Nutrition Recommendations After Ostomy Surgery

Planning nutritional need after ostomy surgery
Registered dietitian (RD) with CHC Solutions, Inc., Gina Salvatori, shares nutritional recommendations for those recovering from ostomy surgery.

How Will Ostomy Surgery Affect Nutrition?

Although ostomy surgery should not change the way most people’s bodies digest, absorb and use nutrients from food, depending on the type of surgery you have, you may experience a few changes. The type of surgery you have will also impact the consistency of your stool.

These changes might be temporary as your body adapts, or they might be permanent depending on how much bowel remains.

Individuals with a colostomy usually absorb nutrients well and have stool that is semisoft to formed. However, someone with an ileostomy, who is at increased risk for dehydration and decreased ability to absorb nutrients, specifically B12, may have stool ranging from liquid to semisoft. Also, they might have stools that turn dark green after surgery as well. If an individual is experiencing thicker stool, that means more nutrients and fluids are being absorbed.

Nutrition After Ostomy Surgery

The initial 4-6 weeks after surgery will differ for everyone. You may need guidance on what foods will best meet your needs. The goal for everyone should be to maintain weight throughout this time. In addition, focus on healing and staying hydrated.

After this time period, many people living with an ostomy can gradually return to the diet they enjoyed before surgery. Certain foods might affect output consistency including diarrhea or constipation. Keeping a food log will help you to identify and learn which foods cause which symptoms.

Recovery Tips

After surgery, some patients may deal with stool odor, dehydration and varying stool consistency.

There are many ways to try and limit stool odor including:

  • Decreasing intake of trans and saturated fats.
  • Reducing intake of sulfur-containing foods such as beef, ham, fish and eggs. (Be sure not to eliminate these foods altogether as sulfur is an essential dietary mineral.)
  • Decreasing processed food intake.
  • Monitoring symptoms after dairy consumption to rule out lactose intolerance.

Foods that will help thicken stool:

  • Bananas, peeled potatoes, white rice, bread, unseasoned crackers, pasta, applesauce, marshmallows and creamy peanut butter.

In addition, ensure that you stay hydrated by drinking at least 8-10, eight-ounce glasses of water or other fluids per day. Remember, there are also foods that are high in water content that will help you stay hydrated such as watermelon, tomatoes, peaches and lettuce. Lastly, eating prior to drinking will help your body absorb fluids as well.

To learn more, visit the United Ostomy Associations of America at


*Disclaimer: Any health and wellness content presented is for general informational purposes only. Such content is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.