I’m often asked questions about my diet as an ostomate. With different plumbing you’d expect I follow a strict diet, but actually my relationship with food is much more exciting than most would think!
In my colitis-ridden days food was a difficult subject; anything I ate caused intense pain.
I tried all sorts of diets including dairy free, gluten free, and anything with turmeric! You name it, I tried it, all in the hope of making my painful situation a little less painful. Of course, nothing worked and I eventually reached a point where I was able to eat nothing but bread or mashed potato because it caused the least amount of pain.
By the time my colon was removed, I’d developed a fearful relationship with food.
Every time I sat down to eat I associated it with pain - getting out of this mindset took a long time. When my surgeon said ‘’your diet is going to be awful for the next two months’’ it’s safe to say I panicked a little. But actually ‘’it’s good you’re only five stone, because you’re going to eat the entire contents of the fridge’’ is what he should’ve said!
For the first eight weeks of stoma life it was a strict diet of carbs and carbs only. For the first time in over a year I could eat cheese and chocolate, and my diet involved more than just dry toast for breakfast and mashed potato for dinner. It took me a few months to get out of the ‘food is going to hurt you’ mentality, but when the dark cloud lifted, I found so much happiness in food.
I’ve always loved good food - it’s been a huge part of my life.
Sitting down for dinner is always a big deal in my household, so finally being able to just sit and eat, laugh, and enjoy my evenings (rather than spending them filled with pain in the bathroom) had me overjoyed. After two months of eating cake, my new plumbing was warmed up and it was time to introduce fruit and veg again.
I don’t have a specific diet for my stoma; I just stick to a balanced diet as best I can.
I don’t deprive myself of anything, but I also don’t overindulge. There are certain foods that my stoma doesn’t like as much as others, and every ostomate may find some things different.
Here a few diet tips I’ve picked up along the way:
- Dehydration - This can be a problem for some ostomates. The large intestine is responsible for absorbing water - so if you don’t have a large intestine, your hydration can be compromised.
- Salt intake - Much like the intake of water, my ability to absorb salt is also different. My Stoma Care Nurse informed me that I need an extra teaspoon of salt every day to keep my sodium levels balanced as I no longer have my colon.
- Fibre – Fibre should be included in every balanced diet and for many people is sourced from fruits and vegetables. This can be a problem for some with a stoma though as some fruits and vegetables are difficult to break down. Things like sweetcorn or pineapple can get stuck along the way, causing intestinal blockages which can mean a trip to A&E!
When you get thirsty the go-to is always water, right? However for an ostomate this can just go straight through you and actually intensify the feeling of thirst. If I’m thirsty I usually go for something like squash or a non-fizzy energy drink as I find they satisfy my thirst better.
Luckily, you don’t have to stop eating the healthy stuff it just means more CHEWING. It’s a good idea to chew your food carefully and take time over what you’re eating, hopefully avoiding any potential trips to the emergency room!
It’s trial and error for a while – I’ve found that raw tomatoes don’t agree with me and can cause stomach pain, so it’s all about working out what your stoma does and doesn’t like. With fruit, I find my best option is to make a fresh smoothie or stick to a handful of raspberries, rather than the whole tub!