An ileostomy is a surgically created opening that extends from the ileum, a part of the small intestine, out to the surface. The purpose of the opening is to drain waste products from the body in patients who cannot pass it through the intestines and out the rectum. Patients with ileostomies are usually required to follow an ileostomy diet, which limits certain foods to avoid blockage of the opening. Other aspects of the diet include cutting down on the odor that comes from the opening, eating smaller meals several times a day to allow for easier digestion, and experimenting with new foods carefully until patients know how they will react to them.
Doctors recommend that patients on an ileostomy diet avoid raw fruits and vegetables, as well as anything that contains seeds. Patients should instead choose fruit juices and tender vegetables. Those that still want to enjoy a more diverse fruit and vegetable diet can puree the foods into a smoother texture. While most diets recommend eating whole grains, the ileostomy diet actually recommends avoiding them and instead eating white bread because it is less likely to block the opening. Foods that are high in fiber take longer to digest, which can become a problem for those with an ileostomy.
Many patients with an ileostomy express concerns over the odor that comes from the opening and pouch used to hold the waste. Part of the ileostomy diet helps patients limit foods that are known to cause foul smells, and encourages eating foods that have properties that reduce odors. For example, patients should avoid foods like garlic, cabbage, and fish while increasing their intake of yogurt or parsley. Patients may also talk to their doctor about special deodorizers that can be placed inside of ileostomy pouches.
Eating small meals several times a day is beneficial to the ileostomy diet for several reasons. It allows food to be more fully digested before passing through the opening. It may cut down on gas and potentially embarrassing rumbling sounds coming from the stomach. Eating up to six small meals also keeps patients from feeling hungry throughout the day. Patients should remember, though, to introduce new foods one at a time, just in case complications arise.
Following the guidelines set forth by a physician or nutritionist is the best tip for ensuring a successful ileostomy diet. Other special diets, such as low-sodium or low-fat diets, may also be recommended in conjunction with the ileostomy diet if the patient has other medical conditions. For patients who require a long-term or permanent ileostomy, lifestyle changes may also be recommended, as gaining or losing too much weight can alter the opening and may necessitate additional surgeries.