Helpful Hints for Your Diet Following a Colostomy or Ileostomy

For those who have gone through any surgical procedure that alters the digestive system, following the correct diet after the procedure is important. Patients who have had a colostomy, where a portion of the large intestine is bypassed or removed, or an ileostomy, where the entire colon or anus is bypassed or removed, the proper diet following these procedures is necessary to ensure health and safe dietary practices. Finding proper information about your diet following an ostomy can be difficult, and sadly much of the literature is not well defined. However, the United Ostomy Association has several reputable sources on lifestyle, diet and living well following the procedures, although one should always seek the counsel of their doctor before making any such changes. Some of the tips suggested in these resources are summarized here.

1. Keep a diet journal

If you are feeling unwell after eating, keeping track of how you feel after you eat certain foods will help you isolate and identify which food you are not tolerating well after the surgery.

2. Chew your food well and thoroughly

Those with ostomy surgeries lose a certain amount of ability to digest food entirely, and food that is not chewed well can cause blockages, which are painful, and might cause hospitalization.

3. Take in food that is nutrient dense

Once again, as ostomy patients lose part of their ability to digest food, taking in food that is rich in nutrients ensures that your body is getting what it needs in vitamins and minerals. Try to avoid eating junk food, and instead opt for healthy, calorie and vitamin dense foods.

4. Stay hydrated

When you are not well hydrated, this can cause problems with digestion, blockages and overall health. You should drink plenty of water to keep everything moving and to avoid health complications brought on by dehydration.

5. Only try new foods slowly and one at a time.

The kinds of foods you tolerated before the ostomy surgery will not carry over into after-surgery diets. If you try several new foods at once and have a bad reaction, you won’t know which food caused it. Try new foods, or re-introduce foods slowly and one at a time, so that if you have a bad reaction, you will know which culprit caused it.

6. Remove the skin from a fruit or vegetable that gives you problems

Vegetable and fruit skins can be hard to digest even in healthy people. A patient with an ostomy might find this even more pronounced. If you are not tolerating certain foods well, if possible remove the skin, or try softening and mashing the food. If apples are not treating you well, try applesauce. This makes the food easier to digest overall.

7. Try not to eat right before bed

Eating right before bed can cause the stoma to be active when you are trying to sleep, which is uncomfortable and can negatively affect your sleep patterns.

You should always discuss any diet changes with your healthcare provider following a major, life altering surgery such as an ostomy surgery. Those who have had such surgeries can and do lead normal lives after a period of adjustment, but discovering which foods you can eat without problems can be an ongoing process that takes time and trial and error.

An Overview Of The Ileostomy

An ileostomy refers to a small bowel diversion that evacuates waste materials through an opening in the abdomen. This opening in the abdomen is known as a stoma. The surgical procedure to create this bowel diversion generally involves the removal or resting of the entire colon.

An ileostomy is generally on the right-hand side of the body, but it can be on the left side in specific circumstances.

Different types of an ileostomy

An ileostomy can be either an end ileostomy or loop ileostomy.

An end ileostomy is when the surgeon disconnects the small bowel from the colon and pulls the end of the small bowel out through a cut in the belly to create a stoma. An end ileostomy can be permanent or temporary, depending on why had to undergo ileostomy surgery. With an end ileostomy, your colon will have to remain separated for at least a few months if there is a chance of reversal. In many cases, an end ileostomy is permanent, which means that you are going to have to manage an ostomy bag for the rest of your life.

You will need a loop ileostomy when the surgeon realizes the need to divert the passage of fecal wastes away from a bowel obstruction. The surgeon will not disconnect the small bowel completely. He will rather pull a loop of the ileum out through a cut in the abdomen and make an incision on the top of the loop. It will create two openings: one that connects to the active part of the bowel, and the other one that connects to the rectum. This ileostomy is always temporary, as the surgeon creates it to ‘rest’ the diseased part of the bowel. The surgeon will reconnect that both ends of the bowel once the diseased part recovers.

Reasons you may need an ileostomy

There can be various reasons why you may need an ileostomy. Some of those reasons are as follows.

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Cancer
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Radiation damage
  • Other abnormalities

How does an ileostomy look?

The stoma of an ileostomy protrudes from the surface of the abdomen. It may appear like a red or pink bud, which is moist. It is much like the inside of the mouth.

A stoma doesn’t have any nerve endings, meaning that you are not going to feel anything on it. It, however, has lots of blood vessels that can cause the stoma to bleed easily when you rub it. So, you are going to have to be careful while cleaning it.

The stoma is generally swollen after surgery because it is the part of the bowel that the surgeon has to cut. It generally takes 6-8 weeks for the swelling to subside.

Initially, there will be stitches around the stoma after surgery. These stitches dissolve over time, and the stoma becomes a part of the abdominal skin.

The skin around the stoma holds significant importance in the ostomy care regimen because it is the surface that has to make a seal with the ostomy pouching system you use.

Overcoming Life’s Challenges

I have heard the saying “Average people practice something over and over and over again until they get it right. Great people practice something over and over and over again until they can’t get it wrong.” In my world, this quote is all about basketball. But it’s not necessarily for “me” in the sport of basketball. It’s for my players. My job as a coach is to get them to define what it is they want to practice over and over again in the offseason until they can’t get it wrong. Once this is defined, I put together an individual skill development plan that is tailored directly to what they said they want to get better at.

