Low Residue Diet (Low Fiber)

  • Medical Author:
    Erica Oberg, ND, MPH

    Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

woman with abdominal pain

Low residue diet facts

  • A low residue diet is a low fiber diet with added restrictions that is designed to reduce the amount of stool in the large intestine.
  • A low residue diet is a temporary eating plan with the goal of "resting" the bowel.
  • Low residue diets may be prescribed during flares of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) before or after bowel surgery, when tumors or narrowing of the intestine exist, or for other conditions.
  • Examples of foods on a low residue/fiber diet include:
    • White breads with no nuts or seeds
    • White rice
    • Well cooked vegetables without skin or seeds
    • fresh fruit like bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon
    • Eggs
    • Fish
    • Poultry
    • Dairy products
  • A low residue diet also restricts foods that increase bowel activity, and make the stools looser. These foods and drinks should be avoided, for example:
    • fruit juices like prune juice
    • bran cereals
    • legumes
    • corn
    • leafy vegetables
    • popcorn
    • cheese
  • Those on a low residue diet need to avoid foods high in fiber and whole grains and foods that contain nuts or seeds.
  • Fatty foods that increase stool bulk should also be avoided
  • Having fewer and smaller bowel movements may help relieve symptoms including abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, and gas formation.

What is a low residue diet?

A low residue low residue diet is a diet that is designed to "rest" the bowel. It is a type of low-fiber diet with added restrictions. A low residue diet is not a diet plan to follow regularly. it is advised for some people for the short term during a flare of inflammatory bowel disease here is intestinal narrowing, before or after bowel surgery, and other conditions for which it is useful to reduce the amount of stool in the intestines.

The food we eat is digested so that the body can extract the nutrients it needs to function. What's left over is "residue" or undigested food that passes through the colon (large intestine), and is eliminated as stool or feces. A low residue diet limits fiber and other substances with the goal of reducing stool volume. This results in fewer and smaller bowel movements, potentially relieving symptoms of bowel diseases that can cause inflammation, such as abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, and gas formation.

Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan

It's important to self-manage ulcerative colitis with healthy lifestyle habits and a nutrient-rich diet. Examples of foods to include with an ulcerative colitis diet include:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Dairy products

For what conditions is a low residue diet recommended?

In disease and conditions in which the colon has the potential to be inflamed, a low residue diet may "rest" the colon. The low residue diet limits the amount of work the colon has to do in forming feces because most of the content of the diet is absorbed and less waste is required to be eliminated. Since there is a reduced quantity of stool, the time it takes to pass through the length of the colon is increased, resulting in smaller, less frequent bowel movements.

Low residue diets are often recommended for patients with a number of different conditions, including:

In the past, individuals with diverticulosis or irritable bowel disease syndrome (IBS) might may have been prescribed a low residue diet; however, current recommendations now suggest that a high fiber diet might be of more benefit in these conditions. Special diets may be prescribed during flares of acute bowel inflammation (as with diverticulitis), but a high-fiber diet is generally recommended for people with diverticular disease as this has been shown to be protective for development of diverticula.

Any diet like this one that restricts certain foods may also be responsible for decreased intake of important minerals and vitamins. Calcium, potassium, folic acid and vitamin C supplements may be required with a low residue diet.

Individuals on a low residue diet will want to limit their fiber intake to 7-10 grams per day. Read food labels carefully. Most food packaging will list the amount of fiber on their label.

What are examples of foods to include in a low residue diet?

Examples of low residue foods include:

  • White bread with no nuts or seeds
  • White rice
  • Refined cereals and pastas
  • Vegetables, without skin or seeds that are well cooked.
  • Fresh fruits including ripe bananas, cantaloupe, apricots, honeydew, papaya, peach, plums, and watermelon
  • Canned fruits without seeds or skin like applesauce or pears
  • Lean, tender, ground, or well cooked meats
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Dairy products like milk and yogurt
  • Fats such as vegetable oils, salad dressings, margarine, and creamy peanut utter
  • Decaffeinated beverages
  • Clear juices without skin or seeds, like apple or cranberry
  • Strained vegetable juices

What other diet changes can be made in addition to a low residue diet?

A low residue diet encompasses more than eating less fiber. In addition to decreasing the amount of fiber, individuals eating a low residue diet also should try to restrict foods that increase bowel activity, and make the stools looser. Examples include dairy products and fruit juices such as prune juice that do not have pulp fiber, but do stimulate the bowel.

REFERENCE:

Tarleton, S., et al. “Low-residue diet in diverticular disease: Putting an end to a myth.” Nutrition in clinical practice: official publication of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. 2011: 26(2): 137-142.

"Low-Fiber, Low Residue Diet." Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
<http://www.nmh.org/ccurl/84/948/lowfiber-diet07.pdf>

Low-Residue/Low Fiber Diet. UPMC
<http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/nutrition/pages/low-residue-low-fiber-diet.aspx

Last Editorial Review: 4/4/2016

Reviewed on 4/4/2016
References
REFERENCE:

Tarleton, S., et al. “Low-residue diet in diverticular disease: Putting an end to a myth.” Nutrition in clinical practice: official publication of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. 2011: 26(2): 137-142.

"Low-Fiber, Low Residue Diet." Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
<http://www.nmh.org/ccurl/84/948/lowfiber-diet07.pdf>

Low-Residue/Low Fiber Diet. UPMC
<http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/nutrition/pages/low-residue-low-fiber-diet.aspx

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors