The colostomy diet is a diet that doctors recommend for people recovering from colostomy surgery. Although a colostomy does not affect a person’s ability to eat or digest food, consuming certain foods will make the recovery period more manageable.
During a colostomy, surgeons move one end of the colon through an opening in the abdomen. After surgery, some people will use a colostomy bag to collect body waste. It can be temporary or permanent. The bag attaches to the opening that surgeons made in the abdomen and is called a stoma.
There are stages of recovery during which a person can begin to reintroduce certain foods, usually more fibrous options, into their diet. A recovering person can start with fluids and add a type of food both in their diet.
It is important that people eat the foods in their bodies can handle while the colon recovers. People should also remember that just because one person tolerates a certain food well after surgery, doesn’t mean everyone will react the same way.
In this article, we cover the best foods for colostomy recovery, along with foods to avoid, foods for healthy bowel movements, and more.
Food options for people recovering from a colostomy include:
- fat free or low fat skim milk
- lactose free dairy products
- lean animal protein
- small amounts of nut or nut butter
- low-fiber carbohydrates, such as white pasta or bread
- well cooked vegetables without skin
- fruit juice without pulp
- peeled or canned fruit
- the contents of thick-skinned fruits, such as watermelon or honeydew melon
People recovering from colostomy surgery, as well as those with persistent gastrointestinal issues, should aim to follow a
Bland foods are low in fiber and easy on the digestive system. They include:
- white pasta
- lean protein
- fruit juice
The digestive system can tolerate bland foods better than fatty or spicy foods. Bland foods are also less acidic, which leads to less upset stomach.
People who have had a colostomy should cook their food rather than eating it raw, as raw foods are more difficult to digest.
Learn more about a bland diet here.
A liquid diet
Those recovering from a colostomy may start with a clear liquid diet before moving on to solid foods. Doctors often recommend liquid diets for people with complications from the digestive system.
With a liquid diet, a person can
- clear fruit juice, without pulp
- sports drinks
- the water
- decaffeinated tea or coffee
Learn more about Complete Liquid Diets here.
Tips on eating habits
It is best to start reintroducing foods by consuming small amounts and evaluating digestion.
After a person has done well for a few days with a liquid diet, they should start adding light, easily digestible foods to their diet.
A person should Eat slowly and chew their food well.
Recovering people should drink fluids at room temperature. Clinical dietitians recommend avoiding carbonated or caffeinated drinks because they can put unnecessary strain on the digestive system.
Doctors suggest eating small meals several times a day, eating slowly, and chewing foods well to avoid discomfort or irritation to the colon.
After a colostomy, people may want to avoid foods that aggravate or inflame the colon.
People may find that it is best to avoid:
- all foods high in fiber
- soft drinks
- foods high in fat or fried
- raw fruit with the skin
- raw vegetables
- whole grains
- fried poultry and fish
- high fat dairy products
- spicy food
All of these foods can damage the colon as it recovers after surgery. A person should avoid them until a doctor or registered dietitian advises against it.
While menu options may be limited, there are a few quick and easy meal ideas that work well for those recovering from a colostomy.
- Jam or jelly on white toast: Jelly or jam contains pectin, and white toast is low in fiber.
- White rice with canned or cooked vegetables: Canned or cooked vegetables are low in fiber but can still provide nutrients to a person. Vegetable ideas include carrots, asparagus tips, or peeled zucchini.
- Low fat banana yogurt: Slice a banana and add it to the low fat yogurt. Yogurt is a good source of protein, and bananas will increase potassium levels. It’s also a complex carbohydrate, which can help people stay fuller for longer.
After colostomy surgery, the type of fluid a person drinks will also affect their colon.
It is important to avoid carbonated and caffeinated drinks, which tend to cause irritation, gas and bloating, causing discomfort. Both decaffeinated tea and coffee are safe to drink.
People who are recovering should avoid alcohol post-colostomy or introduce it very gradually. They should always speak with their doctor before drinking alcohol after undergoing this procedure. For many people, alcoholic beverages cause diarrhea, gas and odors. This is particularly the case with beer, which is rich in yeast and hops.
After any type of bowel surgery, a person’s ability to absorb water is lower. Therefore, adequate hydration is a necessary part of healing.
An upset stomach can often lead to odorous gas. To minimize odors, people should avoid:
- Brussels sprouts
- soft drinks
- dried beans
- milk and dairy products
With a colostomy bag
After a colostomy, some people need to use a colostomy bag. It can be a permanent or temporary addition to their routine.
Sometimes people with colostomy bags notice an odor coming from the bags, which they may find embarrassing. Doctors recommend adding a deodorant tablet to the bag to remedy this.
It is common for people to gain weight after ostomy surgery. This is due to a number of factors, including:
- better food tolerance
- eating less low-calorie foods and heavier foods to regulate bowel movements
- body image changes
- a different relationship with food
Standard weight loss methods, such as joining a weight loss support group or following certain diets, can be difficult for someone with an ostomy due to changes in their food tolerances.
According to Colostomy UK, an important step in overcoming unwanted weight gain is to become more comfortable with the stoma. This can be difficult for some people because an ostomy can be an unwanted addition and can cause embarrassment and discomfort.
However, once a person begins to accept their ostomy, they may better recognize the reasons for some of their eating habits or choices. After this adjustment, they can also change their relationship with food.
Learn more about colostomy bags here.
A colostomy is an operation in which surgeons divert the colon to an artificial opening in the abdomen to bypass a damaged area of the colon.
Some people may need to use a colostomy bag after surgery.
During recovery, people should consume foods and drinks that do not cause damage to the colon.
A recovery diet can last from two to several weeks. People should talk to their doctor before reintroducing certain foods into their diet.