Diet Tips for Managing an Ileostomy or Colostomy

April 02,2020 |

An ileostomy is a small opening in the abdominal wall created during surgery when the ileum (the lower part of the small intestines) isn’t working as it should.1 The end of the ileum is brought through a small incision to form a stoma, often on the lower right side of the abdomen.1 For the time that you have an ileostomy, all of the digestive contents of your stomach will leave your body through the stoma to be collected in a fitted drainage pouch1 This pouch is meant to be worn at all times and emptied throughout the day. 

An ileostomy may be permanent or temporary, depending on the circumstances. For the duration of your ileostomy, there are certain measures you need to take in order to properly care for your stoma. You can read more about them here. If you need an ileostomy, talk to your doctor about how long you’ll need your ileostomy, or if it’s permanent, what changes you should expect to your daily life.

A colostomy is very similar to an ileostomy except it involves bringing the large intestines (colon) through the stoma instead of the small intestines.4 Again, a colostomy might be temporary or permanent depending on your circumstances, but the overall care, daily management, and changes in lifestyle are the same as with an ileostomy.

In this article, we’ll explore a few diet tips for managing an ileostomy or colostomy.

Do I Need to Change my Diet?

A lot of people assume that after these types of surgeries, they need to make major changes to their diet in order to stay healthy and avoid any problems with their stoma. That’s not necessarily true.

When you get an ileostomy, your small intestines will need some time to adapt at the decrease in length—which can impact how your body digests food.2 How you digest food has a direct correlation as to what type of waste you produce and thus, what comes out of your stoma. After your body has adapted, your stoma output will become more regular and there aren’t many strict diet restrictions you need to follow.

When you maintain a healthy diet that’s balanced with essential vitamins, nutrients, and fiber, you’ll notice a difference in the waste your body produces. However, this is the same for people who have had an ileostomy or colostomy and people who haven’t. If you have an unhealthy diet, you should consider changing it regardless

Diet Tips for an Ileostomy and Colostomy

If you want to make sure that your body is properly taken care of and is healing well, it’s important to focus on your nutrition each and every day. Remember, being healthy is a lifestyle change, not a diet. There are a few basic steps you should take to care for your ileostomy and colostomy, including the following:3

Eat Regularly Throughout the Day

To help your body digest properly and avoid overload, eat small meals regularly throughout the day. When you opt for smaller portions, your body will be able to digest it more thoroughly and you’ll experience less gas and a more efficient metabolism.

Eat in Moderation

Remember to eat in moderation. Eating too much food, too quickly can cause problems with digestion and make you feel unwell.3 If you want to try new foods, try a little bit and see how your body reacts. If all is well, you should be fine to eat it again. If you feel unwell, have problems with your stoma, or have excessive gas, the food likely doesn’t react well with your body.

Chew Your Food

When you’re eating, take the time to chew your food properly. This will help you digest properly and absorb all the nutrients. It will also reduce the likelihood of a stoma blockage.

Up Your Fluid Intake

Throughout the day, make sure you’re drinking enough fluids and staying hydrated. When you have an ileostomy or colostomy, your body may lose more fluids than before because fluid is primarily reabsorbed in the large intestines.3 Try to replace these lost fluids with water and avoid sugary drinks or excessive caffeine as these contribute to dehydration.

Know Your Body

Everyone is different, so what works for one person might not work for another. This is no different than the diets that people go on to lose weight. One person might be able to shed 10lbs by simply cutting out soda, while another one might have to make more substantial sacrifices. You know your body; just make sure that you listen to it.

Avoiding Blockage

As we mentioned before, chewing your food thoroughly will reduce the likelihood of a stoma blockage. When you have a stoma, your intestines move waste through your body differently. Instead of food coming out of the colon, it goes directly from the small intestine to your stoma. This increases the chances of blockage when certain foods are eaten in large amounts or not chewed properly. The following foods have been known to cause blockage, therefore you should exercise increased caution when eating them:3

  • Celery
  • Dried Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Meat Casings
  • Peas
  • Pineapple
  • Seeds
  • Salad Greens
  • Mushrooms
  • Coleslaw
  • Corn

You don’t need to avoid these foods altogether, just make sure that thoroughly chew each bite and eat foods in small quantities at first to see how your body and your stoma reacts.

How to Reduce Gas and Odor from an Ileostomy or Colostomy

It’s not uncommon for people with an ileostomy or colostomy to experience more gas than before the procedure. Your body is digesting food differently and the shortened track may lead to an increase in gas production. While gas is normal, if it causes discomfort or you feel like you’re excessively gassy, you can try a few different options. First, make sure that you’re eating meals consistently throughout the day and avoid skipping meals. Allowing for a mild, consistent digestion throughout the day helps keep your body working it’s best and you’ll be less likely to overload your system when you do eat.

Try to eat slowly and take the time to thoroughly enjoy your food. Half of the gas that people experience comes from swallowing air while they eat. Relax and savor the meal. It’s also recommended to stay hydrated and drink at least 8-10 glasses of water each day.

If you’re still experiencing gas, look at your diet. Are you eating foods that are known to cause gas? If you’re unsure, here’s a list of some of the most common foods that may cause gas or unpleasant odors:3

  • Asparagus
  • Cabbage
  • Beer and Carbonated Drinks
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Dairy Products
  • Eggs
  • Fatty Foods
  • Onions
  • Prunes

Some lesser-known foods that cause gas include:3

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Dried Beans/Peas
  • Grapes
  • Green Peppers
  • Melons
  • Radishes
  • Turnips

To help your body relieve gas naturally, try increasing your daily intake of yogurt with active cultures, buttermilk, cranberry juice, and parsley.3

Understanding Your Stool

When you first get your stoma, there’s going to be a learning period. Your waste product is going to look differently than it did when it came out of your rectum. Your doctor or nurse will help to explain what’s normal and what’s not, but your stoma output should be a porridge-like consistency.2 If it’s too loose, you’ll want to eat foods that help to thicken the stool to avoid dehydration and emptying your pouch often. Some foods that can help thicken stools include:3

  • Applesauce
  • Bananas
  • Cream of Rice
  • Creamy Peanut Butter
  • Soda Crackers
  • Rice
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Marshmallows
  • Tapioca
  • Cheese

If you have any questions about your stoma output, talk to your doctor. They will be able to walk you through your specific case and help normalize your output.

Conclusion

To help reduce discomfort and aid in healthy stoma output, make sure that you’re using the proper supplies for your ileostomy or colostomy. To do this, always opt for high-quality, medical grade ostomy supplies. You’ll need ostomy pouches, ostomy flanges, stoma powder, and skin prep essentials to get the most out of your ostomy skin care. At Byram Healthcare, we’re committed to helping improve the life of people living with an ostomy and offer a wide range of ostomy supplies, ostomy bags, and support systems. If your insurance doesn’t cover ostomy supplies, Byram is happy to offer discounts to help save you time, money, and hassle. Check out our selection today!

Sources:

1https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/surgery/ostomies/ileostomy/what-is-ileostomy.html

2https://www.securicaremedical.co.uk/advice-and-support/stoma-care/diet-with-a-stoma/ileostomy-food-and-drink-hints-and-tips

3https://www.uwhealth.org/healthfacts/nutrition/293.pdf

4https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/surgery/ostomies/colostomy/what-is-colostomy.html

 

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