Preventing Bowel Obstruction

Ask the Nutritionist

Q: Is there a role for a low fiber diet in the prevention of bowel obstruction for people with ovarian cancer with no symptoms or signs that an obstruction is present?

Lynn, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Isle 

A: If you do not currently have symptoms or signs of a bowel obstruction, you most likely do not need to introduce a low fiber diet. Fiber has an important place in a healthy diet and can promote gastrointestinal health. To help prevent bowel obstruction drink plenty of fluids, walk or stay as active as possible and strive to prevent constipation with healthy eating, physical activity and medications as prescribed by your physician.

If you develop a bowel obstruction or your doctor says you are at high risk, you may read a previous post, Snacks for Partial Bowel Obstructions for ideas for high-protein, low-fiber snacks. Some other tips for low fiber diets are listed below.

  • Beverages: Staying hydrated is important. Stick to fruit and vegetable juices without pulp, water, and Gatorade. Avoid caffeinated beverages, prune juice, and other drinks with dietary fiber.
  • Dairy Products: Lactaid tablets may be necessary for intolerance. Choose low-fat or fat-free products. Avoid full-fat dairy and cream-based soups.
  • Grains, Breads, and Cereals: Fiber in whole grains, breads and cereals will cause slower movement of food through the gut, resulting in irritation. Select white bread, pasta, crackers, and refined cereals (i.e. cornflakes, Cream of Wheat) when preparing meals.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Choose canned and cooked fruits and vegetables without the skin. Raw cantaloupe, melon, watermelon and bananas are okay; other raw fruits are too fibrous for the gut to break down effectively with an obstruction.
  • Meats and Meat Alternatives: Protein is important for healing. Look for tender/skinless chicken and turkey, white fish, and lean cuts of meat (remove visible fat). Avoid fried foods as well as luncheon meats that are high in fat. Eggs (not fried), egg substitutes, and tofu are also excellent sources of protein.
  • Miscellaneous: Cook with non-stick sprays or use moist cooking methods (boiling, braising) instead of using oils or butters. Choose low-fat condiments and seasonings, as tolerated.

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