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Ovacome is a national charity providing advice and support to women with ovarian cancer.  We give information about symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and research.  Ovacome runs a telephone and email support line and works to raise awareness and give a voice to all those affected by ovarian cancer.

This fact sheet is for women who want information about how to manage a blocked bowel.

A blocked bowel (also known as bowel obstruction) is a possible complication of ovarian cancer. This can happen for several reasons. As the tumour grows it can press on the bowel, causing a blockage. Sticky tissue called adhesions can form after surgery and can stop food passing down the gut.

If you have experienced or are at risk of a blocked bowel, you may be advised to eat less fibre. This is known as a fibre-restricted diet or a low residue diet.

This sort of diet may not be suitable for you. If you are not sure whether this applies to you, please check with your doctor or specialist cancer dietitian.

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Why should I eat less fibre?

Fibre (also called roughage) is the part of food that you do not digest which passes down into the lower part of the gut where harmless bacteria ferment it and produce gas (wind).

Eating less fibre will reduce the amount of waste you produce and, as a result, ease symptoms such as bloating and stomach pains. It may also reduce the risk of your bowel becoming blocked.

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Will this type of diet work?

It is difficult to study the possible benefits of a fibre-restricted diet for a blocked bowel. Most of the evidence to suggest this type of diet is helpful comes from the experience of doctors, nurses and dieticians working with women with ovarian cancer.

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What is a fibre-restricted diet?

This type of diet includes low-fibre foods and a reduced amount of fruit, vegetables and wholemeal products. Below are examples of foods you should avoid and foods which are allowed.

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What about constipation?

A fibre-restricted diet still contains some fibre. If you are worried about being constipated, talk to your doctor as you may need laxatives. For our bowels to work properly, it is important to have enough to drink. We normally need about eight to 10 cups of liquid each day. 

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What about vitamins and minerals?

When some foods are limited in your diet, it can be difficult to make sure you get the right amount of vitamins and minerals. It may be necessary to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement.

There are lots of supplements available in chemists, health food shops and supermarkets. A dietitian can give you advice about whether you need to take supplements, and they can also recommend which type to buy.

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What if the diet is too difficult to follow?

As part of a healthy diet, we are all being encouraged to eat more fibre. Like many women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you may have been eating lots of fruit and vegetables, wholemeal bread and high-fibre breakfast cereals. So, a fibre-restricted diet can be completely different to your normal diet.

If you are finding it difficult to follow a fibre restricted diet, ask for a referral to a dietitian who can give you further advice on suitable food choices.

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What if I’m losing weight?

If your stomach is bloated and uncomfortable, it is often difficult to eat a normal-sized meal. This can eventually lead to you losing weight. It is usually better to have several small meals and snacks during the day. If you have a poor appetite and you lose weight, try to eat foods high in energy such as those containing fat and sugar. Your doctor or dietitian may also recommend nourishing drinks and supplements to help stabilise your weight. These may be available on prescription.

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Is a fibre-restricted diet suitable for women with ovarian cancer?

This type of diet is not suitable or necessary for all women with ovarian cancer. It is likely only to be a benefit if you have or are at risk of a blocked bowel.

If you would like more information on the sources and references for this fact sheet, please call us on 0800 008 7054. 

If you would like to discuss anything about ovarian cancer, please phone our supportline on 0800 008 7054 Monday to Friday between 10am and 5pm.

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Written by Keynes Chan, Macmillan Oncology Dietitian, Kings College NHS Foundation Trust, Nutrition and Dietetics Department The Princess Royal University Hospital, Orpington

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Disclaimer 

Ovacome fact sheets provide information and support.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information at the time of printing. The information we give is not a substitute for professional medical care.  If you suspect you have cancer you should consult your doctor as quickly as possible.  Ovacome cannot accept liability for any inaccuracy in linked sources.

v.1.7

Date last updated May 2018

Date for review May 2020

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A low-residue diet

 

Foods you are allowed

Foods you should avoid

Protein

Lean meat, chicken, fish, offal (liver, kidneys), eggs and cheese.

Tough stringy meat.

Dairy

 

Cheese, milk, ice-cream, natural and                  fruit-flavoured yoghurts, custard, cream, butter and margarine.

Fruit yoghurt containing skins or pips.

Starchy food

 

White flour, bread or rolls.

White crackers, such as cream crackers and white biscuits such as Rich Tea.

'White' pasta such as macaroni, spaghetti, white rice and pitta bread made with white flour.

 

Low-fibre breakfast cereal without fruit or nuts, such as Rice Krispies, Sugar Puffs, Coco Pops, Ricicles and Cornflakes.

 

Wholemeal flour, wholemeal brown bread, granary bread, soft-grain bread and rolls.  Wholemeal crackers, such as Ryvita and Crackerwheat, whole wheat biscuits, such as digestives and Hob Nobs.  Whole wheat pasta and brown rice.

 

High-fibre breakfast cereals, such as Weetabix, Bran flakes, Muesli, All bran, Shredded Wheat, porridge and Fruit and Fibre.

Fruit

Tinned fruit including pears, apricots and peaches.

 

Ripe, peeled and cored apples, pears, peaches, apricots and melon.

All other tinned fruit.

 

Fruit with skins, pips or seeds, such as strawberries, citrus fruit, gooseberries, rhubarb and dried fruit.

Vegetables

Peeled and well-cooked potato, carrots, turnips, swede, marrow, beetroot, cauliflower florets and broccoli florets.

Peas, pulses, celery, radishes, cucumber, spring onions, sweet corn, cabbage, brussel sprouts, vegetable stalks, cauliflower and broccoli stalks, tomatoes and leeks.

Sweets

 

Jam, marmalade without peel or pips, lemon curd and honey.

Sweets, chocolate, cakes, biscuits without fruit or nuts and coconut.

 

Rough-cut marmalade and jam with pips.

 

Sweets, chocolate, cakes, biscuits with dried fruit, nuts or coconut.

Miscellaneous

 

Clear soups without vegetables.

 

Tea, coffee, malted drinks, hot chocolate, squash, Oxo, Bovril, salt and pepper.

Soup containing vegetables.

 

Pickles and chutney and pure fruit juice.

 

Low-residue diet provided by Department of Nutrition and Dietetics Poole Hospital NHS Trust.

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Did you find this fact sheet helpful? We welcome your feedback. If you have any comments or suggestions, please email [email protected] or call 0207 299 6653.