Low Fibre Diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Introduction to a low fibre diet
It may seem unusual for a website that promotes vitality to include a diet that is low in fibre. But in certain conditions it is very necessary, especially until the condition has healed.
What conditions need a low fibre diet?
Inflammatory bowel conditions like Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease are the most common reasons for a low fibre diet, but any condition, inflammation or irritation of the digestive system can be better supported with a low fibre diet.
These conditions include diarrhoea, gastritis, food poisoning, and diverticulitis that is in an inflamed state. It is also beneficial for those having a colonoscopy, other bowel examinations, and bowel surgery including appendectomies or post bowel surgery recovery.
Benefits of a low fibre diet
Your doctor may suggest reducing the amount of fibre in your diet to rest your bowels (intestines) until inflammation settles. A low-fibre diet reduces the amount of undigested food moving through your bowels, so your body makes less stools and reduces the risk of scratching from fibrous foods.
Two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble
There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
Insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve well in the bowels and there is more ‘roughage’ which contains rough hard bits that may irritate the intestines as it passes through.
On the other hand, soluble fibre attracts water to itself and becomes a gel like substance which is still bulking, but more easily tolerated by a sensitive bowel. This means that foods with a little soluble fibre can be eaten more often in small amounts (depending on why you’re on a low-fibre diet) because the soft fibre gel is less irritating to the intestines.
This is not a ‘low-residue diet’ (often used pre-surgery) but it has less residue than a high fibre diet. Please check with your practitioner to determine if a low fibre diet is suitable for you.
High fibre (high insoluble) foods
- Grains, such as wheat, rye and barley, wholegrain rice, quinoa
- Most seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin/pepitas, sesame (tahini paste from the hulled sesame seeds can be fine in small amounts)
- All nuts, unless ground to a smooth paste or made into mylk
- Lightly cooked vegetables and salads
- All bran’s – husks from grains are high fibre
- Kidney beans and other legumes, lentils
- Most vegetables if lightly cooked or raw (well-cooked is fine)
Low fibre foods & soluble fibre foods
The fibres in these foods are mostly in the soluble (gel like) form which normally cause less irritation/inflammation.
- Bouillon, soup, and broths
- Clear jellies
- Coconut yoghurts, cream, mylks, but not the flesh of coconut
- Chia seeds ground and soaked, small amounts only – chia has a lot of soluble fibre. Check with your practitioner to see if it’s suitable for you
- Flax meal in moderation – only ground and soaked, as with chia
- Minced or ground meat – chicken, beef, turkey
- Tofu – other vegetarian foods like legumes may be too fibrous
- Fish and shellfish
- Smooth nut butters and nut milks
- White rice products
- Quinoa, but only as flakes (porridge)
- Tender cuts of meat or meat that has been slow cooked to fall apart
- Vegetables, fresh and well-cooked (no seeds, stems or skins) or canned vegies
- Strained vegetable juices without pulp or spices
- Apples and pears – small amounts, cooked or canned (no seeds or skins)
- Small amounts of well-ripened banana
- Strained or clear juices
- Cantaloupe/rockmelon or honeydew melon (very ripe) in small amounts
- Mayonnaise and plain salad dressings
- Margarine, coconut oil, and other oils in small amounts
- Plain home-made gravies
- Tomato sauce/ketchup and mild mustard
- Spices, cooked herbs, and salt
- Honey, rice bran syrup, coconut nectar and maple syrup
- Dark chocolate (with no nuts or fruit)
Because low-fibre foods cause fewer bowel movements and smaller stools, you may need to drink extra fluids to help prevent constipation. Do so unless your doctor instructs otherwise.
Before you commence your diet, see your medical or health care professional for qualified guidance about what foods and supplements are best for your body. While on the diet do not stop any medications or supplements previously prescribed unless advised otherwise by your medical or health care professional.
During the early stages of a new diet, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or body aches, which may occur because your body is detoxifying. However, if you are unsure about a symptom at any time, check immediately with your medical or health care professional.