Should You Try a Low-Residue Diet?

When your doctor says you have an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) -- like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis -- they may suggest a low-residue diet.

The basic idea is that you'll eat foods that are easy to digest and cut back on those that aren't.

What Is a Low-Residue Diet?

It limits high-fiber foods, like whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, raw or dried fruits, and vegetables.

Peace of Mind on the Road With Crohn'sBeing in an unfamiliar place with Crohn's can cause a lot of stress. Keep your cool with these tips.79

MARC SONENSHINE: If you're

traveling, it's always

important to remember

your medication.

So if that's what's got you

in remission, well, then, you've

got to have your medications,

whether you're on the road

or at home.



DAVID WEINSTEIN: Be careful

where you're traveling if you're

on a biologic agent.

You want to avoid places where

tuberculosis is highly

prevalent.

I often will prescribe them

some antibiotics,

and advise them if they're going

to an area

where the drinking water is

suspect that perhaps they ought

to drink bottled water.



MARC SONENSHINE: As far

as specific diets,

listen, the healthier you eat,

the better one would be.

With traveling, it can be very

challenging to stay

on a specific diet.



DAVID WEINSTEIN: If you're

traveling to an area,

say, Italy, you're probably not

going to forego gluten

at that time.

And you're going to want to eat

pasta.



MARC SONENSHINE: I usually tell

people lean and green

is sort of the best.

So lean meats, green vegetables.



The CCFA has these cards

that doctors can sign

and say that you have Crohn's

disease.

So it's sort of is a get you

to the front of the line

for a bathroom card.

Most patients who've been

dealing with Crohn's disease,

who have active inflammation,

the first thing they do when

they walk in anywhere

is, where is the closest

bathroom?

Frankly, patients probably know

how to do that better

than doctors

do because they've been dealing

with it for a while.

Marc Sonenshine, MD, Gastroenterologist, Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates.<br>David Weinstein, MD, Gastroenterologist, Emory Saint Joseph's./delivery/e0/87/e08748b3-30e0-498d-8879-aaa1b386744c/vd-1362-crohns-disease-peace-of-mind-on-the-road_,2500k,4500k,750k,400k,1000k,.mp401/03/2018 12:00:0000crohns disease peace of mind on the road video/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/article_thumbnails/video/crohns_disease_peace_of_mind_on_the_road_video/650x350_crohns_disease_peace_of_mind_on_the_road_video.jpg091e9c5e818bcc46

"Residue" is 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 like diarrhea, bloating, gas, and stomach cramping.

Your doctor may recommend this diet for a little while when you have a flare, or after surgery to help with recovery.

What 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

Continued

Fruits and Vegetables

The skin and seeds of many fruits and vegetables are full of fiber, so you need to peel them and avoid the seeds.

These vegetables are OK:

  • Well-cooked fresh vegetables or canned vegetables without seeds, like asparagus tips, beets, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, squash (no seeds), and pumpkin
  • Cooked potatoes without skin
  • Tomato sauce (no seeds)

Fruits on the good list include:

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

Milk and Dairy

They're OK in moderation. Milk has no fiber, but it may trigger symptoms like diarrhea and cramping if you're lactose intolerant. If you are (meaning you have trouble processing dairy foods), you could take lactase supplements or buy lactose-free products.

Meats

Animal products don't have fiber. You can eat beef, lamb, chicken, fish (no bones), and pork, as long as they're lean, tender, and soft. Eggs are OK, too.

Fats, Sauces, and Condiments

These are all on the diet:

  • Margarine, butter, and oils
  • Mayonnaise and ketchup
  • Sour cream
  • Smooth sauces and salad dressing
  • Soy sauce
  • Clear jelly, honey, and syrup

Continued

Sweets and Snacks

You can satisfy your sweet tooth on a low-residue diet. These desserts and snacks are OK to eat in moderation:

  • Plain cakes and cookies
  • Gelatin, plain puddings, custard, and sherbet
  • Ice cream and ice pops
  • Hard candy
  • Pretzels (not whole-grain varieties)
  • Vanilla wafers

Drinks

Safe beverages include:

  • Decaffeinated coffee, tea, and carbonated beverages (caffeine can upset your stomach)
  • Milk
  • Juices made without seeds or pulp, like apple, no-pulp orange, and cranberry
  • Strained vegetable juices

 

What You Can’t Eat

On this plan, you’ll stay away from:

  • Coconut, seeds, and nuts, including those found in bread, cereal, desserts, and candy
  • Whole-grain products, including breads, cereals, crackers, pasta, rice, and kasha
  • Raw or dried fruits, like prunes, berries, raisins, figs, and pineapple
  • Most raw vegetables
  • Certain cooked vegetables, including peas, broccoli, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, corn (and cornbread), onions, cauliflower, potatoes with skin, and baked beans
  • Beans, lentils, and tofu
  • Tough meats with gristle, and smoked or cured deli meats
  • Cheese with seeds, nuts, or fruit
  • Crunchy peanut butter, jam, marmalade, and preserves
  • Pickles, olives, relish, sauerkraut, and horseradish
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit juices with pulp or seeds, prune juice, and pear nectar

How to Make It Work for You

As long as you follow the general guidelines for the diet, you can mix and match as much as you’d like. There are many meal options to choose from on a low-residue diet:

Breakfast

  • Decaffeinated coffee with cream and sugar
  • Cup of juice, such as no-pulp orange juice, apple juice, or cranberry juice
  • Farina
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Waffles, French toast, or pancakes
  • White-bread toast with margarine and grape jelly (no seeds)

Lunch

  • Baked chicken, white rice, canned carrots, or green beans
  • Salad with baked chicken, American cheese, smooth salad dressing, white dinner roll
  • Baked potato (no skin) with sour cream and butter or margarine
  • Hamburger with white seedless bun, ketchup, and mayonnaise -- and lettuce if it doesn't make your symptoms worse

Dinner

  • Tender roast beef, white rice, cooked carrots or spinach, white dinner roll with margarine or butter
  • Pasta with butter or olive oil, French bread, fruit cocktail
  • Baked chicken, white rice or baked potato without skin, and cooked green beans
  • Broiled fish, white rice, and canned green beans

Continued

Everyone is different. You may be OK with some of the things listed under "foods to avoid," while other items on the "foods to enjoy" list may bother you. So keep a food diary for a few weeks. Track what you eat and how it makes you feel, so you know what works for you.

If you enjoy whole grains, nuts, and raw fruits and vegetables, shifting to a low-residue diet may be hard. But if you prefer white bread and pasta, don't mind canned fruits and vegetables, and are happy to snack on saltines and vanilla wafers, it may come naturally.

Remember, this isn’t a healthy way to eat for a long time because it skips many important nutrients.

Ask your doctor if they know a nutritionist who can help make sure your diet is right for you and let you know if you need to take supplements.

 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on October 15, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: "Low-Residue/Low-Fiber Diet," "Following a Low-Fiber Diet."

Hoag Health Network: “Low Fiber/Low Residue Diet.”

National Institutes of Health: "Fiber-Restricted Diet."

Greenwich Hospital: "What is a Low Fiber/Low Residue Diet."

Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo: "Low Residue Diet."

"Colitis Cookbook: Diet for Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease."

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America: "Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis: Diet and Nutrition."

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