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We are all different. Some ostomates can eat anything, while others have found by experience it is best to avoid certain foods. If you suspect a food causes problems, try it at least three times, separated by an interval of a couple of weeks, before eliminating it altogether. Keeping a food and symptom diary and looking for a trend can sometimes help to identify a food which may be causing a problem. Common food related problems include:
Beans, peas, onions, leeks, unripe banana and potato which is cooked and then cooled (e.g. in potato salad and Shepherd’s pie) contain a type of sugar and starch that can escape digestion and enter the colon where they are fermented to produce gas. It may also help to avoid foods which are high in fibre or contain unmilled grains and seeds. Beer and fizzy drinks may also increase the amount of wind. Artificial sweeteners taken in tea or coffee, on cereal or as sweets or mints can cause problems with wind. If you are diabetic and rely on sweeteners but suffer with wind ask to be referred to a dietitian for advice.
Wind also may be due to eating in a hurry, meals at irregular times or going for long periods without food.
Very spicy foods and large amounts of lager and beer can irritate the lining of the digestive system and cause frequent loose motions. However, their effects can be reduced by eating spicy dishes in small quantities with plenty of rice, pasta or potatoes and never drinking on an empty stomach. Pure fruit juices and some fruit and vegetables may cause diarrhoea in some people. Artificial sweeteners can also cause loose motions.
Loose motions or diarrhoea can also be the result of a stomach bug, stress or an emotional upset or antibiotics.
Eating more fibre-containing foods can help to prevent constipation. Try to increase the amount of fibre by choosing: wholemeal (rather than white) bread or pasta; whole grain cereals e.g. Weetabix, porridge; and more fruit and vegetables. It is best to make these changes gradually to avoid problems with wind. Fibre acts by absorbing water to make the stools softer, so it is very important to drink plenty of fluids: at least six to eight cups a day.
Constipation may also be due to not drinking enough fluid not getting enough exercise or some medicines e.g. certain painkillers or antidepressants (check with your doctor or pharmacist).
Don’t forget that medications can also cause gastrointestinal problems. If you think this may be the case discuss an alternative with your GP.
The consistency of your stoma output doesn’t only depend on the type of food you eat. Water is absorbed from undigested food as it passes along the colon. If a large section of the colon has been removed, then your stoma is likely to work more often and the output is usually fairly liquid or of a toothpaste consistency. If most of the colon is still intact then motions will be more formed and less frequent.