Are you wondering what you should and shouldn’t eat after stoma surgery?
Here are some hints and tips to help you recover and avoid some common issues.

  • 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.
  • Clear liquids and soft foods: Before you go home from the hospital, you may be given liquids and transition to solid foods. Once you’re back home, don’t worry if you don’t have your normal appetite, this is quite common. Try to eat smaller meals more frequently (five or six times a day). Or try protein supplements between meals.
  • Ease into your favourites: It’s tempting to dive right back into your favourite food, but you should take it slowly. Your stoma may not react well to hot and spicy dishes at first, so try to ease into it with plain food and avoid any 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 diarrhoea 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 followed 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.

> Ask our friendly Dietitian Laura a question

Nutritional Advice

We are working with Laura Clark, a registered dietitian with over 20 years experience in nutrition and dietetics. You can ask her a question and we will publish the most commonly asked questions on the 'you and your diet' pages.

> Latest from our Dietitian partner, Laura

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Settling into a routine

In the initial stages after colostomy or ileostomy surgery, the output into your pouch will frequently be very loose and fluid, but this generally improves with time. In about six to eight weeks, your stoma will settle to a consistency that remains fairly constant. There are many foods that help thicken your output and our Secure StartSM advisors can help you with this.

Aim to drink six to eight glasses of fluid each day to make sure you don't get dehydrated. If you pass regular amounts of clear or pale, straw-coloured urine, you most likely have enough fluid in your system. If your urine becomes brown or dark yellow in colour, it's wise to drink more fluid to keep properly hydrated.

Once you are feeling better, and you have settled into more of a routine, you can start experimenting with your favourite foods. Generally most people can return to their pre-surgery diet with few, if any limitations.

Build a healthy eating style

All food and beverage choices matter - focus on variety, amount, and nutrition.

  • Make healthy food and beverage choices from all five food groups including grains, vegetables, fruits, protein foods, and dairy to get the nutrients you need
  • Eat the right amount of calories for you based on your age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level
  • Build a healthier eating style to help avoid weight gain and reduce your risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
  • Use nutrition labels and ingredient lists to find food and beverage choices that are lower in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars


Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or any other cereal grain is a grain product. This includes breads, breakfast cereal, and pasta. These are divided into whole grains and refined grains.

Whole grains contain the entire kernel. For example, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole meal flour are whole grains. Be sure to chew anything with seeds carefully and completely.

Refined grains have been milled to remove husks or fibre. These provide finer texture and include white flour, white rice, white bread, and pasta. A typical adult profile calls for three servings per day. One serving equals a slice of bread, half a cup of cooked cereal, half a cup of rice or pasta, or a cup of cold cereal.

Fruit and vegetables

Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of this group. Vegetables may be eaten raw or cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, dried, whole, cut up, or mashed.

For vegetables, one serving equals about one cup. Depending on age, weight and gender, guidelines call for one to three cups of vegetables a day.

Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of this food group.

Fruit may be fresh, canned, frozen, dried, whole, cut up, or puréed. A serving of fruit equals one cup, and five servings per day are recommended. Fruit juice contains more sugars than just fruit; keep this in mind if you are watching your caloric intake. Overall, fresh whole fruit is a better choice.


Oils come from many different plants and fish. Examples are corn, olive, soybean, and sunflower oils.

Fats should be kept to a minimum. There are good fats and bad fats. Some fats contain high amounts of cholesterol, which can cause heart disease. Oils from plant sources do not contain any cholesterol. Fish oils are naturally good at reducing bad fats.

Oils include both solid fats and oils.

Solid fats are those that are solid at room temperature. Examples are butter, lard, margarine, and shortening.

Fats that are oils remain liquid at room temperature. Those that are mainly oils include mayonnaise and salad dressings. A number of foods with naturally occurring oils are nuts, olives, fish, and avocados.

Daily servings of fats and oils often come from the cooking processes, such as pan frying. A constant diet of deep fried food can be bad for you, but for most people there is no harm if it is done infrequently.

Dairy products

One of the primary benefits of dairy products is the calcium they contain.

Besides milk products, you can get the benefits of dairy through cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, pudding made with milk, ice cream, and ice milk.

If you have lactose intolerance, there are milk alternative products available that are lactose free. Some cheeses and yogurts are lactose free as well. It’s always worth reading the packaging contents label to make sure.

You might consider soy milk and other soy products as dairy alternatives, but they may not contain the full array of nutrients that dairy products have.

Recommendations for dairy vary, but about three servings per day is optimal to maintain healthy bones and provide other essential nutrients. One serving equals a cup of milk, a pot of yogurt or a piece of cheese. With this many options, it is easy to get your daily intake.

Protein foods

All meat, poultry, fish, dried beans or peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds are considered part of this group. Protein is one of the most important nutrients supplied by this group.

Meat and poultry choices should be low-fat. Fish, nuts, and seeds contain healthy oils, so be sure to include them in your diet frequently.

If you have an ileostomy, be aware there have been occasions where a blockage occurs when nuts, popcorn, and other foods are eaten. Some people have been known to get a small blockage after only one nut. Be slow to introduce these into your diet. If you love eating nuts, make sure you chew them very well before swallowing. Another possibility is to choose nut spreads, such as peanut butter, cashew, or hazelnut spreads.

