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Can you eat chocolate with a stoma? Debunking common myths surrounding stomas and certain food groups

6th October 2021

Most of us would confess to being chocolate lovers….be it the milk chocolate variety, dark chocolate, or white chocolate, we all have our own “go to” flavours. The abundance of choices out there has made chocolate a more popular product to crave because it tastes good, smells good and it feels great when it melts in our mouths! You will be delighted to hear that eating chocolate actually increases dopamine which is a feel good neurotransmitter, making the experience a happy one. So of course, when you are recovering from stoma surgery and learning what you should and should not be eating, the question of: ‘Can I eat chocolate with a stoma?’ is often asked by ostomates.

Does chocolate have any health benefits?

We all know chocolate receives a lot of bad press for being high in both fat and sugar content. It is linked to heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and even acne, if it is eaten in excess. But the good news is, it does have a few health benefits as well! Chocolate eaten in moderation, has been found to help with stress, memory and contains antioxidants. The higher the cocoa content and darker the chocolate is, the more benefits it may have. Dark chocolate contains less sugar and fat than milk chocolate, yet it contains more iron and antioxidants. To learn more about what you are eating it’s a good idea to double check the labels for the content when you are buying your chocolate bar.

How will chocolate affect me now that I have a stoma?

So how does eating chocolate affect you with stoma? One major issue to watch out for with a stoma is the laxative effect of some chocolates. The caffeine and fibre within the chocolate can increase the rate of motility (which is the contraction of the muscles in the digestive tract that encourage bowel movements). Ideal for constipation but not good for those ostomates who may have a loose output already!

Another element to be aware of, is the combination chocolate bars such as those with dried fruits or nuts. Although they may appear to be more nutritious than the regular chocolate bars, the dried fruit and nuts may lead to blockages with your stoma…..so definitely avoid these!

Diet after stoma surgery:

Following stoma surgery, it is advisable to stick to a very bland diet for the first six weeks, to help your bowel recover. Some ostomates need to be careful of the fibre in their diet if they suffer from loose output (less common for those with a colostomy). Slowly re-introduce foods each week and monitor the effect it has on your digestion and output. A healthy and balanced diet is important for all of us, especially when you are recovering from surgery.

Yet there is nothing like a treat now and again to help lift the mood. Try introducing chocolate in small amounts and in conjunction with other starchy foods ie by chocolate chip cookie or cakes, or chocolate within other foods such as cereals, which may counteract the laxative effects a little by thickening your output. When introducing chocolate try small amounts to begin with to see how you tolerate it and go from there…..

In the early days of managing your stoma, you will be getting used to the new sounds, smells and the amount of output from your stoma. Over time you will start to recognize which foods cause gas/wind or change to your output consistency. The most important dietary concerns for the ostomate are preventing blockages. Some foods are prone to obstructing stomas than others, to be clear that does not mean that you can’t eat them, but it’s worth being aware of so you can take extra care. This is more likely with an ileostomy than a colostomy or urostomy.

Here are some tips to help to help with achieving a sensible, balanced diet with a stoma:

  • Eat three small meals a day, with snacks in between about 4-6 times per day.
  • Start by eating a light, bland and easily digestible diet
  • Avoid fatty, spicey or high fibre foods.
  • Drink plenty of fluids at least 6 cups of un-caffeinated fluid per day (8 cups per day for those with ileostomies)
  • If your bowels are loose, try to limit fruit, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, coffee, and alcohol as they act as bowel stimulants.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks which can cause gas/wind.

Foods known to increase the risk of food blockages:

  • Nuts
  • Coconut
  • Celery
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweetcorn
  • Raw fruit/vegetable skins
  • Dried fruit such as raisins
  • Pith, pips or stones
  • Popcorn

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