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Food After a Colectomy Surgery

author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Food After a Colectomy Surgery
Clear soups give a colectomy patient's digestive system a rest. Photo Credit: kazoka30/iStock/Getty Images

Your colon, also known as your large intestine, is a long tube-like organ at the end of your digestive system. A partial colectomy is a surgical procedure that removes a portion of your colon. A total colectomy procedure removes all of your colon. Reasons for a colectomy include uncontrollable bleeding, colon cancer, bowel obstruction and bowel perforation, or tear. Nutrition after a colectomy is important. Your diet will change over time, but general guidelines apply.

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You will generally get your nutrition through an IV for 2 to 3 days after your colectomy. This gives your colon time to heal. Your doctor will monitor your condition and determine when you are ready to begin food consumption. Start with easy-to-digest liquids such as broths and fruit juices. Once your digestive system is ready, your doctor will move you to a low residue diet.

Low-residue diet

Residue is undigested food that remains in your digestive tract. Some foods leave less residue than others. Your doctor will instruct you to maintain a low-residue diet after colectomy surgery. A low-residue diet restricts the amount of fiber and undigested material that pass through your digestive track.


Many vegetables are high in fiber. High fiber foods leave more residue in your digested tract than low-fiber foods. Avoid vegetables that cause gas including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts and Swiss chard. Eat well-cooked, low-residue vegetables such as bell peppers, beets, carrots, cucumbers, egg plant, green beans, mushrooms, squash and zucchini. Eat well-cooked potatoes and remove the skin.

Protein and Dairy

You should limit meats and choose fish and eggs as protein sources. You should also avoid beans and lentils, and eliminate nuts and seeds. After surgery, your ability to digest dairy is altered. This may change over time, but following surgery, avoid dairy products. Your doctor will assess you as your condition progresses and make necessary changes. If you do not avoid dairy, you can experience symptoms of lactose intolerance, including bloating, stomach pain, gas and diarrhea.

After Healing

Your doctor will follow your progress and determine when your digestive system is ready to resume normal eating. He will instruct you when to begin eating high fiber foods. You can then have 4 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, as well as whole grain breads and pastas. Lactose intolerance is generally temporary, but in rare cases is permanent. If you resume the ability to digest dairy after healing, you can enjoy dairy foods again.

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