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Diet and Eating Habits After Ileostomy Surgery

There is no such thing as an ileostomy diet. An ileostomy is not a sickness, so there is usually no health reason for not eating the foods you ate in the past.  If you have a special diet because of heart disease, diabetes, or other health problems, you should ask your doctor about a diet that will work with both the problem and your ileostomy.

You may wonder if you will be on a limited diet after surgery.  Here are a few simple guidelines about your diet.  Doctors often have their patients follow a low-residue diet the first weeks after any abdominal surgery.  This includes only foods that are easily digested and excludes raw fruits and vegetables.  Be sure to find out when you can start a regular diet.  Eat all foods that you like except those restricted by your physician.

Try one food a day that you have not eaten since surgery.  Eat small portions at first and then gradually increase the amount.  Chew well.  If a small serving gives you cramps, diarrhea, or odor, eliminate that food from your diet temporarily and try it again in a few weeks.  If it still bothers you, try it again in six months.

Eat a balanced diet.  You need protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, just as you did before your illness.  Your diet should include dairy products, vegetables and fruits, meats, fish, or legumes high in protein and cereals, bread, and liquids every day.

Watch for foods that cause watery discharges with cramps or partial obstruction of the small bowel.  Some foods may tend to clump together to form a mass difficult to digest or expel.  If this occurs, the ileostomy may squeeze out the water and retain the pulp.  Nut, kernel corn, popcorn, coconut, Chinese vegetables, coleslaw and celery are among the trouble makers if eaten in large quantity.  Many ileostomates find that these foods can be tolerated in small amounts if chewed well and eaten in combination with other foods.  Experimenting is the only way to find out for sure.

Eat regularly.  Skipping meals to avoid gas or discharge is unwise because your small intestine will be more active, and more gas and watery discharge might result.  Some people find it best to eat a lesser amount of food four of five times a day.

Drink plenty of liquids.  A minimum of one quart a day is recommended.  Dehydration and loss of electrolytes are possible if not enough fluids are consumed in a day.

Foods which are difficult to digest such as whole corn, Chinese foods, skins or seeds, may appear in the pouch, undigested, if not chewed well.  Medication in the form of coated tablets or time-release capsules may also come out whole in the pouch and be of no benefit at all.  Beets will make ileostomy output turn a reddish color rather like blood, but there’s no harm done.  Tomato juice and food dyes may change the usual color of ileal discharge as well.  Tomato skins can also appear in the pouch.  For some ileostomates, milk or large quantities of beer can cause a watery discharge, as can iced beverages.

How long is it before intestinal contents flow through the stoma after eating?  This varies with each individual.  It may take anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours after eating.  Some ileostomates find their movements occur regularly after eating; others find their movements are irregular.  What you eat or drink, your mood, and your health may affect how long it takes, as does the length of the remaining ileum and many other personal characteristics of your digestive system.

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