Has my diet changed after getting my ostomy?

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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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Olivia
Olivia
4 days ago

I have had my ileostomy 1 year and am having issues w some vegetables especially broccoli type veg. I am not sure if it is gas bc I don’t see the pouch expand or any other sign of gas. But when I eat them I get a leakage from my barrier ring. I cannot tolerate much starch so I wonder of absence of anything which to bind the veg could create an irritating output and or so much gas that the barrier ring is affected? Even if I see no.sign of gas? Salads and squash type veg are not a problem but I do love my cruciferous veggies.
TYIA

Rose
Rose
2 months ago

Hi, I have an ileostomy. In 20 days I’m supposed to have it reversed. I suffered from horrible constipation to the point where I could not go at all on my own. I was sick in bed for over a year and a half. The ostomy has helped but now I am having trouble with thick stools. I used to eat a ton of artificial sweeteners and since my second surgery I probably only eat 10% of my diet from sugar sweeteners now. However I’m really struggling with thick output. I have to do a soft diet I am not vegan and I don’t think I really want to be. I eat meat not red only chicken turkey and once in awhile tuna fish. I used to love vegetables. The first time I had surgery I was eating steamed vegetables fresh and I cooked them for over an hour so they were super mushy. I wound up getting hospitalized a week later because my stools were so thick. I clogged my stomach. I have not tried them since however when I was doing the sugar sweeteners I was able to do carrots and tomatoes. Since my second surgery I can’t even do those. I eat a ton of dairy. I crave dairy. And I kind of need it for my bone health. But now I’m starting to question cutting that out. I’m concerned if I cut out dairy all that’s going to leave me eating is meat. I’m not sure I have problems with fruit, but I’m thinking I might. How did you get to the point where you could eat vegetables I would love to be able to eat them? Can you give me some pointers? Do you still have a bag or did you get reversed? If you don’t want to answer me on here please email me. I may prefer that better. Thank you for your time.

Mary Elizabeth Reynolds

I’m learning so much from watching your videos and and reading stuff like this.
My biggest problem has been my diet. It seems I eat so much more junk food then ever before. I’m always afraid after I eat that I’m going to become blocked. I want to go back to eating salads, veggies that’s NOT in a can and other good stuff. I noticed you eat alot if salads…Can you please tell me what your doing to where you can? Some other veggie options would be nice too. Thanks so much! And other food options I would appreciate. :).
Mary~

grace fass
3 years ago

My diet has really changed with my ileostomy last Feb 2017. I now must eat a soft diet. Meat, even, ground in my processer, causes my wafer even with barrier extenders, to open and leak during the night. I am going to try cooking ground chicken in balls using my meat loaf recipe that makes my regular meat ballsl tender, All is learning. Fruits and veggies must be soft Somehow romane lettuce and tomatoes seem to be tolerated. I eat no other raw veggies. Also no huge thanksgiving dinners even soft. I got a really bad tummy ache above my ileostomy and took a few days to get back to normal output.

Debbi
6 years ago

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.