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Diet Needs for Perforated Bowel

author image Mary McNally
Mary McNally has been writing and editing for over 13 years, including publications at Cornell University Press, Larson Publications and College Athletic Magazines. McNally also wrote and edited career and computer materials for Stanford University and Ithaca College. She holds a master's degree in career development from John F. Kennedy University and a bachelor's degree from Cornell University in counseling.
Diet Needs for Perforated Bowel
A plate of cooked tofu. Photo Credit: VeselovaElena/iStock/Getty Images

A perforated bowel is a serious condition, and immediate action such as surgery needs to be taken to prevent infection and death, according to the Merck Manual. Bacteria from the bowel can spill into the abdominal cavity, causing peritonitis, an infection of the abdominal lining. While the infection can be treated with antibiotics and the perforation repaired with surgery, the patient must eat a specific diet in order to recover from a perforated bowel.

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Perforated Bowel and Peritonitis

A perforated bowel can be caused by swallowing a sharp object or by blunt or sharp trauma, according to the Merck Manual. Swallowing a nail, getting hit in the stomach or being stabbed in the abdomen all can cause a perforated bowel. This injury can result in peritonitis which, if left untreated, can spread from the abdominal lining to the blood or throughout the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. This whole body infection is called sepsis and can result in death.

Clear Liquids

The perforated bowel will be sensitive after surgery, and if the patient is recovering from peritonitis, it is crucial that she resumes eating with a liquid diet for the first few days to stay hydrated. The Mayo Clinic states that water, fat-free broth, fruit juices minus the pulp, fruit punch, clear soda, plain gelatin, ice pops and plain coffee and tea are all acceptable on the clear liquid diet.

Soft Foods

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, NDDIC, a soft food diet includes foods that are low-fiber and are easily broken down in the digestive tract. This includes foods that are pureed, chopped or mashed, such as applesauce, mashed potatoes, ground meat, tofu, cooked or soft fruits and cooked cereal and pasta. Foods to avoid include whole-grain cereals, bagels, popcorn, raw vegetables, berries and dry meats.

Regular Foods

The bowel may be sore and it may take some time to regain normal function. Whole foods should be reintroduced gradually. Regular foods can be reintroduced to a patient's diet once the bowel inflammation and pain disappears and the doctor recommends to do so. High-fiber foods such as bran flakes, granola, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta may still irritate the bowel, and the doctor should give permission before the patient tries these foods.

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