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Eat Healthy

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This time after surgery can feel scary as you adjust to your new life, especially in your diet. How will foods affect the stoma? Can you eat foods that you were not able to before surgery? Do you need to go on a particular diet?

Diet & Nutrition Following Surgery


In the beginning your diet will be different because the swelling will still be going down in your intestines and around your stoma, but rest assured, your stoma will not limit your diet over time.


Immediately following surgery your diet will be “low-residue,” meaning that you will be limiting foods to only types with low fiber that are easily digested. These foods generally consist of pureed vegetables without skin or seeds and tenderized meat. Your doctor and/or nurse will give you more information about appropriate foods and how to prepare them. This diet is usually necessary for 6-8 weeks.


Because each patient and type of surgery are different, no standard recommendations can be given for everyone. Most patients return to a fairly normal diet. Still, a trial and error pattern of eating is often necessary to identify those foods that may have an undesirable effect on the patient’s output. Then it is simply a matter of changing how much of these foods are eaten. The lists that follow are a guideline.


You may find it helpful to speak with a nutritionist or a registered dietician after speaking with your doctor about your diet. They will provide you with a personalized eating plan.


General Food Guidelines

  1. Eat foods at a regular time each day. Eating 4 to 6 smaller meals may help to promote a regular bowel pattern.

  2. Try eating the main dinner meal at noon and a smaller meal in the evening. This helps to reduce the stool output at night.

  3. Introduce one type of food at a time to test how it affects bowel function. If it does not produce a good result, stop eating it. However, as the body heals and adjusts, the offending food may become easier to tolerate, so try adding it to the diet again on several occasions before giving up on it.

  4. Chew foods completely to help the digestive process. Especially avoid swallowing large pieces of leafy vegetables since they can block the stoma opening on the abdominal wall.

  5. Fresh fruit may cause loose stool.

  6. Drink 2 to 3 quarts of water a day. This helps to keep the stool fluid, and it also prevents dehydration. Normally, the colon absorbs water and electrolytes (substances such as sodium and potassium) from the stool, so people who have all or part of the colon removed will lose more water. Because electrolytes are also lost, do not restrict salt in the diet.

  7. Maintain an ideal body weight. Extra fat in the abdominal wall can make it difficult for the stoma to function properly.

  8. Colostomy patients may find that foods which caused problems before surgery continue to do so afterward.

  9. During the first 4 to 6 weeks after surgery, ileostomy patients should limit foods that caused problems prior to surgery. This will reduce the chance of stoma blockage and lower the amount of gas.

  10. Certain substances can change the appearance of the stool. Bile that cannot be reabsorbed in the intestine can cause a yellow or green stool color, especially when diarrhea or rapid bowel action occurs. Beets make the stool appear red; it is not blood! Broccoli, asparagus, spinach, and Pepto-Bismol can darken, even blacken, the stool.

  11.  Certain medications such as Imodium, Lomotil, Levsin, and Bentyl can help to slow the bowel when diarrhea is a problem.

  12. Foods containing large amounts of fiber and bran should be avoided for 6 to 8 weeks after surgery.


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