General recommendations for this food group would be five or six servings a day. A serving is approximately one egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, a small handful of nuts or seeds, or 25 grams of meat.

Moderation - the key to healthy eating - is especially important with the oil group.



How food choices affect output

Foods and fluids which may help replace lost electrolytes
Sports drinks, bananas, broths (like chicken or beef bouillon), potatoes, tomatoes, crackers

Foods that may help to thicken loose output
Bananas, cheese, noodles (cooked), pretzels, white rice, white toast, marshmallows

Foods that can contribute to food blockage
Celery, corn, coconut, dried fruit, popcorn, chinese vegetables, nuts, mushrooms, grapes, raisins


Foods and fluids which increase intestinal wind
Beans, beer, carbonated beverages, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, cucumbers

Foods which may increase output odour
Asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, eggs, fish, garlic, onions, some spices

Foods which can impact the colour of urine and stools
Beetroot, foods with food colourings, iron tablets, liquorice, tomato sauce, some medications

Food-related issues*

As your bowel begins to function after surgery, you will notice wind in your pouch. The amount of gas varies.

If you experienced excessive gas before your surgery, you will likely have similar problems after your surgery.

Gas can be caused by the foods you eat. It can also be the result of swallowing air. Drinking carbonated beverages, smoking, chewing gum, and chewing with your mouth open can all increase the amount of air you swallow.

If you are concerned about gas, you can use a pouch with a filter. The filter lets the gas out of the pouch, but not the odour. It also prevents gas from building up, so the pouch does not inflate like a balloon. Filters work best with a more formed discharge.

First, be sure that you are not unwell. If your stoma is too active, that is, if you need to empty your pouch once or twice every hour, you may be losing far too much fluid.

If this suddenly occurs and it lasts 24 hours or more, you should seek medical attention.

If your stool changes to mostly fluid and there is a marked increase in the volume, you may have diarrhoea.

This could be related to food, medications, or an intestinal flu. During this time, you need to drink more fluids to prevent dehydration, avoid foods and beverages that cause loose stools, and empty your pouch more frequently. If this doesn’t resolve, contact your healthcare professional.

Foods known to increase stoma output are fibrous foods, raw fruit and vegetables, spicy foods, high fat foods, caffeine, nuts, and corn.

See the chart above for some other foods that can help thicken loose output.

Just like a person without a stoma, constipation can be a common problem. A person with a colostomy, not ileostomy, is most likely to suffer from constipation. Increase the amount of water you drink if not on a fluid restriction diet. Foods that help naturally with constipation include:

  • bran
  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • some spices
  • stone fruits - fresh and dried
  • whole grains

Food blockage
If you have an ileostomy, cramping and abdominal pain along with watery diarrhoea or no stool output may indicate a food blockage or bowel obstruction. This can occur when high fibre foods (such as raw vegetables, coconut, corn, nuts, dried fruit, and popcorn) have difficulty passing through the intestine and exiting the stoma. Food blockage risk can be minimised by reducing high fibre foods, chewing foods thoroughly, and increasing fluid intake. Your surgeon may recommend you eat only cooked (vs. raw) fruits and vegetables for about six to eight weeks after surgery. This gives your body time to adjust to the changes in digestion.

If you have a colostomy, it might be constipation. This is of less concern but still should be monitored. There have been some foods in the past associated more frequently with blockages, but this does not necessarily mean it will always happen.

Note: If you have no output and have vomiting, it is important that you see your healthcare professional or phone 111.
*Applies to a faecal stoma

General guidelines

Try to develop a regular eating pattern
Create one that you can follow easily and does not restrict your lifestyle or the lives of those around you.

Take time to chew food thoroughly
Not only does slow eating help your stoma deal with what will eventually go through it, meal times will be more enjoyable and relaxing.

Try not to worry too much what could be good and bad for you
Moderation is the key.

Avoid eating a large meal later in the evening
This can make your pouch fill up more quickly overnight, and your sleep will be interrupted as you need to empty it.


Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol
It can make you dehydrated and, depending on the type of stoma you have, make you empty your pouch more frequently. Beer can contribute to larger amounts of gas as well.

Above all, food is an essential part of life, and it is an extremely pleasurable part of living. It provides a social and relaxed part of everyone's life. A stoma should not limit your enjoyment of sharing a meal with family and friends.

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Resources and Organisations

Stoma Community

Your healthcare professional and your stoma care nurse will be very important resources for you in the days ahead.
You also have ongoing access to online information, or printed educational materials, at:

Ostomy support groups are also available to individuals who have had ostomy surgery. Here, you are able to interact with people who are facing many of the same challenges that you are. The ability to discuss issues with someone who understands what you are experiencing can be very beneficial.

Urostomy Association

Ileostomy Association
Freephone: 0800 018 4724

Colostomy UK

Colostomy UK
Admin line: 0118 939 1537
24 hour Helpline: 0800 328 4257

To discover how you can benefit from the Secure StartSM service or have any questions about the service? You can call us on 0800 3761310

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