Everybody has trouble eating right. When you have an ostomy, though, the challenges can be even tempts to control diarrhea, fluid balance, gas, and odor can stop you from eating enough healthy foods. And even if you do eat right, you may worry that your intestines don’t absorb the vitamins and minerals you need.
The first thing to know: people with an ostomy usually don’t have any absorption problems unless significant portions of the small bowel have been removed. If you’re not sure, ask your surgeon (if possible) or physician about the location and extent of your surgery. And listen to the experts. They say nutrient deficiences (in people living with an ostomy) are often self-inflicted.
FOOD CHALLENGES: “If people living with an ostomy have deficiencies, it’s because they’re afraid to eat, and they impose too many restrictions on themselves,” says Claudia Mueller, RD, a colorectal dietician at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio. Trying to help each other, people with an ostomy often share war stories about the foods that bother them, creating a “do not eat” list of foods that can limit nutrient intake and compromise health. But it’s important to try out these foods for yourself, since each digestive system reacts differently. Keep a food diary, testing one suspected food every 3 days. A registered dietician can help expand your food choices.
Following are the two most common food concerns:
Fear of Fiber: Fear of a fiber-clogging stoma is big. But fiber is usually only an issue for people who don’t chew their food very well, Mueller contends, although corn, popcorn, and nuts may always may always be a problem for someone with an ileostomy.
The solution: Take your time, and chew, chew, chew—at least 25 times with each bite of food you take.
Fear of Odor: “Six to 12 months out, most people with an ostomy have achieved a good comfort level,” says Leslie J. Bonci, RD, author of the American Dietetic Association Guide to Better Digestion, “and they’re more concerned with odor”. Fish, coffee, onions, garlic, chives, asparagus, and sometimes even poultry are the culprits.
The solution: Try smaller portions, suggests Bonci, and include buttermilk or yogurt at the same meal to counter the odor-causing foods. Fresh parsley and spearmint help too—a reason to eat your garnishes.