A low-residue diet is a diet intended to reduce certain constituents of the bowel, often with consequence for functional behaviour of the bowel. It may be prescribed for patients with ailments or functional gastrointestinal disorders mitigated by fewer and smaller bowel movements each day.

The diet may be used as part of the bowel preparation before a diagnostic procedure such as colonoscopy or as a short-term therapy for acute stages of gastrointestinal illnesses such as Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, bowel obstruction, and ulcerative colitis. In addition, a low-residue diet is often prescribed before and/or after abdominal surgery or cancer treatments.

A low-fiber diet is a low-residue diet eliminating dietary fiber in particular. The terms are not always distinguished, but when they are, a low-residue diet will include additional restrictions on foods such as dairy products, which do not contain fiber but do develop residue after digestion.

If the problem lies with fermentable carbohydrates instead, the patient may be directed to a low-FODMAP diet. Some monotrophic diets, such as the carnivore diet, are implicitly low-residue, but may also sacrifice nutrition.

Dietary guidelines

Standard guidelines

Almost all low-residue diets make the following recommendations:[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

Food type Eat/Drink Avoid
Grains Breads and other baked goods made from refined white flour Whole grain breads and baked goods
Cold cereals made from refined flours, such as cornflakes and rice krispies Whole grain cereals such as bran flakes
White rice, noodles, refined pasta Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and other whole grain foods
Fruits Fruit juices without pulp, except prune juice Juices with pulp or seed, prune juice
Soft fruits such as bananas and melons Dried fruits, berries
Canned or well-cooked fruit Coconuts, popcorn
Vegetables Vegetable juices without pulp Juices with pulp or seed
Potatoes without skin Potato skins
Canned or well-cooked vegetables
Meat, Other Protein Well-cooked tender meat, fish, poultry, eggs Tough meat, meat with gristle
Beans, peas, legumes, nuts
Dairy Milk All dairy if lactose intolerant
Soft, mild cheeses Strong cheeses
Plain yoghurt Yoghurt or cheese containing nuts, berries, raw fruit
Oils Vegetable oils, margarine, butter Fried foods


Quantity of Fiber

A low-fiber diet is not a no-fiber diet. A 2015 review article recommends less than 10 grams of fiber per day.[12] Other sources recommend that a patient on a low-fiber diet eat no more than 10–15 grams of fiber per day.[5] Some sources recommend serving sizes that contain no more than 2 grams per serving.[5][6]


Some diets recommend limiting servings of baked goods to 2 grams per serving.[5][8] Other diets recommend limiting these servings to just 1 gram per serving.[7][9] Most diets also recommend eating warm cereals such as cream of wheat, cream of rice, grits, and farina.[3][6][8][10]


Some diets allow additional raw fruits such as very soft apricot, canned fruit cocktail, grapes, peaches, papayas, plums, or citrus fruits without membrane,[1][2][3][4][5][10] but two rule out all raw fruits.[6][9] Some allow applesauce, other fruit sauces, or peeled and well-cooked apples.[1][3][5][8]


Many diets specifically recommend tomato sauce[1][2][3][8] and prohibit pickles.[1][2][3][4][5][8][11] Two diets actually limit the well-cooked vegetables to yellow squash without seeds, green beans, wax beans, spinach, pumpkin, eggplant, asparagus, beets, and carrots.[2][5] Two diets allow some raw vegetables: lettuce, cucumber (without seeds), and zucchini.[5]

Meat and other proteins

Some diets allow smooth peanut butter[5][10] or smooth nut butters.[8][6] Some diets allow tofu.[5][6][7][10]


Some diets limit dairy to 2 cups per day.[2][10] One diet allows 1.5 ounces (40 g) of hard cheese.[5] Several diets allow pudding or custard,[5][7][9][11] sherbet,[3][8][6][10][11] whipped cream,[5][10] or ice cream.[3][4][8][7][9][11] A couple of diets suggest specific lactose-free products for the lactose intolerant, such as soy milk or whipped cream.[5][6] One diet prohibits whole milk, half and half, cream, sour cream, and regular ice cream.[8]

Condiments and spreads

Some diets allow mayonnaise,[3][5][8][6][9][10][11] ketchup,[3][8] sour cream,[3][7][11] cream cheese,[6] smooth sauces and salad dressings,[3][5][7][9][10][11] plain gravies,[10][11] or whipped cream.[5][10] Several diets allow jelly, honey, and syrup.[3][9][11] Many prohibit jam, marmalade, and preserves.[2][3][4][8][9][11]

Several diets prohibit highly spiced food,[1][3][4][5] but some allow spices, cooked herbs, and seasonings.[8][9][11]


Several diets specifically prohibit caffeine[1][3][8] (two of these allow decaffeinated coffee, tea, and other drinks),[3][8] but some allow coffee, tea, and carbonated drinks.[10][11]

Nutritional quality

If the diet must be strict and followed over a long period of time, the intake of fruits and vegetables may not provide adequate amounts of vitamin C and folic acid. The quantity of calcium may also be inadequate if dairy products are restricted. In these cases, a multivitamin supplement or liquid nutritional supplement may be needed.[1][2]

Conditions that may require a low-residue diet

A low-fiber diet may be used to prepare for or recover from various medical procedures:[1][2][4][5]

A low-fiber diet may also be used during acute stages of the following conditions, to rest the bowels:[1][2][4][5]



The most common preparation for a colonoscopy is a clear liquid diet accompanied by laxatives. However, this may not be the most effective preparation. A 2015 guideline issued by The Standards of Practice Committee of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy recommends using a low-residue diet instead, also accompanied by laxatives,[13] because of evidence that it performs at least as well for bowel cleansing and is associated with better patient satisfaction.[14][15]

