutrients.
Before you begin your low residue diet, we advise speaking to your doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian about whether you should be taking nutritional supplements. While on a low residue diet, you should be in regular contact with your health professional team.
Nutrients You May Lack While on a Low Residue Diet
How To Return To Normal Eating After A Low Residue Diet
Fiber’s main job is to either slow down, or speed up, the digestive process in your body. Obviously, if you have diarrhea, you want that process to slow down and with constipation, you want your digestive system to speed up.
If you’re recovering from surgery, or from an episode of diverticulitis, a low residue diet is recommended to reduce inflammation and help you heal.
Once your symptoms have gone, you can start to reintroduce other foods into your daily diet. Returning to a high fiber diet quickly will bring back your previous symptoms and may even introduce new ones. Instead, introduce one high fiber food each day. If you experience problems, reduce the amount of fiber until you are comfortable.
A low fiber diet is different for everyone but there are guidelines you can follow.
A low fiber diet is when you consume less than 10 to 15 grams of fat per day. With a high fiber diet, 25 to 35 grams is the norm.
Most people have heard of the 8X8 rule which states that you should drink your water from an 8 ounce glass, and that you should have 8 of these glasses each day. This may seem like a lot, but water is essential for moving the fiber easily through your digestive system.
Exercise also helps to move fiber around the body. If you’re recovering from surgery, exercise may be difficult for you, but it does not have to be strenuous. Simply walking about the house regularly will help.
Where To Go For Further Help
If your doctor recommends that you begin a low residue diet they should also tell you why they feel it’s necessary and they should also refer you for tests to determine your diagnosis.
A low residue diet will ease symptoms of bowel distress but should not be undertaken long term without specific instruction from your medical team.
We recommend you consult with your doctor when you feel you can increase the amount of fiber in your diet again.