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.

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:

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: December 2, 2014 Last Revised: February 14, 2017

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