The Things I Can And Can’t Eat As An Ostomate

by Michelle Williams

Michelle Icecream

I’ve had my stoma for many years now, but “What can’t you eat?” is still a question I hear regularly.

 Even my friends and family continue to ask! As someone who had ulcerative colitis (UC), I was actually quite lucky with regards to food sensitivities because there was nothing in particular that I ate which seemed to cause a flare up. For example, cutting out dairy made no difference, and a curry one week would have me on the loo for eight hours, but I’d not even break a sweat the following week.

However, that luck didn’t last and by the time I needed ileostomy surgery all I could eat was baby rice and popcorn. Everything else went straight through me with no nutritional value and caused the kind of pain you could compare with childbirth.

I’ve always loved my food - I just wish I’d made the most of it when I was skinny and had a seemingly fast metabolism!

So, imagine my panic when there were murmurings that you had to ‘watch what you eat’ once you had a stoma. It turned out to be true for me (to a certain extent) but a bit like UC, everybody's body is different. The key foods I was advised about were nuts and vegetable/fruit skins. I’ve since heard mushrooms and onions are also a no-go for some ostomates.

Nuts cause me wind, but more than just a few burps, it’s the worst trapped wind I’ve ever experienced.

Similar to medical procedures, where they fill you up with air first and it gets trapped under your shoulders. It doesn’t matter how carefully I chew and grind those nuts before swallowing, I’ll be asleep later that night and will suddenly be awake thinking someone is stabbing me! Many times has a Cornetto or a Feast ice-cream haunted me this way, it doesn’t stop me though!

Vegetable and fruit skins also cause wind. This is more of the painful trapped gas again, but it happens much lower down and doesn’t seem (in my experience) to be relieved by peppermint tea. I now avoid apples, pears and even grapes, but something like a blueberry is okay. Potato skin is definitely a no-no but all other vegetables are fine as long as they are soft cooked. No crisped or steamed veggies for me.

I’ve never eaten mushrooms, but you can keep those away from my plate anyway!

I used to have a problem with Quorn though that seems to have settled now. I know, because we eat it at least twice a week these days, having become a more veggie friendly family.

Just as my stoma has evolved over the years to accommodate my expanding diet, it also seems to have learnt to ‘kick out’ the things that maybe aren’t so good for me. I’ve never been a big fan of red meat so I’m not too upset about this, but if on a very rare occasion I happen to have steak or lamb, I will be in a significant amount of discomfort for hours. It’s as if my stoma wants me to feel every single centimetre it uses to process the meal - so I understand the hard work it puts in!

Finally, this brings me to quinoa. Quinoa doesn’t cause me any physical pain but guaranteed time after time, it will have my stoma twisting like a turning a screw! I’m not sure what digestion process gets my ileostomy doing the twist, but I can feel it happening!

Here’s a question from me: do you have any tips for food and drink over the summer?

This is the time of year when I double my water intake, so any tips for thickening output in order to avoid going to the loo to empty a fluid-filled bag as often as I do to pee, would be welcome!

Do you struggle with nuts? Nathan has written about how he avoided peanuts and several others foods for years before realising he could digest them just fine!

Michelle Williams

About the author

My name is Michelle; I live in Kent with my husband and son. I have a permanent ileostomy as a result of Ulcerative Colitis. You can follow me on twitter.

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