Food is a big part of life and we all love trying new flavours and textures, but it’s not always as easy for ostomates. Knowing which foods are safe to eat when you have a stoma can be confusing, but rest assured there are plenty of food options available to you when you are living with a stoma.
Your diet may change following surgery and there is a period of adjustment during your recovery, where new foods can be re-introduced slowly over a period of time. There are also some foods which are indigestible and can cause potential blockages and will need to be completely avoided when eating with a stoma, so being aware what these are is an important step in building confidence. Knowledge is key.
Whether you are about to have surgery and you are wondering about foods to avoid with a stoma, or you are an ostomate who is ready to try new foods, read further for more information about introducing new foods into your diet.
You can also find more information in our diet and nutrition advice for ostomates section.
Diet for stoma patients following surgery
After surgery, living with a stoma can feel tough. It takes a while for your appetite to return, so try to remember your bowel has been through major trauma and it takes time for your gut to calm down. Often ostomates have lost weight before their surgery due to illness or bowel disease, so you may want to be gaining some weight again now that you are well.
You may find that after surgery you do not have much appetite, so it is important to try and eat little and often to aid recovery and help with wound healing. Find somewhere quiet and relaxing to enjoy your meals and importantly take the time to enjoy your food. Chew your food well and have a drink to hand as it all helps with digestion.
For some ostomates, whilst you are in hospital recovering from your stoma surgery you may be advised by your surgeon or stoma care nurse to follow a particular diet, in accordance with their hospital protocol. This varies depending on the surgeon and the type of surgery you have had.
There will be lots of literature given to you when you come home, to guide you in what to eat and what to avoid. If you have any concerns speak with your stoma care nurse who will support you.
When to introduce new foods
Once you are feeling more like yourself following surgery, you will find your appetite returns. At this stage you may gradually introduce more foods to your diet. A balanced diet can help to normalise your stoma output and achieve consistency. So, make sure your diet is a healthy mix of protein rich foods, calcium rich dairy foods, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables.
Staying hydrated is also a vital as an ostomate, to help prevent any blockages and dehydration.
In the early days of managing and getting to grips with your stoma you may feel a bit nervous and self-conscious about any smells, sounds or consistency of your stoma output and this is completely normal. As your gut settles down you will learn which foods pass through your gut the best and also those foods which may have a negative impact on your stoma. By re-introducing foods slowly this will help your body process foods and avoid any blockages, wind, or diarrhoea.
We are all different and some foods which affect one ostomate, may be different for another. So it’s important to recognise our bodies are different and so are our tolerance levels to certain foods.
Tips for introducing new foods:
- Eat slowly and take the time to really chew your food
- Start with a small amount of the food you are introducing
- Keep a food diary of what you are eating
- Monitor the effects of your output from that food
Find out more in our stoma diet and nutrition advice section.
What to eat and foods to avoid with a stoma bag
When you are fully recovered from your stoma surgery, unless specified by a health care professional, you should be able to reintroduce most food types back into your diet again. Living with a stoma doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy food.
However, it may be that you need to be more careful now you have a stoma and adjust your eating habits slightly. Particularly those with an ileostomy, as there are certain foods that you may find have an impact on your output, making it looser.
Following surgery, you may want to stick with foods you could tolerate well prior to surgery. There are certain foods to avoiud with a stoma bag. Avoid any foods which caused issues before, these can be re-introduced again at a much later date, to see if you can tolerate them.
To begin with it is often easier to cope with light or easily digestible foods which aren’t too spicy, high in fat, highly flavoured or too high in fibre.
As part of a well-balanced diet, it is important to increase your calories, fat and protein to aid your bodies healing process. Here are some calorific foods following surgery:
- Full fat milk and cheese
- Double cream (add this to soups, mashed potato, and puddings)
- Snacks on biscuits and cakes
- Foods high in protein each day such as fish, tender meat and eggs
- Drink regularly to keep well hydrated.
Certain undigested foods can cause blockages if you have an ileostomy, so It’s good to know which these are. Here are some examples but it is good to have a full comprehensive list to keep with you: fruits and raw vegetables with skins on (ie apples/cucumber), seeds and nuts, sweetcorn, popcorn, dried fruit, wholegrains, muesli, fibrous fruits and vegetables such as Chinese vegetables.
Starchy foods can help thicken the output from your stoma, making it more manageable. There are many good diet tips for those with a colostomy who may be prone to constipation, such as increasing fluids and fibre and many others. It is also good to be aware of foods which can make your urine smellier for those with a urostomy such as fish, garlic, onions and asparagus. Plus those foods which can cause excessive wind/gas for you stoma such as green vegetables (cabbage, sprouts, cauliflower), baked beans, onions, mushrooms, cucumber, root vegetables.
Make sure you take the time to read any literature given to you on discharge from hospital on these topics, which will help prevent any issues in the future.
Tips for eating with a stoma
- Eat and drink regularly.
- Include fruit and vegetables daily.
- Protein rich foods such as meat, fish, beans, lentils, eggs, cheese, milk, or yogurt
- Carbohydrates (starchy foods) such as bread, potato, pasta, rice, and breakfast cereals
- Include milk and dairy foods two to three times per day as they are rich in calcium – choose lower fat varieties as healthy options.
- If you cannot eat dairy, try dairy free alternatives such a soya/almond/coconut/oat milk which are fortified with calcium.
- If you are underweight, fat is an important source of energy, include olive oil in cooking, butter in mashed potatoes, milk pudding made with full cream milk. Oily fish twice per week can ensure you are getting enough Omega 3 essential fatty acids.