What to eat after bowel surgery

ThinkstockPhotos-103579892There are a number diet changes that are advisable to make to quicken your recovery after surgery.

Senior Dietitian Preeti Chauhan at St John of God Murdoch Hospital recommends:

  • Reducing dietary fibre soon after surgery to allow your bowel to rest
  • Reintroduce gradually fibre into your diet four to six weeks after surgery
  • Avoid caffeine, artificial sweeteners, alcohol and spicy foods which may make stools loose for some patients
  • Avoid fizzy drinks, green leafed vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli which can be wind producing.

If you do have a wind problem avoid eating them for a couple of weeks to see if it improves.

Fibre and fibre supplements
There are two types of dietary fibre – soluble and insoluble. Most plant foods have a mixture of both. In general, fibre absorbs water and makes stools bulkier.

Insoluble fibre speeds up bowel motions and is useful for treating constipation. Major sources of insoluble fibre are wholegrain wheat, wheat bran, corn and wholegrain rice cereals, fibrous vegetables such as carrots and celery and the skins of fruits and vegetables. This type of fibre should be avoided or reduced if you have soft, frequent bowel motions or leakage.

Soluble fibre like oats, barley, psyllium husk, benefibre turns into a gel during digestion. In people with diarrhoea, this can help to firm up and slow down the bowel motions.
It is important to set up a healthy bowel pattern by eating food at regular times and drinking plenty of fluids, most of which should be water.

What should I eat if I have an ileostomy or colostomy?
If you have a stoma, you might need to avoid the following foods initially as they may cause obstruction:

  • Nuts
  • Sweetcorn
  • Pulses and beans
  • Popcorn
  • Dried fruit
  • Mushrooms
  • Stringy fruit and vegetables

If you have an ileostomy, you will lose salt and fluid into your bag which must be replaced by increasing your fluid intake and adding salt to your diet.

For more information about diet after bowel surgery, please read:
Improving bowel function after bowel surgery: Practical advice An Australian Government Initiative, 2013.
Prevention of bowel cancer: Bowel Cancer Australia Commonwealth of Australia, 2013.

Dietetic Outpatient Services at St John of God Murdoch Hospital

St John of God Murdoch Hospital’s Accredited Practising Dietitians can provide you with quality nutritional and dietary advice to assist you in achieving or maintaining good health.

They can help with:

  • Pre- and post-op gastrointestinal nutrition optimisation advice
  • Cancer and treatment side effects
  • Diabetes, pre-diabetes, gestational diabetes
  • Enteral feeding reviews
  • Healthy eating in pregnancy
  • Weight management
  • Gastrointestinal complaints/ disorders
  • Chronic disease management including cardiovascular disease
  • Sports nutrition
  • Low FODMAP diet

Call 9366 1960 for more information or to book an appointment.

Suite 20 Level 1 St John of God Murdoch Hospital Medical Clinic.

Where to find support 

Bowel Cancer Australia
www.bowelcanceraustralia.org
Helpline 1800 555 494

Cancer Council Western Australia
www.cancerwa.asn.au/resources/specific-cancers/bowel-cancer
13 11 20

Catch Cancer Before it Catches You
1300 779 694
www.catchcancer.org.au/bowel-cancer

South West Cancer Services
www.wacancer.org.au/types-of-cancer/prostate-cancer/testing/screeningtools/colon-cancer-screening

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