Eating and digestion with a colostomy
Everything we eat and drink serves as fuel for the body. To stay in good health, the body needs carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Water is also a key part of good health. At least 8 to 10 8-ounce glasses of water a day is usually recommended as long as you’re eating normally. When you can’t eat, you must drink more to make up for the water that you usually get from food. Having a balanced diet helps maintain good nutrition and keep the bowel’s activity normal.
There’s no such thing as a colostomy diet. After healing is complete and the ostomy is working normally, most people with colostomies can return to foods they normally eat. Chew well and see how each food affects your colostomy. Those foods that have disagreed with you most of your life may still do so. If you’re on a special diet because of heart disease, diabetes, or other health problems, you should ask your doctor about a diet that will work best for you.
If you wear a pouching system all the time, you’ll suffer no embarrassment if something you’ve eaten produces an unexpected discharge. You’ll soon learn which foods produce gas or odor, which cause diarrhea, and which lead to constipation. As you learn these things you can regulate the bowel’s behavior to a large extent.
Note: You cannot prevent the intestine from moving by not eating. An empty intestine still produces gas and mucus. No matter what your plans for the day might be, eat regularly, several times a day. Your colostomy will work better for it.
Water will not hurt your colostomy. You can take a bath or shower with or without a pouching system in place. Normal exposure to air and water won’t harm the stoma. Water will not flow into the stoma. Soap will not irritate it, but soap may interfere with the skin barrier sticking to the skin. It’s best to only use water while cleaning the skin around your stoma. If you do use soap, be sure to rinse your skin well.
In its original form this document was written by the United Ostomy Association, Inc. (1962-2005) and reviewed by Jan Clark, RNET, CWOCN and Peg Grover, RNET. It has since been modified and updated by:
Last Medical Review: December 2, 2014 Last Revised: December 2, 2014
- What is a colostomy?
- How your digestive system works
- Types of colostomies
- Closing or reversing a colostomy
- Managing your colostomy
- Choosing a colostomy pouching system
- Changing the colostomy pouching system
- Colostomy irrigation (for descending and sigmoid colostomies only)
- Ordering and storing colostomy supplies
- Caring for a colostomy
- Avoiding and managing colostomy problems
- If you are hospitalized while you have a colostomy
- Living with a colostomy
- Telling others about your colostomy
- Eating and digestion with a colostomy
- What to wear when you have a colostomy
- Returning to work after getting a colostomy
- Intimacy and sexuality when you have a colostomy
- Playing sports and staying active with a colostomy
- Traveling when you have a colostomy
- For parents of children with colostomies
- Getting colostomy help, information, and support
- To learn more