Food Permitted to Eat After Intestinal Surgery

close-up of surgeons hands making an incision in a patient
Surgical procedure. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Intestinal surgery patients must follow strict post-surgery dietary guidelines. It is necessary to follow the guidelines set by your doctor so he can assess your progress and the effectiveness of the surgery. When you have intestinal surgery, you are not released from the hospital until you have a bowel movement to ensure that your intestines are eliminating food correctly.

Clear Liquid Diet

Glass of green tea on coaster, close-up
Tea and liquids are necessary in the beginning of recovery. (Image: ULTRA F/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Intestinal surgery "stuns" your intestines for up to 5 days. Your diet must give your system time to rebound -- so you start passing bowel movements and gas once again. You will graduate from ice chips to clear liquids to get that process started and keep your body well hydrated. On a clear liquid diet, you may have foods that are liquid at room temperature. You can have water, coffee, tea, carbonated, fruit-flavored and cereal drinks, but no dairy products, including milk. Plain gelatin, ice pops, bouillon and other strained, clear, fat-free broths can provide needed nutrients and keep plenty of water in your system. Limited amounts of salt are fine as salt helps your body retain water.

Soft Diet

bowl of squash soup with basil
Soup can be a good, liquid meal. (Image: Magone/iStock/Getty Images)

After a few days on a clear, liquid diet, you can begin a soft diet. Most non-fibrous foods are allowed on a soft-diet as long as they do not cause excess gas and bloating. Fibrous food, such as seeds, legumes, whole-grains, bran, strong cheeses, raw eggs, fruit and vegetables, unstrained soups and fried foods, are not allowed on the soft diet. Additionally, strong sauces and condiments, such as horseradish, barbecue, sweet-and-sour and Worcestershire sauces are not allowed. Tenderized meat that is baked, broiled, roasted or stewed like beef, lamb or veal is acceptable, while preserved or non-tender meats, such as cold cuts, smoked, salted or fried meats, are not.

Back Home

Smiling doctor working in hospital
Follow your physician's instructions. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Your physician will give you instructions for your at-home care, including your dietary restrictions. Expect to eat only soft, easily digestible food during your first week home. These foods include anything on the clear and soft diets. Your doctor will likely instruct you to eat six small meals daily, about fist-size portions, and limit your sweets. Add regular diet food gradually, one type at a time, and drink lots of fluids. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables for a couple weeks to avoid painful abdominal cramps and bloat from the stool-thickening fiber. If cramps or bloating occur, or you have unexpected pain, contact your physician.

Recovery

Vanilla ice cream in paper cup
Continue with soft, easily digestable foods until instructed otherwise. (Image: Merih Unal Ozmen/iStock/Getty Images)

It typically takes your intestines 1 to 2 weeks to recover to your normal pre-operative status. Your doctor may advise you to begin a regular diet when he is satisfied that you are having regular bowel movements and acceptable pain levels. Foods that you "tolerate" will constitute your regular diet. Should pain occur, excess gas, a stoppage of your bowel movements, or anything else that causes concern, contact your doctor.

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