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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Health Center

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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, ulcerative colitis, or diverticulitis -- he may suggest 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, like whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, raw or dried fruits, and vegetables.

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

Your doctor may recommend this 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 to suggest a nutritionist who can make sure your diet is right for you. He can also 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, like farina, cream of wheat, and grits
  • Cold cereals, like 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 you need to peel them and avoid the seeds. These vegetables are OK:

  • 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 on the list include:

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

Milk and Dairy

Milk products are OK in moderation. Milk has no fiber, but it may trigger symptoms like diarrhea and cramping if you have lactose intolerance, which means your body can’t process dairy. You could use lactase supplements or eat lactose-free products.

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