Most people don’t think much about how the food they eat affects their waste, unless their body’s response is frequently inconvenient. For those living with an ostomy, however, making intelligent and informed diet and nutrition choices is the only way to control when – and how often – a pouch fills with waste and gas.
What makes the digestive system move quickly, and what stops things from moving (food blockages)? What causes waste to be more liquid or more solid? Which foods create more odors? Which foods produce more gas – not necessarily the same thing?
Whether or not you’re living with an ostomy, making informed diet choices and knowing how certain foods affect your digestive tract can be a good thing! Here are a few digestive tips for ostomates and non-ostomates alike:
Foods that slow things down (or can cause blockages):
While fiber is key to healthy digestion, too much of a good thing can also be a problem. For ostomates with an ileostomy in particular (an outside opening created in the small intestine for waste discharge), undigested fibrous foods can cause complications and food blockages. Corn, dried fruit, hotdogs and sausages, pineapple, and fruit and vegetable skins are a few examples.
Foods that cause unwanted odors:
Digestive odor is created by bacteria breaking down certain foods, turning it into odorous waste and also sometimes creating odorous gases. Though some ostomy pouches have filters that deodorize and release gasses, it can be easier to simply avoid – or eat with moderation – odor-causing and gas-forming foods. Foods that cause especially strong odors include asparagus, coffee, garlic, prunes, beans, cucumbers, green peppers, radishes, brussel sprouts, eggs, milk, turnips, cabbage, fish, onions and alcoholic beverages.
If you’re indulging in an odor-causing food, try pairing it with foods that can reduce odors, such as buttermilk, parsley, yogurt, cranberry juice or spinach.
Foods that produce lots of gas:
There’s no two ways about it: some foods simply produce lots of gas during digestion. Even if gases from these foods are not as odorous as gases from the foods listed above, they can still be unpleasant and cause abdominal pains. These foods include apples, soda, dairy products, onions, asparagus, melons, beans, mushrooms, corn, broccoli, nuts, cabbage and beverages consumed through straws (you’ll swallow more air).
Foods that thicken waste:
Liquid waste can compromise the skin barrier and irritate peristomal skin. For this reason, it’s good to know what foods can thicken waste. Some thickeners include yogurt, bananas, milk, creamy peanut butter, breads, cheeses, pastas, potatoes and rice, among others.
Foods that thin waste:
Conversely, sometimes waste moves too slowly through the digestive system or is too firm for comfort. Fruits and fruit juices, chocolate and green beans are a few of the foods that can thin overly firm stool.
Diarrhea happens to everyone – and the end result is fluid, potassium and sodium loss. Dehydration is a top concern with diarrhea, and can be a serious risk for ostomates. Along with plenty of liquids, consider adding foods slightly higher in potassium and sodium (salt) until the digestive tract returns to normal. Some foods high in potassium include milk, chicken, beef, fish, pork, turkey, lima beans, V8 Juice, apricots, bananas, avocado, tomato juice, potatoes, broccoli, grapefruit juice, oranges and orange juice, watermelon and strawberries. Foods high in sodium are not hard to find; most pre-packaged foods, canned soups and seasonings have high sodium content, and simple table salt can counter the deficiency.
A complete ostomy nutrition guide can be found here. For more ostomy information and to buy ostomy supplies, visit www.totalhomecaresupplies.com. Fast, free, discreet shipping for all your ostomy needs!