A Complicated Relationship: Learning To Love Food (With Help From My Ileostomy)

A Complicated Relationship Learning To Love Food With Help From My Ileostomy

My relationship with food has been a complicated one.

I’m sure many of you will relate. Having experienced Crohn’s symptoms since the early age of eleven, I never really learned how to enjoy eating, savour tastes or practise gratitude for the variety and abundance of food available to me. My thoughts and feelings around food were so extreme that I actually began to hate the fact I needed to eat in order to survive, foolishly cursing the universe for its seemingly unintelligent design.

Would a stoma make things even worse?

When I finally decided to have a stoma formed, I expected the situation to go from bad to worse. I thought I would have to cut out lots of food groups and be extremely careful with what I ate. I remember reading that particularly fibrous foods might prove problematic which I took to mean that I mustn’t eat brown bread, rice or pasta, legumes, most fruit, most vegetables and the skin of the remaining fruit and vegetables I could eat! My fear of something going wrong was so strong that, after my stoma surgery, I would actually sit there and individually peel an entire bowl full of grapes! I kid you not.

Gaining courage; becoming less cautious

I was almost at the stage where I was putting vegetables into a blender and drinking them through a straw when, one glorious day, my heaven-sent stoma nurse gave me the courage to gradually shed my comfort blanket of cautiousness. She told me to avoid nuts, mushrooms and sweetcorn but strongly recommended that I give everything else a go.

Slowly but surely I started to introduce more and more foods into my diet. I even channelled my inner rebel and experimented with nuts and sweetcorn. Interestingly, the sweetcorn didn’t cause much trouble at all but the nuts...well let’s just say the pain was real. My fellow blogger, Nick Axtell, knows a thing or two about this (read his blog about the perils of nuts here). In case you’re curious, I didn’t try any mushrooms as I don’t like them anyway. I mean, what’s with the weird texture?

My ileostomy gave me back the sensation of hunger…and my love of food

In all honesty, I had completely forgotten what hunger felt like and now every time I experience it I am overwhelmed by intense gratitude. My increased appetite, along with a continually increasing list of ‘safe foods’, means that I can now honestly say I love food. This isn’t loving food for the sake of indulgence but loving food with an appreciation for its ability to sustain and nourish me; even on the occasions when it does cause me pain.

I hope that you like the picture that I chose to accompany this blog. It is particularly special to me and relevant to this story: on May 11th 2015, after 12 years of having insides that wouldn’t allow me to eat them and a year-long nationwide ban on their import, I was finally able to enjoy my favourite food…Indian Alfonzo mango.

IBD can make your relationship with food very complicated, but with an ostomy you can learn to love it again

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by Rakhee Patel

Rakhee Patel

About the author

I'm Rakhee, I have had a loop ileostomy and now have an end ileostomy due to Crohn's disease. Happy to share my journey!

Recent Comments

  • Radhika Goswami

    Super interesting and candid account! For someone who has had and to some extent still has a difficult relationship with food, I really appreciated your story, especially your feelings. I could connect to them. Thank you :)

  • Rakhee

    Thank you for your comments Mrs Goswami. A good friend of mine introduced me to the concept of eating with love a few years ago but cementing the habit takes time and practice. I hope you will continue to practice with me :)

  • Nick Axtell

    Wow thank you for the link to my blog. I will try and return the favour at some point. And mushrooms are like eating slugs! :/ Not that I have eaten many.

  • Rakhee

    No problem, Nick. It was a great blog! Stomas are a great excuse not to eat food you don't like!

  • Susan

    I had Crohn's, when I had my operation I was told to avoid Apples, Oranges, Sweet Corn and Nuts. Only think I can eat is nuts, but chew well. Other thing I find I can not digest is Butter Beans. Think everyone is different and I agree. Try everything in moderation. I have had my Ileostomy 33yrs.

  • Rakhee

    Thanks for sharing your experience Susan. Yes, you're right. We really are all unique in this respect. Great that you're able to eat such a variety of foods too!

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