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

Answer From Purna Kashyap, M.B.B.S.

Your dietary needs and what you can tolerate 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.

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.
  • Introduce foods back into your diet slowly to see how your body reacts.
  • 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'll find that you can eat a more normal diet. You'll learn which foods tend to be constipating, which might have more of a laxative effect, which cause stool to change color, or which cause gas or odor. This varies from person to person and by the length of small intestine remaining.

    Your doctor might advise you to avoid drinking carbonated drinks, drinking through straws, chewing gum and smoking because they tend to increase gas.

  • If your stool is very thick, some dietary changes might help. Stool-thinning foods include grape juice, apple juice and prune juice. Some people also find that cooked vegetables and some canned fruits are helpful.

    Be cautious with foods that are constipating. For some people these include applesauce, banana, rice, cheeses and peanut butter.

  • Drink at least eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day, including water, broth and vegetable juices. Sip fluids slowly throughout the day.

    To replace salts (electrolytes), drink pediatric electrolyte solutions, such as Pedialyte and Ceralyte, and sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade.

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 with your surgeon or gastroenterologist. Talking with a dietitian also might help.


Purna Kashyap, M.B.B.S.

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April 14, 2020 See more Expert Answers