Fiber is an integral part of what we eat. Whether you eat fruits, vegetables, or whole grains, they are loaded with fiber which doesn’t digest in the body; however, it facilitates the digestion process. While it’s always best to go for a balanced diet, there may be instances when your doctor may recommend a low residue diet.
In this post, we look at what is a low residue diet and when it is safe for you to go for it. So let’s get started.
What Is A Low Residue Diet?
A low residue diet is primarily a diet that restricts fiber intake, which is an essential part of almost all fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Since fiber is also a part of the undigested solid waste that leaves the body, a low residue diet reduces the amount of undigested material that passes through your large intestine. Hence the stool bulk is lessened.
If you are healthy and do not have any medical conditions, it’s best to stick to a balanced diet that contains fiber as it helps improve your digestion while keeping your cholesterol and weight in a healthy range.
However, there may be certain medical conditions where your digestive system is not working at an optimal level. In that case, your doctor may recommend a low residue diet. As your specific health condition improves and your digestive system starts to function normally, you can return to your original diet. However, you should never start a low residue diet, nor should you revert to a normal diet without consulting your healthcare provider.
As mentioned earlier, a low residue diet intends to restrict the intake of fiber. Hence you need to limit your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. While you will still need the essential minerals and vitamins present in these foods, you need to limit the intake depending upon your medical condition and your doctor’s suggestion.
In some cases, your healthcare provider may also restrict your intake of milk and dairy products. While milk and other dairy products do not contain fiber, they may contribute to indigestion or abdominal discomfort if you already have a digestive tract disorder.
Moreover, if you choose packaged foods, make sure you read the labels thoroughly. When following a low residue diet, you must always go for foods with no more than 2 grams of fiber per serving. Furthermore, you need to avoid foods that contain
- Nuts and seeds,
- Whole grains, popcorns, and bran,
- Brown rice, oatmeal, granola bars, and barley,
- Beans, and lentils,
- Fruits and vegetables (other than the ones mentioned below)
Instead, you can choose the following foods
- Meat, poultry, and fish,
- White rice and pasta,
- Cereals with less than 2 grams of fiber per serving,
- Fresh fruit juices,
- Canned peaches without skin,
- Melons, peeled apples, apple sauce, and bananas.
When To Go For A Low Residue Diet?
Your doctor may recommend a low residue diet if you have the following digestive system conditions.
- There is a tumor in your intestine, or you have narrowing of the bowel due to any other health condition such as inflammatory disease such as Crohn’s disease,
- You had bowel surgery and are currently recovering,
- If you are preparing to undergo a colonoscopy,
- You are undergoing any other medical treatment, such as radiation, that has affected the functioning of your digestive tract.
What To Keep In Mind About Low Residue Diet
When your doctor recommends a low residue diet, you must always keep in mind that the idea behind this eating pattern restricts what you eat. Hence when you stick to a low residue diet, you may not meet all your nutritional needs. If you continue this eating pattern for a long time, you may run into certain food deficiencies. Therefore, you need to consult a registered dietitian to ensure that all your nutritional needs are met.
Is A Low Residue Diet Safe For You?
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are an integral part of a balanced diet. They contain minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants and each of these nutrients is critical for a healthy body. In normal circumstances, when you have a functional digestive system, you need to stick to a balanced diet that contains enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. With a normal functioning digestive system, sticking to a low residue diet is unhealthy for you. It can lead to nutritional deficiencies as well as causes problems such as constipation and abdominal discomfort. In the long run, a low residue diet can be linked to more serious health conditions such as high blood cholesterol levels, colon cancer, and diverticulosis.
However, if you have a digestive tract disorder, are undergoing a procedure, are recovering from any bowel surgery, or have any other condition that requires you to reduce your stool bulk, your doctor may prescribe you a low residue diet. In that case, you will still have to discuss some important details with your doctor and dietitian, such as
- For how long will you have to follow a low residue diet?
- What are the potential risks of following a low residue diet for more than a certain time period?
- Do you need to take any nutritional supplements?
- What foods are strictly prohibited, and what foods are allowed?
Remember, a low residue diet is not safe for you unless prescribed by your doctor. Hence, you should never start a low residue diet without consulting a registered dietitian and your primary healthcare provider. Sticking to a low residue diet without any genuine health concern (and your doctor’s recommendation) can lead to serious health concerns.