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Low fibre diets: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


Why is it used?

The purpose of the diet is to reduce the amount and/or frequency of faeces produced. Fibre is important to bowel health but for some people reducing the amount of fibre can improve their quality of life.

Who would require the diet?

Radiotherapy of the lower abdomen for cancer can cause diarrhoea. It is therefore beneficial to reduce the amount of fibre within the diet, as this will relieve the stress of frequent trips to the toilet.

Individuals who have had part of their bowel removed or have a colostomy or ileostomy bag may have to modify their fibre intake.

Some people with irritable bowel syndrome may also find that their symptoms are improved if they follow a diet that is lower in fibre (see irritable bowel syndrome).

Very physically active people may find that they benefit from taking a diet that is lower in fibre as this can reduce the frequency and looseness of bowel motions.

Prior to some bowel examinations, low fibre diets may need to be adhered to as part of the preparation for the procedure.

What is the diet and how does it work?

The degree of restriction of fibre does vary with each individual as does the reason why the dietary changes are needed.

The main foods to avoid are:

  • Foods high in fibre, such as wholemeal bread.
  • Wholegrain cereal such as Weetabix, Shredded Wheat and other bran type cereals.
  • Baked beans, other beans, peas and lentils.
  • Nuts and dried fruits.
  • Uncooked vegetables and fruit, especially those with tough skins and pips.
  • Excess quantities of fruit and vegetables.

Foods that can also cause irritation are:

  • Fruit juices and fizzy drinks.
  • Cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts and onions that may contribute to wind and gas.
  • Spicy, fried or very fatty foods, such as curries, cream pastry and chips.
  • Very hot or very cold drinks.
  • Alcohol, strong tea or coffee.

Foods that are known to cause upset should also be avoided.

Potatoes that are cooked and then cooled (e.g. potato salad) tend to be more difficult to digest (due to the starch changing when cooled).

It is important to drink plenty of fluids, especially if diarrhoea is a problem.

If the reason for the low fibre diet is in preparation for a medical procedure, guidelines and a diet sheet will be provided when the procedure is booked.

Will the diet harm me?

Incorporating a wide range of foods, including suitable fruits and vegetables, will ensure the diet is healthy and has enough vitamins and minerals.

What else do I need to know?

If you suffer from prolonged diarrhoea or have recently had a change in bowel habits, you must always consult your doctor to establish if there is any underlying cause which can be treated.

Where else can I get help?

If the diet is prescribed by the doctor for a medical condition, then help should be sought from a State Registered Dietitian who can help assess if the diet is nutritionally balanced. All doctors have access to a dietitian within the NHS alternatively you can contact the British Dietetic Association who can provide names of qualified dietitians who offer their services privately and who are able to help.

The British Dietetic Association
5th Floor,
Charles House
148/9 Great Charles Street Queensway
Birmingham B3 3HT

Tel: 0121 200 8080
Fax: 0121 200 8081