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Gastrointestinal Special Diets

If medically necessary, your provider or dietician may ask you to follow a Clear Liquid or Low Fiber diet. In addition to any directions they give you, please use the information below to inform your dietary needs.

Clear Liquid Diet

A diet of clear liquids maintains vital body fluids, salts, and minerals; and also gives some energy for patients when normal food intake must be interrupted. Clear liquids are easily absorbed by the body. They reduce stimulation of the digestive system, and leave no residue in the intestinal tract. This is why a clear liquid diet is often prescribed in preparation for surgery or a procedure , and is generally the first diet given by mouth after surgery. Clear liquids are given when a person has been without food by mouth (NPO) for a long time. This diet is also used in preparation for medical tests such as sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or certain x-rays.

A clear liquid diet is not adequate in calories and nutrients. It should not be used for more than five days unless high-protein gelatin or other low-residue supplements are added.

Low Fiber Diets

Dietary fiber is the undigestible part of plants and includes soluble fiber (inulin, mucilage, pectin, psyllium, resistant starch, and wheat dextrin)  and insoluble fiber (cellulose, some hemicellulose, and lignin). Fiber resists digestion by the human body. It is this resistance that makes these fibers important in both normally functioning and in disorders of the large intestine or colon.

In certain medical conditions, it is important to restrict fiber. These include acute or subacute diverticulitis, and the acute phases of certain inflammatory conditions of the bowel – ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.  After some types of intestinal surgery, a low fiber/low residue diet may be used as a transition to a regular diet.  A low fiber diet may also be used for a period of time after a colostomy or ileostomy is performed.

Depending upon individual food selection, the low fiber/low residue diet is adequate in all nutrients (National Research Council’s Recommended Dietary Allowance). If the diet must be strict and followed over a long period of time, the intake of fruits and vegetables may not be adequate; and/or on a low residue diet, there may not be enough calcium included. In these cases, a multivitamin supplement or liquid nutritional supplement may be needed. If you have questions about your dietary needs, please ask your provider.

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