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What Is Low-Residue Diet, and What It’s Used For?

If you have an inflammatory bowel disease, your doctor may suggest a low-residue diet at some point during the treatment/disease management journey. Therefore, it’s only wise to learn the basics of a low-residue diet so you don’t find yourself struggling to understand the concept when the time comes to implement it into your life.

What is a Low-Residue Diet?

A low-residue diet can be defined as a type of low-fiber diet but with some added restrictions. When you’re on a low-residue diet, your daily intake of dietary fiber needs to be under 10 to 15 grams. Additionally, you should also avoid foods that are difficult to digest or could stimulate bowel movement.

As explained by the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, the word ‘residue’ here refers to the solid contents of foods, gastric secretions, and bacteria that end up in the large intestine after the process of digestion is completed[1] and contribute to making stool.

What Is the Purpose of Low-Residue Diet?

The basic purpose of a low-residue diet is to reduce the frequency and size of bowel movements to provide relief from the painful symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as stomach cramps, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. A low-residue diet is also used to help manage flare-ups and speed up the recovery process after bowel surgery, such as resection, ileostomy, and colostomy.

Doctors may also recommend a low-residue diet to patients who need a colonoscopy for a short time before performing the diagnostic procedure.

What Foods You Need to Avoid On a Low-Residue Avoid

When following a low-residue diet, you should stay away from the following foods:

· All raw vegetables

· Cruciferous vegetables (even in cooked forms) – cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Swiss

chard, kale, Brussel sprouts

· Whole grains – breads, pastas, oatmeal, cereals, buckwheat, millet, crackers, rice

· Tough meats with gristle

· Cured and smoked deli meats

· Nuts and seeds

· Fruits that are eaten with skin and/or seeds, such as berries and dried fruits

· Lentils, dried beans, and peas

· Coconut

· Crunchy nut butters

· Tofu

· Jams and marmalades

· Pickles, relish, and olives

The Benefits of Low-Residue Diet

A Low-residue diet isn’t a cure for inflammatory bowel diseases or any other digestive tract disorder. However, it can help ease the painful symptoms during flare-ups and allow the bowel to heal quicker after surgery by reducing the amount of work it has to do.

High-fiber foods generally leave residue (undigested food particles)in your colon. While these do not create any problem in healthy people, those with digestive tract disorders, such as IBDs, can have some trouble with the undigested food. A low-fiber diet significantly reduces the amount of residue in the large intestine, reducing the amount and frequency of bowel movements. As a result, your bowel gets to rest.

A Word of Caution

It’s important to note that a low-residue diet is only a temporary solution to ease the symptoms during a flare-up or to heal after surgery. Following a low-residue diet for a long time may lead to gastrointestinal issues, like constipation and nutritional deficiencies.

It’s also important to note that this diet is not recommended for everyone with IBD or any other chronic disorder of the digestive tract. So, only follow it if and when recommended by your doctor. If you think you can benefit from a low-residue diet, discuss it with your doctor first to make sure it’s right for you.

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