How and When to Go on A Low-Fiber Diet

The low-fiber diet can be applied therapeutically to treat some symptoms associated with the digestive tract. Learn more.
How and When to Go on A Low-Fiber Diet
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 16 February, 2023

A low-fiber diet can be implemented in certain situations to improve the symptoms associated with digestion. It’s true that we’re talking about an essential substance when it comes to guaranteeing good intestinal health, but sometimes it’s convenient to reduce its consumption temporarily to generate benefits.

In any case, it’s always best that these types of dietary approaches are supervised by a nutrition specialist. A poor execution could negatively determine the diversity and density of the microbiota, affecting many of the basic functions of the human organism.

What is the low-fiber diet?

A low-fiber diet is one that’s characterized by a low presence of vegetables and whole grains. As a general rule, it’s not appropriate to implement a dietary protocol of this type, as it could jeopardize the proper functioning of the digestive tract.

In fact, a fiber intake of at least 25 grams per day is recommended to maintain good health. We’re talking about an element that has been shown to help prevent the development of some types of cancer.

There are two types of fiber that are important to differentiate: Soluble and insoluble. While the first retains water inside and ferments inside the intestine, the second simply exerts a mechanical effect on peristalsis and transit. Be that as it may, both elements contribute to reducing problems such as constipation, as evidenced by research published in BMJ magazine.

A low-fiber diet will emphasize above all the contribution of proteins and fats. The carbohydrates that may appear will have a high glycemic index, with the risk that this entails regarding metabolic control. In order to avoid generating alterations in the medium term, this approach should have a beginning and an end. It’s not good to extend a low-fiver diet for too long.

When to implement a low-fiber diet?

A low-fiber diet may require supplements.
Once it is decided to reduce the use of fiber in the diet, it is advisable to consider the inclusion of some specific supplements.

A low-fiber diet can be implemented in various situations in which there are intestinal problems.

For example, reducing the consumption of this compound when inflammatory bowel disease has developed can contribute to the management of symptoms, according to a study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology . The main key point in these cases is to be able to meet the nutritional demand through a restrictive plan.

However, it must be emphasized that this is a temporary remedy. Little by little, fiber will be gradually reintroduced to make sure that it’s tolerated and that the symptoms have reduced over time.

Some pharmacological treatments can even be considered in a complementary way in order to optimize immune function and thus prevent the rejection of certain compounds present in food.

Another situation that also requires a low-fiber diet is that of intestinal dysbiosis due to bacterial overgrowth.

In these cases, an increase in the populations of pathogenic microorganisms in the digestive tract is experienced, as confirmed by research published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. The problem must be corrected to really avoid the development of functional alterations in the intestine.

It should be noted that fiber isn’t selective when it comes to promoting bacterial growth. It ferments and serves as an energy substrate for both beneficial and harmful bacteria.

Therefore, if there’s an increase in the latter populations, an intensification of symptoms will be experienced from a diet high in prebiotic compounds, that is, soluble fiber. To do this, their contribution would have to be temporarily restricted.

Simply reducing the presence of fiber in the diet isn’t enough to solve this problem. It’s also important to add some complementary mechanism that promotes the renewal of the microbiota, positively affecting diversity.

Introducing a probiotic supplement into the regimen seems to be the best option, according to research published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.

Mechanisms for applying a low-fiber diet

When considering a low-fiber diet, it must be borne in mind that the contribution of some important essential nutrient or antioxidant may be put at risk. These are often found within foods of plant origin. For this reason, guaranteeing diversity in the diet is crucial to maintaining a good state of health. When it’s restricted, it’s key to resort to supplements to correct deficiencies.

For example, it could be decisive to provide a compound with a high presence of phytochemicals with antioxidant capacity. These elements neutralize the formation of free radicals and their subsequent accumulation in the body’s tissues. In addition, they’re capable of modulating inflammatory mechanisms. Both processes are associated with maintaining a better state of health over the years.

There is some evidence that these compounds could help reduce symptoms and facilitate the management of inflammatory-based diseases, such as those of an intestinal type. Other compounds such as omega-3 could also make a difference. They can be included through supplements in the diet or an increase in the consumption of oily fish can be considered.

At the same time, it’s important to ensure that energy consumption is sufficient. Removing or limiting carbohydrate intake could affect caloric balance throughout the day. It’s not always convenient for there to be a reduction in body weight, so it’s usually important to achieve a balanced situation. Especially when starting from a state of good body composition.

The reintroduction of fiber

A woman pouring milk and oats into a bowl.
It’s important to know how to identify when it’s most appropriate to re-introduce foods with fiber into the diet.

Low-fiber diets are temporary. They shouldn’t be extended over time so as not to generate harmful alterations in the functioning of the intestine. In the beginning, it may be beneficial to set a strict restriction.

But as the symptoms begin to improve, the reintroduction of plant-based foods will begin to get the body used to fiber little by little.

What can be important is the detection of possible food intolerances. In the case of these kinds of disorders, care must be taken with the nutrients that cause problems in order to restrict them from the diet permanently.

Many times, it’s not the fiber that causes the symptoms, but compounds such as gluten, lactose, fructose, etc. Of course, there are also cases in which said intolerances are transitory.

Even more and more evidence shows how these nutrient absorption problems are largely determined by the profile of the microbiota.

With a good intervention at the nutritional level, the symptoms could be greatly reduced, which allows the subsequent introduction of problematic nutrients without generating alterations. Even so, there’s still a great deal of ignorance about it in scientific literature.

However, it seems clear that this type of intervention must be carried out with caution and under professional supervision. On many occasions, it’s best to have previous blood tests to verify that the nutrients are within adequate ranges.

Low-fiber-diet and constipation

Low-fiber diets tend to affect intestinal transit in a negative way. As you get started, just like on the ketogenic diet, you’ll most certainly experience a reduction in bowel frequency. Difficulty going to the bathroom may also be experienced, which makes many patients uncomfortable and affects adherence to treatment.

Although in the context of a ketogenic diet, a prebiotic supplement can be included to alleviate the problem, this remedy isn’t available in the case of low-fiber diets. Therefore, the person has to be aware of this side effect so as not to be scared or start home solutions that could condition the viability of the approach.

Low-fiber diets may not be appropriate if there’s also some type of functional problem in the last sections of the intestine, such as hemorrhoids or fissures. In these cases, you have to seek the opposite, thus ensuring that the stools are as soft as possible and that you don’t need to make a great effort during bowel movements.

Low-fiber diets, temporary treatments for intestinal problems

A low-fiber diet can be put into practice in certain contexts to improve the symptoms of problems related to the digestive tract. They’re not sustainable in the medium term and they’re not healthy either, so their application will be temporary and will depend on the progress of the disease. They should always be supervised by a professional.

Many of the alterations of the microbiota that are suffered today are caused by a poor diet. Also, toxic habits maintained over the years can contribute. Examples would be smoking or alcohol consumption. The best thing in these cases is to focus on prevention, as when dysbiosis is generated, the solution is usually not simple.

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