What Is an Ostomy Diet?

A. Gamm
A. Gamm

An ostomy diet is required for patients who have recently had an ostomy — an opening created in surgery to discharge body wastes — and must take extra measure to help their body heal. It is much like a normal diet, with only few restrictions within the first six to eight weeks after surgery. The aims of an ostomy diet are to help make living with an ostomy easier, help the stoma heal faster by controlling bowel passage in the stoma, and prevent other bowel discomforts such as flatulence, odor, constipation and diarrhea, all of which are easily controlled by the foods and beverages consumed.

General guidelines for eating with an ostomy are few, but proven to be very effective during the first six to eight weeks in helping ostomy patients resume normal and comfortable eating. Within the first couple of weeks on the ostomy diet, it is important to eat bland foods that are low in fiber. This is because high fiber foods may loosen the bowels too much and cause excessive flatulence.

Doctors and nutritionists often recommend that foods be slowly introduced and combined with other foods that have already been successfully incorporated into the diet. A food journal is recommended to track any potential reactions to a new food. If a patient suspects the new food is giving him or her unwanted gastronomical discomforts, nutritionists recommend trying the food a few more times before removing it from the ostomy diet.

Food should be eaten in small, bite-sized pieces and chewed thoroughly to aid digestion. Meals should be small, and frequent. Although snacking is not recommended, it is important to not let the stomach become empty as that may cause gas. It is also important to not gain too much weight as that may lead to stress on the stoma as well as other health complications.

Extra fluid intake with an ostomy diet is essential, especially for colostomy and ileostomy patients. This is because the body is not able to absorb enough water and essential nutrients into the body, namely potassium and sodium. A minimum of 64 ounces (1.89 liters) a day of fluid is recommended. Patients may drink any fluids they wish, but carbonated drinks and milk may be difficult to digest for some patients the first month after the ostomy. To compensate further for the loss of potassium and sodium, patients should eat foods that are high in these nutrients.

After the initial six to eight weeks post-surgery, patients are given nutrition charts highlighting the foods that may cause gastronomical discomforts and foods that can help relieve these discomforts. Patients may also need to take a multivitamin for the first year after the ostomy to compensate to any vitamin deficiencies. Beyond this, ostomy patients are allowed to resume a normal, healthy diet.

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