Eating with an Ostomy

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Beyond Blue Food Issue
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Q: What should I eat if I have an (ile)ostomy? Is there anything I should avoid?

Joanna Burgess-Stocks, BSN, RN, CWOCN, United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. Advocacy Committee Co-Chair answers your questions.

A: Life and health are built on eating a variety of nutritious foods.

Whether you are a foodie who loves to explore new restaurants or dabble in your garden, the good news is that for most, you can eat what you love while living with an ostomy. For anyone who has had ostomy surgery, it is natural to face concerns regarding food choices and to question whether an ostomy will change how you eat and digest food.

Post-Surgery

Food choices begin just after surgery. For all ostomy types, your post-surgical diet will be low in fiber and residue, which helps to rest the gastrointestinal tract. These foods are easier to digest and produce less gas. The goals are to maintain weight, promote healing, prevent stoma blockage, and maintain healthy fluid levels to prevent dehydration.

It’s Personal

Four to six weeks after surgery, you may simply return to your normal eating habits. However, each person is different. The best diet for you will depend on your body and medical history. Your medical doctor and a registered dietitian (RD) can assist your ongoing recovery process and help you thrive long after surgery.

Ileostomy

For those with an ileostomy, there may be a risk for dehydration after surgery due to a decreased ability to absorb nutrients, fluids, and electrolytes. It is important to stay well-hydrated and drink the amount and type of fluids recommended for your health and body weight. There is also an added risk of stoma blockage due to a smaller stoma opening and swelling of the stoma after surgery.

These risks can be lowered by avoiding high-fiber/ high-residue foods such as vegetables and fruits with skins and seeds, raw fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. This risk can also be averted by chewing your food well.

Slowly Introduce Foods

To make your nutrition transition smooth, slowly introduce foods into your diet one at a time. Keep a food journal, which can help when you are speaking with your doctor/RD about which foods seem to work well and which ones do not. For those with an ileostomy, carefully record your reactions as you introduce high-fiber foods and fresh/raw fruits and vegetables. Expand your diet and food choices under the direction of your doctor.


Ostomy surgery is a lifesaving procedure. It restores health and enables you to resume the activities you once enjoyed—including eating! It is all about educating yourself about your surgery, having good communication with your medical professionals regarding food choices, and regaining confidence in eating. Pretty soon you will see yourself at your favorite restaurant again.

For more information, download a free copy of United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.’s “Eating With An Ostomy,” a comprehensive nutrition guide for those living with an ostomy at ostomy.org/diet-nutrition.

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