Question：I’ve heard that a high-fibre diet is good to prevent cancer. I’ve also heard that cancer patients should be on a low-fibre diet? Which should I follow?
According to WCRF/AICR, there is strong evidence that:
• consuming dietary fibre and wholegrains protects against colorectal cancer
• consumption of non-starchy vegetables and fruits may protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, colon, rectum and stomach.
Other Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre:
• Lower blood cholesterol levels
• Manage blood glucose levels
• Promote satiety and helps weight management
• Prevent constipation
• Dilute and eliminate harmful substances from the body
Singapore Dietary Guidelines
Recommended Fibre Intake:
• Women: 20g /day
• Men: 26g /day
This is equivalent to 2 servings of fruits, and 2 servings of vegetables per day. In addition, aim for 2-3 servings of whole grains to help meet daily dietary fibre needs.
Question: When should I be on a low-fibre / low-residue diet?
A low-fibre diet (≤10-15g fibre/day) may be needed temporarily, as recommended by your doctor or dietitian, when you have a:
• recent bowel / colorectal surgery (ileostomy, colostomy, resection)
• radiotherapy which damages and irritates your digestive tract (abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhoea)
• active flare-ups associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Diverticulitis
The goal of a low-fibre diet here is to decrease the size and frequency of bowel movements in order to reduce painful symptoms.
In conclusion, a low-fibre diet (≤10-15g fibre/day) is only indicated for some cancer patients who have recent bowel surgery or inflammation. Otherwise, a high-fibre diet (20-26g fibre/day) is recommended for the general population and cancer survivors for the many health benefits and reduction of cancer risk.
World Cancer Research Foundation (WCRF) Cancer Prevention Recommendation No.3: “Eat plenty and variety of wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, and beans as a major part of your daily diet.”