What is a Colostomy?
A colostomy is when a portion of the large intestine is by-passed or removed. The remaining functioning large intestine is brought through the abdominal wall which creates a stoma. People with a colostomy often use closed pouch systems.
What is an Ileostomy?
An ileostomy is when the entire colon, rectum, and anus are by-passed and/or removed. The small intestine called the ileum is brought through the abdominal wall which creates the stoma. People with an ileostomy would want to avoid closed pouches and use a drainable ostomy pouch system.
What are the Dietary Needs for a Person with an Ostomy?
When I decided to write this article I did not know how inconsistent the information would be in regards to diet and ostomy. I thought it would be clearly defined since so many people have ostomies and they all need to manage their food intake afterward. I was wrong. It does not seem to be clearly defined at all. Luckily there are some valuable resources available. I highly recommend The United Ostomy Association as a source of excellent information regarding diet, lifestyle, and generally living well with an ostomy. UOA released a helpful booklet about Ostomy and Diet that is well worth a read.
I asked several people who have had an ostomy for at least 5 years for tips they would give to people who are new ostomates. However, the most important person to discuss your dietary needs with is your doctor. If you don't currently have a WOC nurse, I would suggest you contact your medical care team and have them set you up with one. A WOC nurse is special because they have been trained and educated in all things ostomy. They are your best source of information when it comes to day to day life with your stoma care and ostomy supplies.
Advice from People with an Ostomy:
Adam, 43, ostomate for 12 years says, "The best choice I made was to journal everything I ate after I had my surgery. I still had active Crohns so my ileostomy was an adjustment and I was still feeling sick in general as well. Writing down what I ate and how I reacted to it helped me learn what was going to work for me and what wasn't. I felt very out of control for a long time with Crohns which led to depression, which led to other issues - it was a bad time. When I had my surgery I knew I needed to take charge of my own care. Writing things down and talking with my doctors helped me adjust. My ileostomy really did change my life for the better.
Kira, 26, ostomate for 5 years says, "Chew your food! Chew, chew, chew, chew!! Nothing is better at stopping blockages than chewing your food! Blockages are awful and painful and I had so many at first and going back into the hospital was terrible and missing classes and work was bad too. Chew your food. Stop blockages."
Nate, 68, ostomate for 9 years says, "Food changes the consistency of your output. Personally, I have found eating a wide variety of food helps balance this out. I make sure to eat a lot of nutrient dense food. My ileo means my body does not get a chance to absorb all the nutrients I need. I can't really afford to eat a lot of junk. Weight gain changes my stoma and can make things harder. Small meals of healthy nutrient packed food have made me feel best. That and water, I drink a ton of water. I am scared of getting dehydrated."
Tips for Eating With an Ostomy:
- Journal all of your meals and snacks and keep track of how it makes you feel and how your body responds to the foods you eat.
- Chew your food thoroughly. Carefully chewing each bite jump starts digestion which helps colostomy and ileostomy patients avoid blockages. Chewing carefully can mean enjoying raw veggies again.
- Eat nutrient dense foods. By making sure you are fueling your body with nutrient dense food you can ensure you are getting what your body needs to be strong and healthy.
- Drink plenty of water, your body needs it to stay hydrated. Dehydration causes a lot of problems for anyone and especially for someone with an ostomy.
- Try new foods one at a time at first. It will be hard to tell if your body is good with a certain food if you try five foods and don't know which caused the negative reaction
- If a fruit or vegetable bothers you, try removing the skin and seeing if your reaction is better
- Pancaking can happen because of types of food you eat. Ostomy suppliers like Coloplast makelubricating ostomy pouch drops that can help make cleaning out your pouch easier.
- Try not eating right before bed because it will make your stoma more active at night and that can affect your sleep.