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What is a Colostomy Diet?

By Emma Lloyd
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Many people who have undergone a surgical procedure called a colostomy find that their digestive systems are more sensitive to certain foods. There is no clinical colostomy diet that all patients must follow, but it can be useful to determine which foods cause digestion problems. Following a colostomy diet that avoids or restricts the consumption of these foods can help reduce symptoms and make caring for the colostomy easier.

A colostomy is a surgical procedure in which the end of the colon is detached from the digestive system and reattached on the abdominal wall. A surgical opening called a stoma is created in the abdominal wall, so that the colon feeds directly to the surface of the skin. Food that is eaten passes through the stomach and small intestine as normal but bypasses the large intestine, including the colon, by feeding directly into the surgical opening. The stoma is fitted with a pouch that collects digestive waste and must be emptied several times a day. This procedure is carried out when a section of the colon must be removed because of injury or disease, preventing the normal digestion of food past this point.

After this surgery, a colostomy diet often is liquid-based for several days. A liquid diet is easy to digest and allows the surgical site time to heal before it must cope with the physical stress of digestion. Clear liquids such as juices and broth are eaten at this time. Once the colon has started healing, bland and easily digested foods can be eaten.

Eventually, most people can return to a relatively normal diet. It usually is necessary to restrict certain foods that can make digestion more difficult or make the colostomy difficult to manage. For example, certain foods can cause excess gas. This can be physically uncomfortable and can cause the colostomy pouch to inflate, which can make it difficult to empty. Other foods might cause diarrhea or constipation, and some can block the stoma.

Several types of food, or parts of some foods, must be avoided in a colostomy diet to prevent such problems. Foods to avoid include raw vegetables, skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, high-fiber foods, whole grains, legumes, popcorn and corn, brown rice, seeds, nuts and high-fat foods, including meats, dairy products and baked goods. Lower-fat versions of these foods usually can be eaten safely. Certain foods can help make the colostomy more manageable by reducing odors or making the stool thicker. These foods include cranberry juice, bananas, applesauce, live-culture yogurt, tapioca, white toasted bread and soft-cooked white rice.

A colostomy diet often modifies how and when food is eaten, in addition to what types of foods are eaten. To promote regular digestion, it is helpful to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Eating the bulk of calories during the day and eating only a small meal at night will reduce night-time stool output. Finally, chewing food very thoroughly, almost until it becomes liquid, will help reduce the risk of the stoma becoming blocked.

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