What is a good ileostomy diet? I don't eat meat or poultry, and I'm having constipation problems.

Answers from Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D.

Your dietary needs and tolerances will depend on how much healthy small intestine remains and how much time has passed since your surgery.

Your intestine adapts and functions better with time after surgery. In addition, the type of ileostomy will play a role — whether no collection appliance is needed after your surgery (continent ileostomy) or a collection appliance is worn (incontinent ileostomy).

The types and amounts of food you eat and beverages you drink also play a role. With these points in mind, here are some general guidelines:

  • The first few weeks to a month after surgery, you'll likely be advised to eat a diet that is low in roughage. Limiting roughage allows the intestine time to heal and prevents blockage due to swelling. Foods with roughage include whole grains, raw vegetables and fresh fruit. Pediatric hydration beverages (Pedialyte) or diluted electrolyte beverages, such as Gatorade, Powerade or Ceralyte, contain sodium, are hydrating and are helpful immediately after surgery.
  • Eat meals at regular times, eat more slowly, and chew well. Also, avoid skipping meals or overeating. These efforts help your remaining intestine digest food, reduce gas, improve "regularity" and control output.
  • Over time you will find that you can resume a more normal diet and you will learn which foods tend to be constipating, which may have more of a laxative effect, and which cause stool to change color, or cause gas or odor. This varies according to the individual and the length of small intestine remaining.
  • If your stool is very thick, some dietary changes may help. Stool-thinning foods may include grape juice, apple juice and prune juice. Some people also find that cooked vegetables and some canned fruit are helpful. Be cautious with foods that are constipating. For some people these include applesauce, banana, cheese, potatoes, pasta, rice and peanut butter.
  • Make sure to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day. Water is best.

When stool is too thick to easily pass out of the body, pay attention to the balance between stool-thickening foods and the amount of fluid you're drinking. If these lifestyle changes don't help, check back with your surgeon or gastroenterologist. Talking with a dietitian also may be indicated.

April 14, 2018 See more Expert Answers