Low fibre and low residue diets
A low-fibre or low-residue diet may be prescribed (for around six weeks) immediately after bowel surgery, to rest the bowel and allow it to heal properly.
Fibre is only found in foods that come from plants and there are two types: insoluble and soluble fibre.
- Insoluble fibre. The body can’t digest this type of fibre, so it passes through the gut, helping other food and waste products move through the gut more easily. Wholegrain bread and breakfast cereals, brown rice, and wholewheat pasta are good sources.
- Soluble fibre. This type of fibre can be partly digested and may help reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Oats and pulses are good sources.
A low-fibre diet will reduce the amount of undigested material that passes through your bowel. A low-residue diet will also reduce the size of your stools. Reducing the size and frequency of your stools will help to minimise any abdominal pain, diarrhoea or inflammation of the bowel wall, particularly around the site of the operation.
How long should I follow this diet?
As your digestive system returns to normal, you should be able to gradually add more fibre back into your diet. You should only stay on a low-fibre diet in the short term until your bowel heals. Always refer to the advice given by your dietitian. When you reintroduce fibre into your diet, start with small amounts of soluble fibre, and increase the amount as you are able. Good foods to try first are peeled apples and pears, and oats.
What can I eat on a low-fibre or low-residue diet?
A low-residue diet is more restrictive than a low-fibre diet and, in addition to the guidance on this page, you should avoid caffeine, limit dairy produce to no more than two servings a day, and avoid raw fruits of any kind.
You can eat
- White bread and pasta
- Refined cereals – rice krispies, ready brek
- White rice
- Milk, smooth yogurt, ice cream
- Rice pudding, semolina, tapioca
- Soups and sauces (strained), clear soups and stock
- Tender, lean meat, poultry, fish
- Oil, margarine, butter and mayonnaise
- Fruit juices (except prune juice)
- Vegetable juices
- Smooth peanut butter – up to two tablespoons a day
- Fats, oils and dressings without seeds
- Desserts with no seeds or nuts
- Smooth jam, honey, marmite
You should avoid
- Wholegrain bread and pasta
- Brown or wild rice
- Wholegrain cereals – porridge, muesli, weetabix, branflakes
- Yogurt, pudding and ice cream with nuts or pieces of fruit
- Soups with pieces of vegetable
- Tough or coarse meats with gristle
- Fatty foods
- Chunky peanut butter
- Coconut, seeds and nuts
- Marmalade with shreds
- Dried fruits
- Dried beans or peas (pulses)
- Baked beans
- Seeds and nuts
Low-fibre vegetables that can be eaten raw
- Cucumber (no skin or seeds)
- Courgettes (no skin or seeds)
Low fibre vegetables that can be eaten if well cooked (no skin or seeds)
- Asparagus tips
- Pureed spinach
- Green beans
Vegetables to avoid
- Brussels sprouts
- Pulses and legumes
Low-fibre fruits that can be eaten raw or cooked (no skin)
- Apple sauce
- Ripe apricots
- Ripe melon
- Peaches or nectarines
Fruits to avoid
- Berries of any kind
- Dried fruits
If you are on a low-residue diet you should avoid raw fruits of any kind.