In fact, one of my players must play with something that may challenge him more than his peers. He had an ostomy care procedure a few years back, and it completely changed him as a person. Not only as a player with new physical needs, but also emotionally. He became much more of a man than his peers in quick time, all because he has to practice ostomy care that the others do’t.

So, he’s inspired me to ask my players the questions “what is something you think you need to get better at?” and “what is something you want to get better at?”. This way, they can be honest with themselves about their shortcomings when they think about what it is they need to be better at, but also allows them to have some fun with what they want to get better at. 

Most kids need to get better with their off hand. So, if you’re naturally right handed, you need to get better with your left hand so you don’t become one dimensional in all that you do (constantly driving right, finishing right, and passing right). If you can use your off hand as well as your natural hand, you become multi dimensional in what you can do, which makes you harder to guard. However, what you need to get better at isn’t always fun. Therefore, I give my players the opportunity to work on something they want to get better at too. This usually consists of three point shooting, or dribbling moves, or developing a jump shot, etc. “the fun stuff”. 

Regardless, in order to get better at anything, a purposeful and driven mindset is key. You must be faithful with the little things in order to receive the benefits of great things. You cannot simply use willpower to get your left hand to be better with the basketball. You actually have to practice and put that hand in positions to get better. This takes time, dedication, and repetition. 

Not everyone is cut out for such work, but that separates the good players from the average players. The goal is to get our kids to reach their ceilings as basketball players.

Athletic With an Ostomy

Working hard always came easy for Brad. He is a determined individual who constantly has the drive to work hard. While most people struggle with finding motivation, he always wanted to work hard. He learned from his dad who was also a chronic hard worker. Any endeavors he decided on, he achieved, one way or another. He graduated high school early, got accepted to every college he applied to, and got an internship in the summers working at a local business.

In every sense of the word he was determined. He was even determined when he found out he had inherited Crohn’s Disease from his dad. Brad knew his disease would be life-altering but he was not phased. He knew his dad had a successful life with ostomy care, and he knew he would follow in his same footsteps. All of his doctor’s appointments ended positively because he chose to be positive about it.

Brad knew he had to wait and try a few other options before ultimately deciding on a stoma. He was up for the ostomy care because it would honestly mean a more normal life for him. He would no longer have to worry about finding the bathroom in every place he went. Or worry about pain from bowel movements. His stoma would bring a new sense of life and make him a better person.

One instance how his stoma would make him a better person is not having to find a bathroom when running a marathon! He had been training for marathons ever since high school when he was a part of his cross country team. He was beating even his fastest times now that he had an ostomy. He did not have to pause to use the restroom or worry about stomach pains.

If anything he was worried about his ostomy bag when he was running. He was surprised to find affordable pouches that were securely tied to his body so he could run. He even felt comfortable running with his shirt off because the pouch just looked like a waist trainer when he was running. He was confident in his abilities and with himself.

People do not need to be ashamed or worry about their life after their ostomy surgery. In almost all cases, an ostomy makes the patient’s life way better and gives them a more normal life. It does not matter what kind of life you lead, an ostomy will fit right into your normal routine. Even the most athletic of people, like Brad, will benefit from this procedure.

Look Hot this Spring with your Stoma

I love looking good.  I am not really a beautiful person, but being stylish is important to me and keeping up with the times helps me in my career as well.  But some say that is not worth it with an ostomy bag.  That is pretty stupid. That doesn’t exactly make me prince charming, but that was all before I learned how to dress.  Yes, even a fashion backward individual like me can move into 2020 and look good on the few occasions that we are heading out.  It is shocking to think about but looking good has been even more important to me now after my ostomy than it ever was before.  I admit it, I am more self-conscious and more prone to feeling out of place because of my ostomy bag.  Knowledge is power and so is finding good information, so I hope I can help today.

Looking decent started for me when I found social media.  It helped me learn about what I didn’t know. It blew my mind to think that other people who had a stoma were willing to show their journey and clothing tips with others.  In fact, there were hundreds of social media stars and channels that are out there just to show how things are done and what is working for them.  It is 2021 and pretty much all shopping is done online anyway.  Here comes the eCommerce world. Heck, most of my favorite channels are sponsored by major brands, in the ostomy gear world, but I would happily have the information than not!

The big people in social media rock.  They put lots of lots of good information out and it has helped me a ton over the years.  It still shocks me that people are willing to talk about the worst day of their lives over and over again, but hey if you get money for it and you know it’s helping others like me, then I am totally all for it.  That is why I still support it.  So that is the first bit of advice and it is to simply get active in the internet world and find people who like to do what you do or that you like to look like and follow them.  Go ahead and get into it.  It is worth the investment of time.

Believe it or not, I am not crazy and still want people to think about is that if you are a good American and carry like we all have the right to then learning how to conceal an ostomy bag is second nature to you.  Just like concealed carrying a gun an ostomy bag is similar.  For me, I have done this my entire life and until someone told me to think like my bag was a gun I always found it hard.  But the reality is that they print the same and that they are in similar locations.  I found out that the belly band I used to use for a holster turns out to be a great idea for an ostomy bag as well. I know it sounds strange, but it really works well for me and is something that I think others can really use in the future.  It is key to me.