If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) -- like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis -- or diverticulitis, your doctor may suggest you follow a low-residue diet. A low-residue diet involves eating more easily digestible foods. A low-residue diet may reduce symptoms of IBD, such as diarrhea and stomach cramping; however, it will not cure IBD.
What Is a Low-Residue Diet?
A low-residue diet is a diet in which fiber and other foods that are harder for your body to digest are restricted. Fiber is made up of plant material that cannot be completely digested by the body. High-fiber foods include whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, and raw or dried fruits.
Residue refers to undigested foods, including fiber, that make up stool. If intestinal walls are inflamed or damaged, digestion and absorption of nutrients and water may be impaired, depending on the location of disease activity.
In some people with Crohn's disease, the small intestine may also become very narrowed. The idea behind a low-residue diet is to reduce the number and size of bowel movements you have each day, thereby lessening painful IBD symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. However, it does not affect inflammation or the disease itself.
A low-residue/low-fiber diet may be recommended for short-term use during disease flare-ups or following surgery to help with recovery. However, it is not a general eating plan for all people with IBD. Your health care provider or nutritionist can help make sure your diet plan is appropriate. In addition to dietary changes, your health care provider or nutritionist may recommend vitamin supplements.
Low-Residue Diet: Foods to Enjoy
Eating a low-residue/low-fiber diet goes against what nutritionists tout as a healthy way to eat because it severely limits fiber intake and other important nutrients. A low-residue/low-fiber diet usually stays away from grainy, nutty foods that are loaded with fiber.
Here are foods you can eat if you are on a low-residue diet:
- Refined or enriched white breads and plain crackers, such as saltines or Melba toast (no seeds)
- Cooked cereals, such as farina, cream of wheat, and grits
- Cold cereals, such as puffed rice and corn flakes
- White rice, noodles, and refined pasta
Fruits and Vegetables
The skin and seeds of many fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, so peeling skin and avoiding seeds is part of a low-residue diet. The following vegetables can be eaten on a low-residue diet:
- Well cooked fresh vegetables or canned vegetables without seeds, such as asparagus tips, beets, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, squash (no seeds), and pumpkin
- Cooked potatoes without skin
- Tomato sauce (no seeds)
- Ripe bananas
- Soft cantaloupe
- Canned or cooked fruits without seeds or skin, such as applesauce or canned pears