Low Fibre Diet, The Healthy Way
by Eve Noe, Nutritional Therapist BSc BANT
Inflammatory Bowel Disease can have a great impact on the digestion and absorption of food, potentially leading to insufficient nutrition, which makes it necessary to limit specific foods to settle a flare-up as soon as possible.
It is well-known that diets high in dietary fibre (both soluble and insoluble) can contribute greatly to overall health. Benefits may include the prevention of colorectal and breast cancer, cardiovascular disease and an overall healthy gut. However, during a flare-up of IBD it is commonly recommended that a patient temporarily curtails their intake of fibre in order to rest the bowel/intestines and reduce irritation that may be causing various symptoms.
You may have been recommended a low-fibre diet if you have a suspected bowel blockage, to recover from surgery or during a flare-up of your IBD.
There are two types of fibre:
Soluble fibre: combines with water to create a gel during digestion to stimulate the passage of food through the gut and may prevent against constipation or diarrhoea. It can be found in applesauce, fruit juices, nuts and oatmeal.
Insoluble fibre: helps to bulk up food waste to aid passage through the digestive system. It can be found in seeds, skins and flesh of fruit and wholegrains. As insoluble fibre does not break down fully in the body, those with irritation or narrowing of the intestines may find these foods to further irritate by becoming stuck or moving too slowly through the digestive tract. It is this type of fibre that should be reduced/eliminated as part of a low-fibre diet.
What is a low fibre diet?
To put it simply, low-fibre foods may decrease painful gut irritation by reducing the amount of insoluble fibre (found in the skins and flesh of many fruit and vegetables, which is harder to digest) that passes through your system. It is designed to ease discomfort and allow tissue healing.
Low fibre diets may come as a surprise to those who are constantly hearing the more fibre the better for your gut health. Low fibre diets may vary for each individual depending on their sensitivity to each food item.
Consuming less fibre may aid symptoms such as bloating, wind, cramping and pain associated with Crohn’s and colitis.
The key focus when undertaking a low-fibre diet is to ensure that you are still obtaining sufficient nutrition and sustenance to promote energy production and avoid weight loss.
HOW to eat for health when on a low-fibre diet:
Avoid caffeine such as tea, coffee, chocolate, energy drinks that are known as “gut stimulants” although herbal teas such as camomile may have a soothing effect on the gut.
Eat little and often (3 small but calorific meals and 2-3 snacks/nourishing drinks per day) helping your body to digest fully after each smaller amount of food rather than overwhelming your gut with large amounts to digest at one time.
Digestion begins in your mouth so ensuring to chew your food properly may aid symptoms such as bloating and discomfort, sit calmly for a few minutes once you have finished to allow food to be initially digested.
Try to ensure sufficient hydration to avoid constipation and consider adding fruit or vegetable juices to increase nutrient intake.
If you have been recommended to stay on a low-fibre diet for an extended period of time enquire with your doctor if a supplement may be necessary, as nutrients such as vitamin C may be destroyed during cooking processes, which may mean your lack of raw fruit and vegetables creates a deficiency.
WHAT to eat for health when on a low-fibre diet:
All fruit and vegetables should be peeled, deseeded and membrane free.
Vegetables should be well cooked (apart from deseeded and peeled cucumber, courgettes and tomatoes).
Foods such as asparagus, aubergine, beetroot, carrot, celery, leek, mushrooms, peppers, white potato, pumpkin, radishes, squash, swede may be eaten either tinned or well cooked.
Fruit may be eaten once deseeded, skinned and membranes removed.
Soft, ripe apricots, peaches, ripe melon, ripe banana and a very soft avocado may be eaten raw in small portions.
Applesauce/stewed apples/pears, cherries, lychees, mango, pineapple, rhubarb may be consumed either tinned, well cooked or poached.
Fruit and vegetable juices (clear) may be a great way to increase nutrient intake.
Bread and pasta may be eaten in all white forms but labels must be checked to ensure that there are no seeds or legumes within.
Cereal with less than 1g of fibre per serving such as cornflakes, puffed wheat, rice krispies.
Meat, fish and proteins may be eaten if well-cooked including smooth peanut butter (up to 2 tbsp. per day).
Pureed vegetable soups (e.g butternut squash soup).
Chicken soup (with vegetables such as celery, onion etc strained out to leave stock with chicken).
If dairy is tolerated, greek yoghurt may promote the increase of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Foods containing soluble fibre (such as applesauce) may be tolerated well to reduce irritation and contribute to GI health promotion, as opposed to foods containing insoluble fibre (apples with skin) that may become stuck in the gut and promote irritation.
Although a low-fibre diet may seem restrictive, remember that it is usually a short term solution until your symptoms settle, when you can begin to gently re-introduce a wider variety of fibre containing foods.
LOW FIBRE RECIPES:
- 2 large ripe bananas
- 200g rolled oats
- 250g greek yoghurt (if dairy tolerated, if not can use coconut yoghurt)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp apple sauce
- 4 tbsp self-raising flour (white)
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1tsp cinnamon
- Blueberries (or other seedless berries)
- Stewed apple and cinnamon (skin removed)
- Sliced banana and almond butter
Heat the oven to 180 (fan).
Line 12 hole muffin tin with paper.
Put all ingredients except toppings into a food processor, pulse until smooth.
Spoon the mixture evenly into paper cases, lightly press toppings of choice on top.
Bake 20-25 mins until golden brown.
Avocado “butter” (good for a quick snack on white crackers or toast)
- 2 ripe avocados, peeled and stoned
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- Sea salt
- 3 tbsp water
Add all ingredients to a food processor and blitz until smooth, use immediately to prevent avocado going brown
Green Goodness Juice
- 1 handful spinach leaves
- ½ avocado
- 1 ¼ cucumber, skin removed
- ½ tbsp. vanilla paste/extract
- 250ml almond milk/cows milk (if tolerated)
- ½ tsp maple syrup
- 4 ice cubes
- 1 serving protein powder (optional)
Blend until smooth and serve.