Eating Do's and Don'ts After Ostomy Surgery

Wondering what you should and shouldn’t eat after ostomy surgery? Here’s what you need to know to help you recover fast and avoid some common issues.

Eating Do's and Don'ts After Ostomy Surgery

Get the facts on how to eat after ostomy surgery.

You’re probably wondering about your diet, and what you can or can’t eat after your ostomy surgery. Whether you’re about to have surgery, or already recovering, here’s what you can expect, along with some tips.

  • Immediately after your surgery: While in the hospital, your healthcare professional may recommend no food or water for a short period. You may receive an IV to ensure your body gets the proper fluids and nutrition.
  • Next up, clear liquids and soft foods: Before you go home from the hospital, you may have liquids and transition to solid foods. Once you're back home, don't worry if you don't have your normal appetite. Eat smaller, more frequent meals (five or six a day). Or try protein supplements between meals. You’ll regain your appetite in no time.
  • Ease into your favorites: It’s tempting to dive right back into your favorite foods, but you should take it slowly. Your stoma may not react well at first to hot and spicy dishes. Ease into it with plain foods, and avoid foods that are stringy or fibrous.
  • If you’ve had an ileostomy, watch out for food blockage: Swelling may occur in the bowel, which may narrow it. This usually happens in the first four to six weeks after surgery, and can make some foods difficult to digest. Cramping and abdominal pain along with watery diarrhea or no stool output may indicate a food blockage or bowel obstruction. If you suspect you might have an obstruction or blockage, contact your healthcare professional immediately.
  • Stick to or modify special diets: Before your surgery, were you on a special diet, such as low salt for a heart issue, sugar-free for diabetes, or another type of food restriction for a medical condition? If so, stick to it, or speak to a qualified dietician or nutritionist to see if changes need to be made.
  • Vegetarian or vegan? If you were on either of these diets before your surgery and want to continue, consult with a dietitian. You may need to make some changes based on your new nutritional needs.

Those first few days and weeks after your surgery are important. A healthy diet will promote healing, and can help you get back to your pre-surgery weight. Now that you know what to expect and what to do, you can start on the road to a full recovery.

View or print the full PDF booklet: Living with an Ostomy: Healthy Eating