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What to eat after bowel surgery

30 November 2021

Cancer care Nutrition and dietetics
There are a number of diet changes that are advisable to make after bowel surgery to quicken your recovery. Dietitian Preeti Chauhan shares her recommendations.

Diet restrictions after surgery

  • Reduce your dietary fibre straight after surgery to allow your bowel to rest.
  • Reintroduce fibre gradually into your diet, about four to six weeks after surgery.
  • Avoid caffeine, artificial sweeteners, alcohol and spicy foods which may make stools loose.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks, green leafed vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli which can produce wind; if you do notice a wind problem avoid eating these foods 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

Insoluble fibre speeds up bowel motions and is useful for treating constipation.

The 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

Soluble fibre such as oats, barley, psyllium husk, benefibre turns into a gel during digestion.

If you have 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
  • legumes 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.

How dietitians can help

Dietitians can provide you with quality nutritional and dietary advice to assist you in achieving or maintaining good health after bowel surgery. You can ask to your doctor for a referral to a dietitian.

Preeti Chauhan
Preeti Chauhan - Senior Dietitian
Preeti Chauhan is a senior dietitian at St John of God Murdoch Hospital