Bare plate dietary issues

I became a Nutritionist because I wanted to know what to eat.  I’d had a difficult time with Crohn’s disease for many years and was at a point of experiencing a lot of fatigue and abdominal pain, which was making it difficult to work. I wanted to have more energy and generally feel better. At the time I was eating a typical ‘everyday’ diet of toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and meat and vegetables or pasta for dinner.   I didn’t feel that my food choices were having any impact on the disease.

However, I started consulting with a naturopath and she slowly taught me how to make better food choices that reduced my abdominal issues and enhanced my overall health.  Even though my diet appeared healthy on the surface, it turned out that I was eating many foods that were not beneficial for me and were actually proving to be more harmful than helpful.  This opened my eyes to another way of looking at food choices and food consumption and led me to enrol in a nutrition course.  Once I started studying, I was hooked!

This experience demonstrates that it can often be difficult for people in the general population with well-known illnesses and health issues to work out what to eat. I know I wasn’t alone in my confusion.  However, sometimes it can be even more difficult for people with a stoma to determine the most appropriate and suitable food choices for their individual circumstances. 

People with a urostomy generally have very few dietary issues that impact on stomal function as the intestinal tract is only minimally affected by stomal surgery.  However, for people with an ileostomy or colostomy, determining which foods are safe and healthy to consume and which are less beneficial or even harmful can sometimes be like walking through a mine field – you are never quite sure when a bomb is going to explode!

A client’s story…

Many years ago when I was first starting out in clinical practice, a lovely lady who had a colostomy approached me with a particular dilemma.  She was part of a craft group and really enjoyed the company of the other women in the group. They had a lot of fun and got on very well. There was an upcoming craft exhibition in another city and the ladies in the group had decided to attend the event.  They were planning to make a weeks’ holiday of it.

Colourful craft

My client really wanted to go on the trip and be part of this fun occasion, but she was nervous about how she would cope with her diet and stomal output during that time. She confessed to me during the consultation that she had not travelled anywhere since her surgery (which was many years previously) as she felt it was too stressful.

If she went on this trip she would also be sharing an apartment with the other ladies and she was really worried about accidents, leaks and any others issues that could arise.  She didn’t want to be the source of any unpleasantness in the apartment or experience any embarrassment. Hence her reason for contacting me.  She wanted to say yes to the trip and was seeking dietary advice and strategies so that she could have a relaxed, enjoyable time while she was away.

We met several times prior to her planned trip, and I guided her on what choices to make for breakfast, lunch and dinner whilst she was away based on her personal circumstances.  She trialled several options before she left as an indicator of whether the foods agreed with her and the degree and timing of output afterwards.  I also gave her backup options to consider if things started to go awry.

I saw my client on her return from the craft exhibition and she was ecstatic.  She had had a wonderful time with her friends and there had not been any accidents or mishaps.  She had thoroughly enjoyed herself and was so pleased she had made the effort to be part of the trip and attend the event. She was so delighted and heartened by the experience that she was in the process of planning another trip with her husband!

As an ostomate, what is your greatest dietary dilemma? What are you struggling with the most?  I have consulted with many ostomates over the years and there can be vast individuality in dietary difficulties.  The struggles that one ostomate is experiencing may not be a concern or consideration for another.  This is what makes consulting with ostomates so individual and personal.   It also makes it very difficult to provide mainstream advice that is suitable for all ostomates.  It is almost impossible to provide a one-size-fits-all dietary regime that is suitable and beneficial for everyone.   So tell me what your particular issue or concern is.    I welcome your comments and may be able to provide a solution in future articles.

Wishing you good health and happy days,



Article by Margaret Allan

Margaret Allan is a qualified Nutritionist who advises Ostomates and the general public on diet and health-related matters. Nutrition for Ostomates provides a range of consulting options - find out more on our Services Page.


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