What is a Low-Residue Diet & How Does It Work? | Foods to Eat and Avoid in Low Residue Diet

What Is A Low-Residue Diet?

A diet that limits high-fiber foods such as whole grains, cereals, nuts, seeds, raw or dried fruits, and vegetables is called a low-residue diet.

Residue includes undigested foods including fiber that makes up stool. The main goal of a low-residue diet is to have fewer, smaller bowel movements each day that would help ease diarrhea, bloating, gas, and stomach cramping.

Low-residue diet helps limit the time spent by the food traveling through the digestive tract. Slowing down the digestion process decreases the amount of stool produced by the body.

Low-residue diet is also recommended by doctors for a little while after you have a flare or after surgery to help in recovery.

How Does A Low-Residue Diet Work?

25-38 grams of fiber is a daily recommended amount for a person.(1) But, this may not be right for people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.

If following a low-residue diet, it is advised to consume no more than 10-15 grams of fiber a day.

Dairy products and carbohydrates should also be avoided as they may provoke abdominal cramping and diarrhea.

The diet should be followed under the supervision of a dietician or a healthcare professional. The types of foods and their amount should be dictated by an individual’s needs.

Following a low-residue diet for a long can lead to the development of vitamin C and folic acid deficiency. It can also change the gut microbiome.

What To Eat In A Low-Residue Diet?

There are a few common guidelines for a low-residue diet. These can be changed depending on the body’s response of an individual.

Foods to eat when following a low-residue diet are:

  • Raw lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, and onion
  • Clear juices, broths, and strained soup
  • Refined carbohydrates, white rice, pasta, and refined cereals
  • Butter, vegetable oils, and margarine
  • Well cooked or canned vegetables, spinach, pumpkin, eggplant, green beans, asparagus, beets, carrots, and potatoes
  • Raw fruits including ripe apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, nectarines, papayas, peaches, and plums
  • Finely ground and well-cooked meat
  • Fish, eggs, and poultry
  • Smooth milk products such as cottage cheese, yogurt, and ricotta cheese. Their consumption should be up to 2 cups a day

Foods To Avoid In A Low-Residue Diet

Foods that should not be consumed when following a low-residue diet are:

  • Dried fruits
  • Legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Fig, prunes, and berries
  • Caffeine
  • Deli meats
  • Dried fruits
  • Prune juice or juices with pulp
  • Chocolate
  • Unprocessed coconut
  • Most of the whole grains, including bread and pasta
  • Spicy foods and dressings

The low-residue foods should be well-cooked, therefore, cooking methods such as roasting, grilling, and broiling should be avoided. These techniques make the food tough and dry.

Seaming, microwaving, poaching, braising, and simmering are the good cooking method to make low-residue foods.

Additional fluids are advised to avoid constipation.

Who Can Start With A Low-Residue Diet?

There are certain conditions in which a low-residue diet can be beneficial.

Crohn’s Disease

  • Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that inflames or damages the digestive system.
  • There is no cure for this illness, but diet changes can help achieve remission.
  • A low-residue diet may aid reduction in symptoms like pain and cramping that occur due to bowel obstruction and narrowing of the ileum and small intestine.
  • However, research done on the diet’s effectiveness for inflammatory bowel disease is inconclusive or contradictory.(2)

Preparation For Colonoscopy

A low-residue diet can be advised to those who are about to undergo colonoscopy. It limits the size and number of stool and hence can be beneficial.

Recovery After Recent Bowel Surgery

Those recovering from a recent bowel surgery (e.g., ileostomy, colostomy, or resection) are often recommended a low-residue diet by the medical profession temporarily.

A low-residue diet may not provide enough vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, antioxidants, or nutrients for gut bacteria. It should not be followed for a long period of time, as it is not a healthy way to eat.

Consult a doctor or a nutritionist, to make sure the diet is right for you and to know if you need to take any supplements along.

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