The Low-Down on the Low Residue Diet


Posted By Author on January 19, 2024

Healthy gut, happy patient. Here at Charleston GI, our team agrees that digestion plays a major role in your overall health. To promote optimal function – and keep you feeling your best – some lifestyle and diet changes may be required.

If you’re experiencing unpleasant GI symptoms, a low residue diet may be the solution. Focused on easy-to-digest options, a low residue diet may be ordered when preparing for a colonoscopy or other procedure, or to deal with a digestive flare-up. Read on to learn more, then contact a GI doctor near you to find out if a low residue diet is recommended. 

Low Residue Diet icon

What is a Low Residue Diet? 

The “residue” that this diet refers to includes any material or solid contents that remain in the large intestine after digestion has occurred – like bacteria, unabsorbed food, and gastric secretions. Designed to encourage smaller, less frequent bowel movements, low residue diets can often help with bloating, cramping, and gas.

The low residue diet is similar to a low fiber diet but is even more exclusive since it aims to cut down on bowel contractions. With this goal in mind, your gastroenterologist at Charleston GI may recommend a low residue diet as colonoscopy prep or to alleviate symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease. Before implementing a low residue diet, be sure to consult a GI doctor near you.

Is This Diet is Right for You? 

Those suffering from certain digestive diseases and GI conditions, along with patients prepping for a procedure, may benefit from a low residue diet. Because it reduces the demand on the digestive tract, a low residue diet often aids in aftercare or helps ease certain symptoms of the digestive tract. Your local GI specialist may recommend a low residue diet for the following conditions:  

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease involves digestive tract inflammation, often where the colon and small intestines meet. Symptoms can range from abdominal cramps to pain passing stool. 

While no cure has been identified, the following dietary and lifestyle changes can help to manage symptoms: 

  • Consuming small, well-balanced meals.
  • Drinking plenty of water in small amounts throughout the day. 
  • Avoiding foods high in fiber or fat, as well as foods that cause gas.
  • Finding healthy ways to manage stress.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that starts in the rectum and may spread to the large intestine over time. Symptoms include abdominal pain, atypical digestive sounds (gurgling or splashing), irregular bowel movements, loss of appetite, and more.

Because many patients experience a decrease in appetite, malnutrition becomes a serious concern. A low residue diet can help provide necessary nutrients while recovering from a bowel obstruction or following a colonoscopy – a procedure frequently used to diagnose ulcerative colitis. 

Diverticulitis 

Diverticulitis develops when small pouches form in the large intestine’s lining. The pouches trap undigested food or waste, which can cause inflammation or infection. Your local GI specialist may recommend that treatment begins with a much-needed rest period for your digestive tract Here at Charleston GI, our board-certified gastroenterologists may recommend a liquid diet followed by a low residue diet. 

Colonoscopy Preparation and Aftercare

Low residue foods are easy for the body to digest and absorb, resulting in less stool. Before a colonoscopy, the day before your procedure, your GI doctor will instruct you to begin the bowel preparation. This helps clean out your colon so that it can be thoroughly examined.

Just like your muscles after an intense workout, the intestines need to rest and recuperate after a colonoscopy or bowel surgery. A diet low in fiber allows the digestive tract to slowly recover instead of rushing a return to normal function.

Choose or Refuse: Food on a Low Residue Diet 

We’ve provided a helpful list of foods to choose and foods to avoid, so check it out below!

Breads, pasta, cereal, and other starches 

  • EAT: 
    • White bread, biscuits, muffins; white pasta; white rice; cornflakes; cooked potatoes without skin; crackers without wheat, nuts, or seeds
    • Fiber content: Less than 0.5 gram per serving 
  • DO NOT EAT:
    • Whole wheat or whole grain breads and pasta; breads with seeds or nuts; wild or brown rice; whole-grain cereals; bran cereals; coconut; dried fruit; oatmeal 

Milk, dairy, and other beverages 

  • DRINK: 
    • Milk; smooth yogurt; ice cream; cheese and cottage cheese; coffee; tea; decaffeinated beverages; carbonated beverages limited to one cup per day 
  • DO NOT DRINK: 
    • Ice cream or yogurt with seeds, nuts, or chunks of fruit; alcohol

Fruit

  • EAT: 
    • Ripe banana; ripe peach, nectarine, papaya, or plum; soft honeydew melon and cantaloupe; cooked or canned fruit without skin or seeds; strained fruit juice (without pulp) 
  • DO NOT EAT: 
    • Raw or dried fruit; all berries; raisins; prunes and prune juice 

Vegetables 

  • EAT: 
    • Well-cooked or canned vegetables without seeds
    • Eggplant, green beans, carrots, yellow squash, pumpkin, beets
  • DO NOT EAT: 
    • Vegetables with seeds; green peas; lima beans; broccoli; corn; tomatoes; fried vegetables; V8 juice 

Meats and proteins 

  • EAT: 
    • Tender, well-cooked meat including meat, poultry, and fish; eggs; tofu; creamy peanut butter 
  • DO NOT EAT: 
    • Tough, chewy meat with gristle; peanuts and crunchy peanut butter 

Fats, oils, sauces, condiments 

  • EAT: 
    • Butter, margarine, oils, whipped cream; mayonnaise; smooth dressings and sauces; smooth condiments
    • Limit 1-2 teaspoons per meal 
  • DO NOT EAT 
    • Dressings with seeds or fruit chunks; pickles and relishes 

Questions? Contact Charleston GI Today! 

A low residue diet is often highly effective in managing symptoms of certain inflammatory bowel diseases. It can also help prepare for or recover from a procedure. But a low residue diet is not recommended for everyone, so be sure to consult your local GI specialist before making lifestyle changes.

Here at Charleston GI, we’ve made quality care more convenient than ever, with four convenient Charleston area locations to choose from – in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, and Carnes Crossroads. There’s no referral needed, so schedule your appointment today with your local GI specialists today!