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Living with a stoma – preparing to visit a restaurant

Dining out is a real treat for us all, so don’t let living with a stoma stop you from enjoying a meal out with friends and family. Venture out, enjoy the change of scenery, buzz of the restaurants, relaxing music, aromas of cooking, variety of food choices and even take in a bit of people watching!

For some ostomates, the prospect of eating out and visiting a café or restaurant can be filled with worries. Try to prepare in advance when to eat out and it will help you feel more in control. Follow our simple steps and hopefully you will feel more relaxed.

For more diet advice for eating with a stoma, make sure to visit our handy diet and nutrition section.

Common worries about eating out with a stoma


People have very different worries when eating out with a stoma. The main worry is how will my stoma behave and what will I eat? The first thing to do is to research the restaurant and food options before you leave the house. Choose a restaurant where you know you will have meal choices which are suited to you and your stoma. If you do this in advance, you will then start to look forward to the event rather than worry. If you stick with foods which are familiar to you, then your stoma is more likely to be predictable in its output and behaviour.


When to eat out after stoma surgery?


Once you are fully recovered from your stoma surgery and you’ve had the green light from your surgeon, you may feel more confident venturing out in public. When to eat out is a personal choice and you may find it easier to start with visiting a café for a warm drink first before moving onto eating out. Either way, make sure you are at the stage of feeling fully competent when changing your pouch in public toilets as you may need to do this at some point of your café/restaurant visit.


What can I do if I am not able to eat food off the menu?

In todays’ world there are many people who suffer with food allergies and intolerances, so most restaurants are very organised in assisting individual needs and the menus are usually very clear with their ingredients. If there are any foods you are worried about, the waiter/waitresses are usually helpful in guiding you.

A good tip is that if your output is loose, then starchy foods may help bulk up output, so a side order of something like chips or bread might be an idea.


What if my stoma makes a smell in the toilet?

Try not to worry – we all have this fear! Take a small spray deodorant or perfume with you, just in case.


What can I do if I pass gas/noise from by stoma pouch in a public?

This is often a worry for ostomates. Try to avoid any fizzy drinks with your meal as these can be the culprit of additional gas/wind. If you cannot resist a glass of fizz as a celebration, try a stir some of the bubbles out first, so that it won’t make you too gassy. Other foods to avoid are wind inducing vegetables such as beans, cabbage, broccoli and onions.


Portion size when eating with a stoma

If you are worried the portions might be too much for you, don’t forget most menus have starters and side orders. There is no harm in ordering a couple of starters rather than a large meal if you feel overwhelmed by a large plate of food.


Can I drink alcohol with my meal?

Take it is easy with alcohol, try to have some control over the amount you consume and know your limits. Start with the one glass and see how you feel. Drinking too much alcohol with a stoma can cause a very loose output and make you dehydrated. Make sure you drink a glass of water with each glass of alcohol to keep yourself fully hydrated.


Tips when preparing to visit a restaurant:


  • Do your research, take the lead and be the one to suggest the restaurant
  • Read menus beforehand
  • Don’t introduce new foods on a night out
  • Wear clothes with feel comfortable or have expandable waistband for your pouch and stomach
  • Empty your pouch before you leave the house
  • Take your spare supplies with you
  • Timing is key: try and book your meal around your eating schedule to avoid build-up of air, if you are eating later than usual, snack a little before your meal out.
  • Noisy restaurants can be more comforting as they can hide the sounds your stoma bag is making
  • Locate the toilets on your arrival to the restaurant
  • Ask for a table next to the toilets if you feel this would be easier for you

For more advice on living with a stoma, including plenty of articles on diet and nutrition, make sure to visit our advice centre. There are also loads of blog posts on eating with a stoma available to help.

If you’re worried about eating out because your stoma bag is no longer working for you, order some stoma samples for free. We also have a handy stoma bag product finder for ostomates who need a little help finding a stoma bag that works for them.

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