An ostomy is a surgically created opening in your abdomen that allows waste to leave your body and collect in a bag. Deciding what to eat with an ostomy bag is an individual decision. Everybody reacts differently to foods and these reactions do not change as a result of the ostomy. Certain foods are known to cause gas, lead to constipation or diarrhea and other digestive difficulties; it may be best to simply avoid these foods. When you have an ostomy bag, you should try new food at home, one at a time, to see what effect they may have before eating them in a public situation. Keeping track of everything you eat by using a food diary is also helpful. The American College of Surgeons explain that an ileostomy is when your ostomy bag connects to the small intestine, and you usually have a watery stool, while a coloscopy connects to the large intestine and your stool is larger and firmer.
Gas Producing Foods
Any foods that triggered gas production before your ostomy are likely to continue to cause that reaction. The extra gas will not lead to health problems or problems with the ostomy, but may be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Common gas producing foods include beans, beer, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carbonated beverages, cauliflower and onions. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recommends eating yogurt or drinking buttermilk to help reduce gas.
Less Digestible Foods
The United Ostomy Associations of America, or UOAA, reports that some foods are less digestible than others and may pose a risk of ostomy blockage. These foods include corn, coconut, mushrooms, nuts, raw fruits and vegetables. You should avoid foods that don't digest completely, which include cabbage, celery, dried fruit, green peppers, lettuce, mushrooms, peas, pineapple, popcorn, seeds, skins from fruits and vegetables. Blockage of the ostomy can lead to an emergency situation. If you experience symptoms such as thin, clear liquid coming out of your stoma with a foul odor, cramping and abdominal pain near the stoma, or no output for several hours, you should call your doctor.
The foods you eat and the beverages you drink affect the consistency of the stool that collects in your ostomy bag. Other factors, such as mood, stress level and health, can affect also the amount and consistency of your stool. Foods like applesauce, bananas, cheese, pasta, rice, peanut butter, skinless potatoes and tapioca may cause thicker stool. You may want to experiment with these food items to prevent the stool from becoming too thick. Grape juice, high-sugar foods, prune juice, spicy foods may have the opposite effect on stool and as such, you should eat them in controlled amounts to prevent stool that is too thin.
Odor Causing Foods
Just as gas producing foods can cause discomfort and embarrassment, odor-causing foods can cause similar complications. To avoid the unpleasant odors within the stool, the UOAA recommends avoiding asparagus, baked beans, broccoli, cabbage, eggs, fish, garlic, onions, peanut butter and strong cheeses. You can control odors by consuming buttermilk, cranberry juice, orange juice, parsley, tomato juice and yogurt.
You may find it useful to maintain a food diary to keep of record of which foods cause problems. Introducing a new food every three days will help you manage your symptoms. You should try to eat meals at regular intervals, as skipping meals can lead to watery stools and gas. Also, as lactose intolerance is common with an ostomy, you may need to change to a lactose-free milk or alternative.
- MedlinePlus.com: Ileostomy and Your Diet
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: Colostomy Care
- United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.: Diet and Nutrition Guide
- United Ostomy Associations of America: How to Treat Ileostomy Blockage
- American College of Surgeons: What is a Colostomy or Ileostomy?