It has been a year since my ostomy surgery and my journey with food has certainly been an interesting one. Most of us with bowel disease have certain foods that give us unpleasant side effects. Food is essential to life and as unfortunate as it can feel sometimes, we can’t avoid it, we need to eat, and we need to nourish our bodies to give them fuel to fight and grow. When feeling poorly I go through the motions of wishing I didn’t need to so I could avoid the negative effects of certain foods. We have all been there where we eat something unsuitable and straight away our gut tells us it doesn’t like it! On a good day, it may be a tummy ache and feeling lethargic. On a bad day, it can mean crippling pain and living on the toilet.
After my ileostomy surgery friends said to me it must be better when poorly with a high output as it can just go straight into the bag. What they don’t realise is due to having no large colon to absorb most of the water in the food we digest, it has a loose consistency on a good day, and on a bad day, it is literally like tap water! This can play havoc with your ostomy appliance. When my little ostomate was losing 4 litres a day due to undiagnosed Coeliac Disease, I was having to change his appliance 6 times a day. The skin couldn’t keep dry and the adhesive couldn’t hold long enough with such high volumes of acidic stool constantly pouring into the bag. If you don’t change the bag regularly the skin will become very sore and start to break down. It can begin to feel like a domino effect and can easily run away with you.
I followed my stoma nurses advice and started with bland carbohydrate-heavy foods soon after surgery. Eating little and often was recommended to allow the bowel to get used to its new way of working. Many companies have guides to diet and stoma care following surgery and your stoma nurse should provide you with verbal and printed guidance too. It can feel like a minefield when you read about other peoples experiences with diet after surgery. Some ostomates need to avoid the typical foods told to in the early days including nuts. I myself have had issues with grains, skins on vegetables, sweetcorn and raw onion. I can go weeks eating these with no problems and then out of nowhere my stoma decides it doesn’t like them and its bag leaks and a tricky few days as a result.
The best advice I was given was:
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat little and often
- Take skins off vegetables
- Chew, chew, chew!
- Keep a food diary – this way you can track if something is making you poorly
My little ostomate was born with Hirschsprungs Disease (see my previous blogs for our story) and Coeliac Disease yet because the symptoms were so similar the Coeliac Disease was missed. I can’t stress how important it is to keep a food diary as in the unfortunate event of a food intolerance/food allergy being present, you want to identify it to elevate any discomfort experienced. If high output is a symptom of certain foods, it is important to make sure you have the best stoma appliance for you that you can trust will keep your skin healthy and provide a strong barrier between the skin. The Pelican ModaVi has many benefits to help what seems an impossible situation become more manageable. The base plate is infused with Vitamin E to keep the peristomal skin healthy. Using the bag consistently, to then react badly to food and have increased input means you have a good strong base of healthy skin to stop it breaking down if your output increases and is watery inconsistency. The shape of the pouch is more structured encouraging the output to keep to the bottom and feel natural fitting to the skin. The outlet is wider allowing for easier emptying and the viewing window is considerably large allowing you to monitor your output carefully.
Finally one Dietician I follow on social media that I truly value the content and advice of is Sophie Medlin @sophiedietitian. Being a colorectal specialist, she gives Instagram lives, writes informative blogs and shines a light on common myths that aren’t strictly true when it comes to nutrition. As always if you feel something isn’t right don’t suffer in silence, contact your doctor/consultant and get checked over. Sophie has produced videos for Colostomy UK on diets with a stoma, click here.
Until next time, Rach x
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