What Goes In Must Come Out

The other day, I got a consult to see a patient who was having an increase in the output from his ileostomy and the doctor was hoping I might give him some tips about foods to slow things down. I found out that this patient had had his ostomy for over 30 years and my first thought was, “Well I’m sure there’s nothing I could tell him about food’s effects on ostomy output that he hasn’t already heard” but I was very wrong. He said that when he first had his surgery, no one thought to mention anything about diet or nutrition, and he admitted he had never really thought about how his input might affect his output.  This was pretty surprising to me because I know that if I forget what I had for breakfast, I’ll remember when I see it in the toilet later that day. So for this month, I thought I would focus on that relationship between the food we eat and what comes out. At first, I thought I would elaborate on foods to slow output, prevent blockages, reduce odor, etc. but I discovered that the United Ostomy Associations of America has an excellent Diet and Nutrition Guide that breaks all of that down extremely well. The University of Pittsburgh also has a great Ostomy Nutrition Guide as well.

So then I thought I would share my own experiences relating food intake and ostomy output.

I saw the clear connection between food and my ileostomy in the hospital on post-op day 2 when I got my first solid meal since surgery. I chose to have some pasta with tomato sauce. Looking back now with all of the nutrition knowledge that I have, I really should have gotten something with more protein like some baked chicken or fish, or even some scrambled eggs, but I guess my instinct was just to eat something familiar to me. After I had that meal, I emptied my bag for the first time on my own and I will never forget that experience. I opened the bag and the scents of basil and oregano wafted through the air. I was so surprised and entertained that my poop actually smelled kind of…good? It actually made me feel much better about the whole idea of my ostomy; it became a little less gross and a little more fascinating. But I also learned that the odors and even the colors of the foods that I eat can translate through to my output.

Speaking of color changes, I learned a short time later that blue Powerade would turn my output bright green! That one definitely surprised me.

My other most memorable food moment also involved pasta. I was out to eat with my boyfriend at a small Italian restaurant in my hometown. I had had my bag for a couple of months at that point and felt confident I could eat almost anything I did pre-surgery, so I ordered a pasta dish that was topped with sundried tomatoes. I remember making a point of chewing everything very well then (as I do now) in an effort to help facilitate my digestion and prevent any kind of blockage, but that wasn’t enough this time. Despite my efforts, one little sundried tomato caused me a world of pain for the rest of the evening until I finally saw my stoma push the damn thing out whole. It always amazed me after that when I would pass almost a whole mushroom slice with ease but that stupid little sundried tomato got the best of me.

So what stories do you all have about how the food you ate impacted your output? Any advice on foods to include or avoid? Or any questions for me? Share them in the comments!