Diet and Food Tips for Colostomy Patients

Updated on December 23, 2017
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With my colostomy, I soon found that my diet had to change slightly. I also learned what to expect when I consume certain foods and drinks.

You’ve just had a colostomy and you are somewhat worried about your diet, wondering if you can still enjoy your favourite foods and drinks.

Sure, it’s true that there are a few simple rules about "ostomy and diet," but it’s more about what to expect when you eat certain foods, as opposed to whether a certain food is okay or not.

It doesn’t matter whether you had a permanent or reversible ostomy; what you can eat in the two instances remains basically the same.

Before your discharge from the hospital, you will have been tutored on how to use ostomy appliances and products that will now become a part of your everyday life. There will also have been mention of your nutritional diet.

Whatever you drink or eat must be tolerable to your digestive system especially in the first few weeks after surgery. But after that period, you can eat whatever you've been eating in the past, before your colostomy, but with certain foods, in moderation.

Is There a Special Colostomy Nutritional Plan?

But is there a special diet you need to be on if you have a colostomy? No, not really, because there isn't one kind of diet advice or plan that works for every patient.

Many ostomates don’t even require any special diet and can eat foods they've always eaten before their surgery.

This is not to say that there won't be a few that demand a special nutritional plan. The reason for surgery must be considered and a special diet may be necessary because of this, and not just because you have a stoma. In such cases, diet plans can be individualised. This will depend on other factors as well including weight, former eating patterns, lifestyle, and age.

Having said that, the important recommendations (in terms of meals/diet) if you are an ostomate are quite simple to follow:

  • Consume smaller meal portions every day. Eating four to six smaller meals a day is much more beneficial in that it allows for improved absorption of the necessary nutrients in the foods and it also ensures that the elimination of waste will be easy and effortless.
  • Fibre intakes must be reduced in a colostomy diet. Wheat products such as oats, maize, and other similar high fibre foods must be taken in moderation. Eliminating waste resulting from the consumption of excessive fibre is difficult for the stoma to expel, especially in the early weeks following surgery. Hard stool will become stressful for a recovering bowel. It is best to wait until your Stoma Nurse or the doctor says it is okay, but definitely not before the first 8 weeks.

  • Chew all your food thoroughly and completely, whether it is tender meat, chicken, fish, raw carrots, nuts, etc. . . . Mastication must be complete—you don’t want your stoma "popping" out corn kernels! Thorough chewing is the most important aspect of post colostomy surgery diet and most especially if surgery is still fresh. It has been said that the recommended number of times that food must be chewed (especially beef) before swallowing is a minimum of 25 times. So, proper grinding of food to a pulp (in the mouth) allows for better absorption and easy digestion. Waste elimination is thus easy on the stoma, and the colon will heal faster.
  • Soft foods are great and gentle on the stomach. A J pouch diet full of smoothies or other blended juices, thick soups, broths with chunks of vegetables, and slowly cooked menus digest faster, easier and better. This makes waste elimination virtually stress-free for your stoma.
  • If you can, try to avoid fruits, drinks or foods with a high acidic content, but if you can’t, keep consumption to the barest minimum. Remember, moderation.
  • To avoid the risk of dehydration, a minimum of 7 glasses of water or a few glasses of non-acidic fruit juices must be taken daily. So if you have a colostomy and don’t drink enough fluids, especially water, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated. Ordinarily the colon absorbs water in the body but now that it’s undergoing a healing process (remember it’s not working now), additional water intake is essential.
  • Meats or chicken and pieces of food must be tender and cut into small pieces before popping into the mouth as larger tougher pieces may block the stoma. A number of patients have had to return to hospital for complications arising from an obstructed stoma. You don't want that happening to you!

What's Best for your Stoma? Eat and Drink Moderately

All in all, there are no special foods to eat or not. It’s really more about the types of foods and drinks that you need to avoid or take in moderate helpings.

For instance if you love carbonated drinks and you have a stoma, you must be prepared to experience a gas build-up in your colostomy bag and you'll end up with a ballooned pouch. So, learn to be content with a few sips or half a glass of fizzy drinks.

Additionally, ensure you wear bags that have the means of expelling air manually. This can be achieved with colostomy bags that have integrated filters.

AND be ready for this! Foods that produce gas also cause embarrassing sounds that emanate from the stoma, kind of like the sound of a baby playfully blowing mouth bubbles.

J Pouch Diet (Colostomy Diet)

J Pouch diet is another name used to describe a colostomy diet and is highly recommended and approved by the UOAA (United Ostomy Associations of America), a member of the International Ostomy Association and a national organisation that makes provision for information, support, and advocacy for colostomy patients and their carers.

Colostomy Diet Guidelines

Nutrition Guide for Colostomy Patients
Nutrition Guide for Colostomy Patients | Source

A Simple Nutrition Plan Will Be a Helpful Guide

A simple plan may be essential in terms of the types of food eaten and the number of times food is consumed but you should detect your own pattern a few weeks after surgery. By that time, you'll have had a good idea of the timing of your bowel movement. From personal experience, I find that food or drink intake does trigger off the stoma 'spewing out' waste into the colostomy bag.

For instance, if you prepare your own meals or have a partner or carer cooks for you, be aware that the right foods should be consumed and the "wrong" foods eaten in very small quantities or if possible avoided totally.

That is until your body gives you the "green light" on what to consume when you wish.

You might want to keep menus displayed in your kitchen so that you can keep track of what you’re cooking and eating for a particular period of time.

A colostomy diet plan must however be seen only as a guide that'll help you manage and cope with the challenges of living with a stoma.

Following these simple rules will ensure you'll be just fine.

© 2010 Alobeda

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