Dietary intake after a colostomy can return to normal within several weeks post-surgery. Individual intolerances and special precautions regarding certain food items should be recognized to avoid any complications. Experiencing loose stool output is a common occurrence among those with ostomies, especially within those first few post-operative days. Stools will remain softer than those prior to the surgery. Avoiding, as well as including, certain foods can help increase the firmness of stool output. The site of the stoma will largely impact the degree of alterations in the diet. The more distal the colostomy, the fewer issues related to the surgery there will be. Alternatively, the lesser amount of colon for absorption of nutrients and stool formation, the more diet modifications may be necessary.
Foods That May Cause Loose Stools
Several common foods that may induce loose stools include insoluble fiber, fried and high-fat food and heavily spiced food. Examples of insoluble fiber are bran, skins of fruits and vegetables, nuts and raisins. Since it is still important to include dietary fiber in the diet to avoid constipation, try slowly increasing fiber to reduce adverse side effects and gauge tolerance. Some beverages that may result in loose stools include beer and prune or apple juice. Items that contain lactose, such as milk products, may create loose output for those who are lactose intolerant. Additionally, if you are solely drinking liquid supplements, then it is only natural to experience loose stools. Avoid skipping meals as this too can increase the occurrence of loose output, according to the United Ostomy Associations of America.
Common Digestive Stimulants
Some food components may stimulate the digestive system, resulting in the expedited transit of fecal matter. Due to less time in the gut, stools have less time to form into solid masses, resulting in loose output. Food items that tend to decrease passage time include insoluble fiber, spicy foods and chocolate. Alcohol, beer, caffeine and hot beverages are also a few common digestive accelerators. Large amounts of simple sugars or sorbitol may also have a laxative-like effect and thus should be limited.
To Each His Own
Since many factors can affect how the body reacts to food, each person may handle dietary components differently. For this reason, it is important to learn how each item affects you personally. Post-surgery, incorporate new foods into the diet one at a time to identify problem items. Once troublesome foods are identified, eliminate them for a few weeks and try again to see if you are still experiencing symptoms.
It is also important to note that many medications and drugs may cause loose stools. Antibiotics, anti-hypertensive medications and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are just a few examples of such drugs. Read the drug labels that accompany the medication to determine if they may be contributing to loose output.
What to Eat
Incorporating certain foods in the diet will also help reduce the incidence of loose stool. Foods that thicken output include bananas, smooth peanut butter, white rice, potatoes sans skin, bread, applesauce and crackers. While whole grains, such as brown rice and whole wheat bread, may be healthier choices, when experiencing loose stools, foods that are more difficult to digest should be limited. Since the colon is a primary site for water and electrolyte absorption, it is critical to maintain appropriate fluid and electrolyte status. Make sure to drink enough fluids -- at least 8 cups per day. Although it is important to consume adequate fluid, avoiding drinking large amounts during or directly before or after a meal to reduce likelihood of loose output. Electrolytes -- namely sodium and potassium -- are also particularly important. Good sources include certain foods, such as bananas, potatoes, vegetable or tomato soup, and drinks, such as tomato juice and low-sugar sports drinks. If experiencing severe diarrhea, medical attention should be sought immediately.
- United Ostomy Associations of America: Diet and Nutrition Guide (PDF)
- "British Journal of Nursing"; Providing Dietary Advice for the Individual with a Stoma; Juliette Fulham; 2008