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Ostomy Diet: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

After an ostomy your healthcare provider will teach you how to start adding foods to your diet. In time, you may be able to eat many of the foods you enjoyed before the ostomy.

The foods you eat pass more quickly through your body and out into the ostomy pouch. This means that some foods may cause smells, gas, or diarrhea. You may want to avoid these foods, along with foods such as nuts or popcorn that might block the intestine. Always talk with your dietitian or doctor before you make changes in your diet.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from the basic food groups: grain products, vegetables and fruit, milk and alternatives, and meat and alternatives.
  • Eat 3 to 4 meals a day at regular times. It may help to avoid big meals in the evening, so that you do not pass a big amount of waste into the ostomy pouch during the night. You can add snacks during the day.
  • If you notice bad odours from your ostomy pouch, note which foods cause odours so that you can limit them. Eggs, dried beans, fish, corn, garlic, onions, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, and alcohol may cause odours. Very spicy foods and some vitamin and mineral supplements also cause odours. Try cranberry juice, buttermilk, yogurt, or parsley to help reduce odours. You also can use odour-proof ostomy bags or special deodorants for the bags.
  • If gas is a problem, limit or avoid beans, cabbage, onions, beer, carbonated drinks, cheese, coffee, spinach, raw fruits, and sprouts.
  • Chew slowly, and take your time eating. That will help your body digest the food.
  • If you eat seeds and kernels, take the time to chew them well, because they can block or get stuck in the intestine. Refer to Eating Well After Ostomy Surgery., for a complete list.
  • Some foods will pass through your body without being completely digested. And some foods may change the colour of your stools. You may see corn kernels, bright red beet juice, red pepper pieces, and other bits of your meals in the pouch. This is normal.
  • Constipation may be a problem. If you are constipated, drink more fluids, ask your healthcare provider for information on high-fibre foods. Don't use a laxative without talking to your doctor.
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids. Your doctor may recommend that you drink 2 to 3 litres (2 to 3 quarts) of water each day. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Your body may lose important minerals when you have diarrhea. Sip on water and other fluid throughout the day so that you don't get dehydrated. Also, keep eating the foods that don't bother you. If your stool is more watery than usual, or if you have to empty your ostomy bag more often, tell your healthcare provider. Signs of dehydration include:
  • Dry mouth or skin.
  • Headaches, earaches.
  • Feeling thirsty or dizzy.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Nausea.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Losing weight.
  • Your doctor may recommend that you drink liquid that contains electrolytes to help replace lost fluids and minerals. These include drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, or other rehydration drinks that your doctor suggests. Or you can make your own drink. Measure everything carefully. The drink may not work well or may even be harmful if the amounts are off. Mix together:
    • 1 litre (1 quart) water
    • 5 mL (½ teaspoon) salt
    • 30 mL (6 teaspoons) sugar
  • Some people have problems digesting lactose (the sugar found in milk) after surgery. Symptoms may include cramping, bloating, gas, or diarrhea after drinking milk or eating some dairy products. Refer to Eating Well After Ostomy Surgery, for tips to enjoy dairy products after surgery.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking vitamin and mineral supplements.

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