Has my diet changed after getting my ostomy?

How an ostomy changed how I eat
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During my last giveaway, I had asked readers to send in their questions about anything related to IBD, ostomy or my vegan lifestyle.  I received some great questions, but several people asked how my diet has changed since getting my ostomy. It’s a great question for anyone who might be headed for surgery, so here’s what my experience has been like.

Please remember that my experience may not reflect what your experience has been or will be. 

I’d like to start by saying that my diet BEFORE my ostomy was incredibly unstable and ever-changing due to Crohn’s Disease. Simply getting anything down was often the goal on some days, and except for specific diet plans (e.g., elimination diets, gluten-free, rice only, etc), meals were often simple but heavy on calories to try and keep weight on. I do have photos of many of the meals I’ve eaten prior to my ileostomy, and none of those meals would be off-limits for me now.

Post-op diet

Immediately after my surgery, I was put on a low-fiber, post-ileostomy diet. The foods I ate fell under the recommended diet that my hospital provided me, and included:

  • refined grain products (white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc.)
  • tofu
  • potatoes (without skin)
  • potato chips (not something I’d consider healthy, but it provided much needed sodium, potassium, calories and also thickened my output)
  • V8 vegetable juice (the regular one, with more sodium)
  • avocado
  • Soy milk with vegan protein powder
  • tomato sauce (smooth sauce without any chunks or skin)
  • canned green beans, canned carrots, canned beets
  • sports drinks
  • smooth almond butter

Not ideal to say the least, and while it was boring to eat those foods, not having to deal with pain after so many years of suffering was a very nice thing to experience. I recall my first meal after getting the ok from my surgeons office approx. 6 weeks post-op. It was so nice to eat “normal food”, but I was also very cautious of what I was eating and made sure to chew and chew and chew.

Salads and raw veggies

Red leaf lettuce salad
I can never get enough salad

For me, salads were my goal; If I could eat them again, I would forever be content. I can’t overstate how much I REALLY love salads! When I got past the post-ileostomy phase, I started off slow and made sure to chew well and to fill up on too many raw vegetables with skins. I then built up from there, eating salads that would be considered “family sized” by any standard. Now, over a year since my surgery, I can make an entire meal out of a salad without it causing any trouble – no problems going in, and none coming out.

Beans and Legumes

Vegan chili
Homemade chili!

Beans and legumes are a staple in my home. I often eat the equivalent of about two cups per day on average, with my favorites being chickpeas, lentils, edamame (soybeans) and kidney beans. I approach black beans with caution since my last blockage, but I don’t avoid them completely. Also, because beans tend to thicken my output, I try to eat them with liquid or some veg on the side.

Some people worry that beans and legumes will cause them to have too much gas, which can increase the chance of pouch ballooning, but I rarely find that beans or legumes are a culprit, and it’s been shown that our flatulence “levels out” after a short period of time eating beans on a consistent basis (SOURCE).  So if beans and legumes have caused you trouble with gas in the past, perhaps you just need to give it some more time :)

A move to whole foods

Makes for an amazing dish!
Makes for an amazing dish!

The biggest difference in my diet now has been a shift to eating more whole foods. A plant-based, whole food diet (with fat content being debated) is still the optimal diet for human beings in my opinion. I don’t fear fiber and have no trouble eating whole grain bread, cooked lentils, dark leafy greens or raw fruit. I also make a conscious effort to try to optimize my nutrient absorption. This may not be how every ostomate is able to eat, but I’m fortunate that I am, and hope that other ostomates are able to find a balance between their enjoyment of food, nutrition and their ostomy.

Closing thoughts

One of my biggest fears before heading into surgery was whether I could maintain a plant-based diet with an ileostomy. Over the past year I’ve learned that not only can I maintain a plant-based diet, but I’m able to enjoy food like never before.  My long-term goal is to continue to eat in a way that supports remission, reduces inflammation, reduces the impact on the environment and is friendly to animals.

Sources:

Question: Has your ostomy changed the way you eat? For better or worse?

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2 thoughts on “Has my diet changed after getting my ostomy?

  1. Great information. I started eating vegan 2years after my ileo I feel so much better. People in my support group dont understand how I can eat the whole foods without getting a blockage. I have explained that my digestion has changed for the better. Keep up getting the information out there.

    • I think that for many people, eating more plants takes some adjustment, especially if they are coming from a low-fiber diet. But when you do adjust (including your gut microflora), things are so much better! Getting rid of junk food also helps considerably.

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