Crohn's Disease

A 2016 review of the research found that a semi-elemental whey hydrolyzed protein (WHP) diet is superior for treatment of Crohn's disease.[16]


While a low-fiber diet is generally used for acute diverticulitis, the NIH guidelines recommend a high-fiber diet for patients with diverticulosis (a condition that may lead to diverticulitis).[17] A Mayo Clinic review from 2011 showed that a high-fiber diet can prevent diverticular disease.[18]


In preparation for long-duration toiletless military flights, the crew is sometimes instructed to have a low-residue meal as their last meal before the flight. For example, this was the case with Blackbird pilots.[19]


Most sources treat low-fiber and low-residue diets as identical, but some make a distinction based on the difference between fiber and residue. Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of food made from plants. Residue includes not only fiber but also other materials found in the colon after digestion. When this distinction is made, a low-fiber diet simply reduces fiber intake by eliminating or limiting high-fiber foods such as raw fruits and vegetables. A low-residue diet includes restrictions on foods such as dairy products, which do not contain fiber but do develop residue after digestion.

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' removed the low-residue diet from its Nutrition Care Manual because there is no scientifically accepted quantitative definition of residue and there is no method to determine the residue produced by a food.[12][20][21]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Low Fiber/Low Residue Diet". ATLANTIC COAST GASTROENTEROLOGY ASSOCIATES. Atlantic Coast Gastroenterology. December 17, 2008. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Low Fiber/Low Residue Diet". Jackson|Siegelbaum Gastroenterology. Jackson|Siegelbaum Gastroenterology and West Shore Endoscopy Center. November 3, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Should You Try a Low-Residue Diet?". WebMD. October 25, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Low residue diet" (PDF). Great Western Hospital. Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. May 15, 2012. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Wax, Emily; Zieve, David; Ogilvie, Isla (August 14, 2016). "Low-fiber diet". Medline Plue. ADAM Health Solutions. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Low-Fiber Nutrition Therapy". New York Presbyterian. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Diverticulitis Diet". Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. August 15, 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Manual of Clinical Nutrition Management (PDF). Compass Group. 2013.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Low FIber Diet" (PDF). Rush University Medical Center. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Clinical Dietitians Nutrition Service. "Low-Fiber, Low-Residue Diet" (PDF). Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Low-Residue/Low-Fiber Diet". University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. UPMC. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Vanhauwaert, Erika; Matthys, Christophe; Verdonck, Lies; De Preter, Vicky (November 2015). "Low-Residue and Low-Fiber Diets in Gastrointestinal Disease Management". Advances in Nutrition. 6 (6): 820–827. doi:10.3945/an.115.009688. PMC 4642427. PMID 26567203. Retrieved April 26, 2017. This narrative review focuses on defining the similarities and/or discrepancies between low-residue and low-fiber diets and on the diagnostic and therapeutic values of these diets in gastrointestinal disease management.
  13. ^ Saltzman, John R.; Cash, Brooks D.; Pasha, Shabana F.; Early, Dayna S.; Muthusamy, V. Raman; Khashab, Mouen A.; Chathadi, Krishnavel V.; Fanelli, Robert D.; Chandrasekhara, Vinay; et al. (April 2015). "Bowel preparation before colonoscopy". Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. 81 (4): 781–794. doi:10.1016/j.gie.2014.09.048. PMID 25595062. This is one of a series of documents discussing the use of GI endoscopy in common clinical situations. The Standards of Practice Committee of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy prepared this document that updates a previously issued consensus statement and a technology status evaluation report on this topic
  14. ^ Wu, Keng-Liang; Rayner, Christopher K; Chuah, Seng-Kee; Chiu, King-Wah; Lu, Chien-Chang; Chiu, Yi-Chun (2011). "Impact of low-residue diet on bowel preparation for colonoscopy". Diseases of the Colon & Rectum. 54 (1): 107–112. doi:10.1007/DCR.0b013e3181fb1e52. PMID 21160321. S2CID 25592615.
  15. ^ Helwick, Caroline (May 23, 2016). "Low-Residue Diet Acceptable for Bowel Prep". Medscape. WebMD. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  16. ^ Alexander, Dominik D; Bylsma, Lauren C; Elkayam, Laura; Nguyen, Douglas L (May 6, 2016). "Nutritional and health benefits of semi-elemental diets: A comprehensive summary of the literature". World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 7 (2): 306–319. doi:10.4292/wjgpt.v7.i2.306. PMC 4848254. PMID 27158547.
  17. ^ Strate, Lisa L. "Diverticular Disease". NIH. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  18. ^ Tarleton, S; Dibaise, JK (January 17, 2017). "Invited Review: Low-residue diet in diverticular disease: Putting an end to a myth". Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 26 (2): 137–42. doi:10.1177/0884533611399774. PMID 21447765.
  19. ^ "SR-71 Pilot Interview Richard Graham Veteran Tales". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  20. ^ Alpers, David H.; Taylor, Beth E.; Bier, Dennis M.; Klein, Samuel (January 21, 2015). Manual of Nutritional Therapeutics. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Meant for quick retrieval of vital information regarding the management of nutritional issues in patients with gastroenterological problems--either primary or as the consequence of other medical disorders, such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia and obesity. The book addresses normal physiology and pathophysiology, and offers chapters on diseases that can lead to specific nutritional problems. The clinical focus is on therapeutic nutrition and dietary management.
  21. ^ Cunningham, Eleese (April 2012). "Are Low-Residue Diets Still Applicable?". Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 112 (6): 960. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.04.005. PMID 22709819.