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Meredith Keane, RD shares her experience with food intake and stoma output after ileostomy surgery.

What goes in must come out.
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I've been a Registered Dietitian since 2014. Recently, I had a consultation with a patient who was having increased output from his ileostomy. His doctor was hoping that I could give him some advice about food that would slow things down. When I found out this patient had an ostomy for over 30 years my first thought was, "Well I’m sure there’s nothing I could tell him about how food effects ostomy output that he hasn’t already heard.”

I was very wrong. He told me that after his surgery nobody had mentioned anything about diet or nutrition. He admitted that he'd never really thought about how his input might affect his output. This was pretty surprising to me. Regarding food that can help slow output (prevent blockages, reduce odor, etc.), the United Ostomy Associations of America has an excellent Diet and Nutrition Guide which explains things very well. The University of Pittsburgh also has a great Ostomy Nutrition Guide

I had a total colectomy in 2011 because of ulcerative colitis and spent four months with a temporary ileostomy. My own experiences with food intake and ostomy output started post-op while I was still in the hospital. I saw a clear connection after I ate my first solid meal on day two. I chose to have pasta with tomato sauce. With all of my nutrition knowledge, looking back now I really should've eaten something with more protein like chicken, fish, or even some scrambled eggs. I guess my instinct at the time was to eat something comforting. 

After I had that meal, I emptied my bag for the first time on my own—I will never forget that experience. I opened the bag and a scent of basil and oregano wafted through the air. I was completely surprised (and entertained) that my poop actually smelled sort of… good? It actually made me feel much better about the idea of living with an ostomy. Suddenly things felt a little less gross and a little more... fascinating? I also learned that the odor (and even the color) of food translated to what came out. Speaking of color changes, blue Powerade turns my output bright green! That definitely surprised me.

Another memorable food/output moment again involved pasta. I was out to eat with my boyfriend at a small Italian restaurant in my hometown. My ileostomy was a few months old at that point so I felt confident eating almost about anything. I ordered a pasta dish that was topped with sundried tomatoes. I remember making it a priority to chew everything very well (as I do now) to help with digestion and prevent any risk of blockage. Apparently, that wasn’t enough this time. Despite my efforts, one small sundried tomato caused a world of pain for me the rest of the evening until my stoma finally push the damn thing out—whole. It always amazed me after that experience because a whole mushroom slice would pass with ease but that silly sundried tomato got the best of me.

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