A colostomy is a common surgical procedure that healthcare professionals perform when you’re unable to pass stools due to conditions, like cancer, Crohn’s disease, or diverticulitis (1).
It involves bringing one end of the large intestine out through a stoma, which is an opening in the wall of the stomach (
A pouch may also be attached to the side of the body, which is used to collect and dispose of fecal matter from the digestive tract.
After a colostomy, you may need to make some short-term modifications to your diet, especially during the first few weeks following your surgery.
This article takes a closer look at the colostomy diet, including what it is, how to follow it, and which foods you should eat and avoid.
A colostomy diet is a short-term diet you follow during the days and weeks after colostomy surgery.
Immediately after your surgery, you may need to follow a clear liquid diet for several days. This consists of broth, water, and plain gelatin (
Next, you will likely be able to transition to a low residue, high protein diet, which is usually required the first few weeks after surgery as you recover (
A low residue diet leaves minimal material in your gut after nutrient absorption.
The low residue, high protein diet typically consists of bland foods that are easy to digest to help prevent gastrointestinal symptoms.
It may also involve limiting your intake of foods high in fiber, since these foods can increase the size of stool and could temporarily block your bowel (5).
Keep in mind that this diet is usually only needed for the first few weeks after surgery as you recover.
Ultimately, you will be able to resume your typical diet by slowly reintroducing foods, under the supervision of your doctor or dietitian.
A colostomy diet usually consists of bland, low fiber foods and foods rich in protein. It’s recommended to prevent digestive issues and support wound healing the first few weeks after your colostomy surgery.
For the first few weeks after your surgery, your healthcare professional will likely advise you to stick to foods that are low in fiber and easy to digest.
Refined grains, like white bread or white rice, and low fiber fruits and vegetables are a few examples of foods that are usually recommended on a colostomy diet (
It’s also important to eat foods high in protein, like lean meats, eggs, low fat dairy, and nut butters. These can help support wound healing (
Be sure to primarily refer to the diet given to you by your doctor or nutritionist, but here are some specific foods you can generally include in a colostomy diet:
- Cooked, peeled, and seedless vegetables: potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce
- Peeled and seedless fruits: ripe bananas, honeydew, cantaloupe, seedless watermelon
- Canned fruits: apricot, peaches, pears
- Lean proteins: eggs, tofu, skinless poultry, fish
- Smooth nut butters: peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, walnut butter
- Refined grains: white bread, crackers, white pasta, white rice
- Low fat dairy: skim milk, nonfat yogurt, cheese
- Beverages: water, pulp-free fruit or vegetable juice, broth, sports drinks, decaf tea or coffee
Keep in mind that certain foods, like dairy products, could cause digestive issues, such as diarrhea, for some people — especially for those who have lactose intolerance (
If you experience any digestive symptoms after eating any of the foods listed above, be sure to limit your intake.
For the first few weeks after a colostomy, you should eat mostly foods that are low in fiber and easy to digest, including lean proteins, refined grains, smooth nut butters, and certain types of fruits and vegetables.
After your surgery, it’s important to limit foods that are difficult to digest. This will help prevent issues, like diarrhea or constipation (
This includes foods high in fat or fiber, spicy foods, and carbonated beverages, like soda or sparkling water.
Refer primarily to the diet prescribed by your dietician or doctor. Here are some foods that you may need to limit in the first few weeks after surgery:
- Raw vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, artichokes
- Raw fruits with skin: apples, grapes, strawberries, plums, pears
- Legumes: lentils, beans, chickpeas
- Whole grains: buckwheat, barley, rye, quinoa, brown rice
- Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, macadamia nuts
- Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds
- High fat dairy: whole milk, full fat yogurt, butter, ice cream
- Spicy foods: jalapeños, curries, hot sauce, hot peppers
- Fried foods: chicken wings, bacon, fried fish, mozzarella sticks, donuts
- Carbonated beverages: soft drinks, seltzer water, club soda, sparkling water
After a colostomy, it’s best to limit your intake of foods that are high in fiber or difficult to digest, including raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, carbonated beverages, and spicy or high fat foods.
Following a low residue diet can help minimize any digestive issues you may experience after surgery, such as gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea (
It can also prevent serious side effects, such as stoma blockage, which can cause issues, like stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and changes in bowel movements (9).
Furthermore, it emphasizes lean proteins, like skinless poultry, eggs, and tofu.
Not only are these foods highly nutritious, but they’re also rich in protein, which plays a key role in wound healing (
Additionally, most dietary changes are only required temporarily, and you can slowly reintroduce foods back into your diet over time.
Many people also find they’re able to form a better relationship with food and have more freedom to eat the foods they enjoy after their colostomy.
Following a colostomy diet after surgery can help prevent negative digestive issues and support wound healing.
Constipation is a common issue people experience after surgery, usually caused by decreased fiber intake.
Drinking plenty of water and using stool softeners if needed can help ease constipation and promote regularity (
According to some research, probiotics may also be beneficial for digestive issues, such as constipation. However, you should talk with your doctor before using any supplements or taking medications (
Some people also report experiencing increased gas or an unpleasant odor from their pouch after undergoing a colostomy.
Limiting foods that are difficult to digest, such as cruciferous vegetables and beans, can help reduce odors in many cases. It may also help to avoid foods with stronger scents, like fish, garlic, and eggs (
Other factors that could contribute to gas include eating too quickly, drinking with a straw, and chewing gum (
If the issue persists, be sure to talk with your doctor to see if you can take an over-the-counter medication that will provide relief.
Deodorant tablets are also available, which you can use to help minimize odors from the colostomy bag.
Constipation and gas are two side effects that people may experience after a colostomy. Certain medications and dietary modifications may help alleviate symptoms.
In addition to limiting foods that are difficult to digest and increasing your intake of lean protein, there are several other guidelines you should follow after colostomy surgery.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind (
- Eat slowly, and chew foods thoroughly.
- Consider eating small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals.
- Drink plenty of water during the day to stay hydrated. As a general rule, aim for six to eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day.
- Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead, reintroduce foods back into your diet slowly, one at a time.
Following these guidelines can prevent digestive issues and ease your transition back to your typical diet.
Drinking plenty of water, chewing foods thoroughly, and eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day can be beneficial after a colostomy.
Though a colostomy doesn’t alter your body’s ability to digest food, limiting your intake of certain foods after your surgery may help your body recover.
Eating more foods high in protein — including lean proteins, like skinless poultry, eggs, and tofu — can also promote wound healing while you recover.
Following these guidelines can prevent digestive issues until you’re ready to begin reintroducing other foods.