Low residue diets are often prescribed in Inflammatory Bowel Disease to allow the intestines time to rest. Decreasing foods that cause high amounts of residue in the intestines will decrease the stool volume and transit time. Less stool and slower moving stool means less work for the inflamed GI tract.
For adults a low residue plan includes less than 10-15 grams of fiber. For children low residue diets generally have less than 7-10 grams of fiber. Whole grains are replaced with white breads and beans and legumes are removed from the diet. Fruits and vegetables should be cooked or canned to limit their residue. White rice, white pasta, eggs, tender non-fibrous cuts of meat, poultry, fish, smooth peanut butter, canned or well cooked vegetables and canned fruit or fruit without seeds or skins are all allowed.
There are also foods that can increase residue, intestinal transit time and can possibly trigger painful flares. Some of these foods include: seeds, nuts, peas, corn, popcorn and crunchy peanut butter. These are all foods to avoid on a Low Residue Diet.
Limited amounts of dairy products are allowed on the Low Residue Diet. A modest amount of milk, yogurt (without fruit) or cottage cheese totaling less than 2 cups per day is generally allowed. The more rich dairy products and strong cheeses should be avoided all together. If you have sensitivity to dairy, it tends to be one of your triggers or if you are lactose intolerant than all dairy should be avoided.
Other foods to avoid include: chocolate, spicy foods, caffeine, juice with pulp, prune juice, berries, dried fruits, raw fruits with skins or pulp and raw vegetables.
There is a more complete table of foods to eat and foods to avoid here:
Though a Low Residue Diet can help during a flare up of IBD it is not recommended for long term use. Often a Low Residue Diet is lacking in essential nutrients. IBD suffers may be at an increased risk for nutritional deficiencies due to absorptive problems so it is imperative that a more varied diet be resumed when the flare up is resolved. Patients may also wish to discuss the use of a vitamin/mineral supplement with their doctors while they are on the low residue diet. When the regular diet is resumed fiber should be added back gradually to avoid painful gas, bloating and diarrhea.
Always consult your doctor before making any changes to your dietary plan.
For more information on diets for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis check out our diet and nutrition page
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.