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Diet After Small Bowel Obstruction

author image Stacey Phillips
Stacey Phillips is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer. She has had articles and patient information handouts published in the "Renal Nutrition Forum" and the "Journal of Renal Nutrition." She holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and a Masters degree at Central Michigan University.
Diet After Small Bowel Obstruction
Nutrition after a bowel obstruction should support healing and healthy bowel function.

A small bowel obstruction is a blockage in the intestines that makes it difficult for food to properly digest properly. Typical symptoms are abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Sometimes intravenous fluids, medications and bowel rest can help resolve this problem. If this does not work, surgery is typically needed to correct the blockage to enable food to pass through your body normally. A specific diet after the obstruction is removed is recommended to allow your digestive system to heal.

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Clear Liquid

Start with sips and advance to half-cup to one-cup portions.
Start with sips and advance to half-cup to one-cup portions.

A clear liquid diet, starting with sips and advancing to half-cup to one-cup portions, is first. With oral intake, you are monitored for any symptoms of diet intolerance such as vomiting, nausea or abdominal pain. Foods allowed on the clear liquid diet are broths, gelatin, ice pops, juice and carbonated beverages that are clear in color. This diet should only be followed short term as it does not provide sufficient calories and protein.

Full Liquid

The full liquid diet includes yogurt.
The full liquid diet includes yogurt.

The full liquid diet includes all of the foods allowed on the clear liquid diet in addition to milk, smooth yogurt, pudding, creamed soups without chunks, and hot cereals with refined grains. You can add milkshakes, tomato soup or strained cream of chicken soup, smoothies and oatmeal to your diet. Since this diet is also limited in calories and protein, high protein supplements may be recommended to support healing.

Low Fiber or Low Residue Diet

White toast and an egg is an acceptable breakfast on a low residue diet.
White toast and an egg is an acceptable breakfast on a low residue diet.

Temporarily limiting the amount of fiber you get encourages diet tolerance and bowel healing. High fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains should initially be limited. Examples of foods to avoid are raw fruits and vegetables, especially those with skins, beans such as black, white or kidney and whole grain bread, cereal, rice and pasta. Select foods low in fiber or with 3 grams or less of fiber per serving. If you are told to follow a low residue diet for a more than a week or two, check with your doctor to determine if you need a multivitamin to supplement the vitamins and minerals you are missing on this diet.

Healthy Diet

Gradually incorporate foods that contain fiber.
Gradually incorporate foods that contain fiber.

Your doctor will transition you back to a regular, healthy diet as you continue to heal. At this point, gradually incorporate fiber-containing foods such as a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Daily fiber goals for individuals ages 50 and younger are 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. With the addition of higher fiber foods, focus on drinking plenty of fluids, especially water. A general recommendation for the amount of water you need is eight cups per day. The amount needed to stay hydrated changes depending on your environment and physical activity level.

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