What is a Low Residue Diet?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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A low residue diet is an eating regimen that strictly controls the amount of residue-containing foods a person can consume. Residue is a nutritional term that refers to any foods or nutritional compounds that are not easily broken down and absorbed by the digestive system. High amounts of residue can result in more frequent bowel movements because the body cannot digest the products properly and must rid the body of them. The purpose of temporarily limiting the amount of bowel movements is to prevent any digestive irritation in people with certain medical conditions.

One of the most common uses of a low residue diet is for people with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease is a condition in which the intestines and bowel linings become inflamed and can result in abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, and even malnutrition in severe instances. Ulcerative colitis is similar to Crohn’s disease, but tends to only cause inflammation in the large intestine. High residue foods can make people have to pass stool more often, so doctors may recommend people with inflammatory bowel disease eat low residue foods while their symptoms are present in order to prevent excessive intestinal pain. The diet may also be recommended for people who are recuperating from abdominal or gastrointestinal surgery.


The basis of the low residue diet is soft food with low amounts of fiber. A person on the diet can consume refined, white carbohydrates, such as white rice, bread, pasta, and crackers. He or she is only permitted to drink fruit and vegetable in juice form, with no seeds or pulp. The diet also calls for soft textured protein, such as fish, poultry, and tender cuts of red meat only. Additionally, a person on the diet can have flavored broth with no chunks of vegetables, creamy condiments, and up to 2 cups (480 ml) of dairy products.

High residue foods are not permitted on the low residue diet. These include foods high in nutrients, as well as fiber. Fiber is a naturally occurring substance in plants that may be useful in maintaining weight and preventing disease. It is indigestible, so it must sit in the body until it is combined with other waste products and formed into a bowel movement. High residue foods that are avoided on the diet to limit bowel movements include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.

Not eating high residue foods for an extended period of time can keep a person from consuming enough vitamins and nutrients. This diet is typically only recommended for short amounts of time and is carefully monitored by a doctor. The purpose of temporarily limiting the amount of bowel movements is to prevent any digestive irritation in individuals with certain medical conditions. feels a patient’s digestive inflammation is under control, high residue foods will be slowly introduced back into the everyday diet.



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