Low Fiber Diet

Author, Frank W. Jackson MD
Updated 2014

Introduction

A high fiber diet is recommended for almost everyone because of the many health benefits known to occur (High Fiber Diet). Yet, there are times when a low fiber diet may be warranted.

Discussion with your physician should always occur before starting on a low fiber diet.

How Low is Low Fiber?

The recommended fiber intake for the healthy individual is between 20-35 grams per day depending on age, sex, weight and exercise. The amount of fiber that the average North American eats is less than 10 grams per day. The amount of the very healthy, soluble prebiotic fiber is a dramatically low at 1-3 grams per day. You may have to talk to your physician to get a recommended specific number of grams of fiber. You can get specific amounts of fiber by going to the Fiber Content of Food page.

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, does not dissolve in water but, paradoxically, hangs onto water in the large bowel. This creates a large, soft and bulky stool. It promotes regularity and seems to be associated with a reduced chance of colon polyps and colon cancer. We believe that cancer inciting agents are swept through the bowel in a more rapid manner. In addition, it promotes weight loss and can enhance diabetic control. With a low fiber diet, these food fibers need to be reduced. Foods that are particularly high in insoluble fiber are:

  • whole wheat bread and baked goods
  • wheat bran
  • whole grain breads
  • vegetables and fruit, especially the skins
  • peanuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • popcorn
  • brown rice

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber is different. It does dissolve in water. In the colon, it provides food for the enormous numbers of beneficial bacteria that thrive there and, in so doing, provide many health benefits. Soluble fiber also promotes regularity by increasing the growth of colon bacteria. With a low fiber diet, these soluble fibers, too, should be restricted until your physician advises you otherwise. Foods that are particularly high in soluble fibers are:

  • oats in any form – cereal, muffins, etc.
  • apples, oranges, grapefruit, peaches, concord grapes
  • prunes, pears, cranberries
  • beans
  • beets
  • carrots
  • psyllium (found in supplements and some cereals)

Caution and Advice

  • A low fiber diet is not a particularly healthy one since the body relies on plant nutrition for so many benefits including minerals, vitamins and nutrients for the healthy bowel bacteria.
  • It is almost always a temporary one when it is necessary to put your gut at rest during a stressful period.
  • Progressing to a high fiber diet is the eventual goal. This should be done gradually under physician direction.
  • Read the labels. Count the grams of fiber.
  • In some cases, soluble fiber is likely better than insoluble since soluble fiber dissolves in water and may more easily trickle through narrowed areas. Insoluble fiber may not do so. Again, your physician should advise you.