What is fibre?
Dietary fibre is an essential nutrient which is recommended as part of a healthy diet. Fibre comes from the part of plants which is not digested, but instead passes through the digestive system without being absorbed. Its primary role is in supporting the normal functioning of the gut and helping to prevent constipation by making stools softer and easier to pass. Fibre has also been shown to lower high blood cholesterol levels, with regular intake related to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
Who might require a low-fibre diet?
There are some people who may be advised to lower their fibre intake for medical reasons:
- If they are experiencing persistent diarrhoea, especially if caused by a flare-up of an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- To ease the passage of stool through the bowel when there is an obstruction or stricture
- To reduce the amount of gas produced in the large bowel and so help to reduce symptoms such as bloating and stomach discomfort
- It may be recommended to prepare the bowel before undergoing bowel investigations
Foods to include and avoid on this diet
A low-fibre diet is made up of foods that are easily digested and absorbed, leaving minimal residue in the bowel.
Fruit and vegetables
Allowed: sieved tomato sauces (no skin or seeds), tomato purée, well-cooked vegetables with no skin, seeds, stalks, mash or creamed potatoes (no skin), melon (no seeds/skin), stewed apple, plums, tinned pears/peaches, ripe banana and fruit juices with no bits.
Avoid: all fruit skins, stalks, seeds and stones, all dried fruit and smoothies. All vegetable stalks, skins, seeds and peel. Raw vegetables and all other vegetables not listed, including cabbage, curly kale, celery.
Allowed: any white bread, white rice and pasta, plain scones, white pitta, chapati, refined breakfast cereals like cornflakes and Rice Krispies.
Avoid: wholemeal, granary and rye bread. All fruit and nut breads, including walnut, granary or fruit muffins or scones and pastries with fruit/dried fruit. Brown rice, wholewheat pasta and bulgur wheat. Wholegrain and high-fibre cereals, such as Weetabix, All Bran, porridge oats, muesli, bran and wheat germ.
Meat, fish, dairy and alternatives
Allowed: all fresh meat, sausage, bacon, meat pies (avoid tough or fatty meat). All fresh, tinned, smoked fish and fish in white breadcrumbs/batter. Eggs, soya, Quorn, tofu. All milk, smooth yogurt (with no bits) and cheese.
Avoid: meat casseroles, pies, pasties containing vegetables, sausages with onions. Fish in wholemeal breadcrumbs. All types of nuts and all peas, beans, pulses e.g. kidney, baked, lentils. Hummus and yogurt with bits.
Allowed: ice cream, jelly, custard, plain biscuits, jelly type jams, marmalade (no peel), lemon curd, smooth chocolate and sweets. All should still be consumed in moderation (small amounts, less often).
Avoid: jam and marmalade containing fruit, seeds or peel, peanut butter, cake, scones or chocolate containing dried fruit.
Allowed: condiments like tomato sauce, brown sauce, salad cream and mayonnaise. Marmite, gravy, white sauce. Smooth and creamed soups like chicken soup. Tea, coffee, squash and smooth milkshakes.
Avoid: pickles, canned sauces containing vegetables or fruit. Packet soups or tinned soup with vegetables added. Herbs and spices. Milkshake syrups with real fruit and seeds. Popcorn. All seeds.
Due to the restrictive nature of a low-fibre diet, it should not be followed long-term. If you are curious about low-fibre diets, speak to your doctor or a registered dietitian who can advise accordingly.
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This article was published on 18 March 2021.
Tai Ibitoye is a registered dietitian and a doctoral researcher in food & nutritional sciences. Tai has experience working in different sectors such as in the NHS, public health, non-government organisations and academia.
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