I’m Italian so I love food but living with an ileostomy is quite different it really limits the amount of food (selection and quantity) that I can intake. Remember I’m working with my small intestines only.
I wanted to offer the following tips for eating healthy as an ileostomy ostomate that work for me. I would love to hear from others about what works for you including recipes (let’s have fun with this).
- eat small portions frequently, Very simple but many of us ignore this tip from our surgeon. It is important to eat small meals frequently throughout the day as the ileostomy never stops working so you can easily become dehydrated and have an electrolyte imbalance. I know this from experience (I’ve had a few visits to the ER due to dehydration).
- get plenty of liquids, The waste out-put with an ileostomy is more liquid then the paste out-put that a colostomy produces. I had to be very careful ensuring I have enough fluids and in order to get the necessary nutrients I would lack from not being able to eat vegetables and fruit etc. Most people drink 8 glasses of water a day but I aim for 10+ glasses of fluids a day. I learned to take 1-3 Ensure Plus a day to keep my weight up and to get the nutrition I can’t digest in my food intake. I also drink plenty of Gatorade to replenish electrolytes lost from having an ileostomy. Electrolyte imbalance can include loss of appetite, drowsiness, abdominal cramps and faint feelings. Seek medical help immediately!
- salt is very important, While most people should avoid salt I need to take an extra serving of salt to put back all that is lost from the fluid out-put of an ileostomy. For quite a while in addition to table salt I had to take salt tablets. Consult your physician about the proper amount your body requires.
- raw veggies/fruits and alternatives, Some of the most nutritional foods that are good for most people (vegetables, fruit, fiber…) cannot be easily digested by many people with ileostomy though all cases are different. I can eat a few veggies carrots, a little broccoli, acorn squash, green beans if overcooked it helps digestion and I still will put them in the blender (Magic Bullet Blender is my favorite) and puree. Fruits are very limited too but often I will dice up strawberries, blueberries, very small piece of banana and add non-fat plain yogurt and puree in the bullet blender. I love water melon and citrus fruit so I make sure to enjoy the juice without the fiber of the pulp. I use the juicer and enjoy my carrot and apple juicers. Where there’s a will there’s a way!
- blockages, Taking pills are difficult too because even a pill can cause a blockage in the stoma so I have to crush all of the medications I take which I will review in a later post. I also use plenty of extra virgin olive oil (aka “Liquid Gold”) on my food to help with digestion. I learned this tip recently online from other ostomates at ‘ostomy secrets newsletter’ taking 100% Coconut Water when you feel a blockage coming on will open up the ostomy and prevent blockage. This is so amazing not only does Coconut Water have amazing health benefits (rehydrates, cools, fights virus, boost immune, balance ph..) but it so effective for avoiding blockages. And remember to chew, chew and chew again all of your food.
Short List of Things I can’t digest
• roughage and bulk (lettuce and most greens)
• beans, nuts, corn
• onions, olives
• carbonated drinks
• spicy and fried foods
• fiber & whole grains (including cereal which is full of fiber)
Please discuss any diet or nutrition concerns with your doctor.