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Should You Try a Low-Residue Diet?

If a doctor has diagnosed you or a loved one with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) -- like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis -- or with diverticulitis, your doctor may suggest you follow a low-residue diet.

Never heard of it? The basic idea is that you'll eat foods that are easy to digest, and you'll limit those that aren't. 

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What Is a Low-Residue Diet?

It's a diet that limits high-fiber foods, such as whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, raw or dried fruits, and vegetables.

"Residue" refers to undigested food, including fiber, that make up stool. The goal of the diet is to have fewer, smaller bowel movements each day, in order to ease symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, gas, and stomach cramping.

Your doctor may recommend that you go on a low-residue diet for a short time when you're having a flare, or after surgery to help with recovery. But it's not a general eating plan for all people with IBD. 

Crohn's can make it harder for your body to absorb nutrients from food. Ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist who can make sure your diet plan is right for you and let you know if you need any vitamin supplements.

What You Can Eat

On a low-residue diet, you can eat:

Grains

  • 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. You can eat the following vegetables on the 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)

Fruits include:

  • Ripe bananas
  • Soft cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Canned or cooked fruits without seeds or skin, such as applesauce or canned pears
  • Avocado
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