For somebody with an inflammatory bowel disease, eating has a very different meaning that it does for somebody with a “normal” intestinal tract. For most people, I believe the common things you consider are 1. Does is taste good? 2. Does it provide the nutrients, etc. that I need? 3. Does it contain a bunch of bad ingredients that I don’t need? 4. Will it fill me up? I doubt it usually goes beyond that.
For those with an intestinal disease, a number of other issues rise up. Will it make my want to claw my stomach out? Is it going to cause diarrhea? vomiting? Will I spend all day tomorrow on the toilet? Is it really worth it to eat that? After years of dealing with those questions, now that I no longer have a colon and have my ostomy, I realize there are still a bunch of other questions I have to ask myself.
Ever since I’ve had my surgery, eating has been different. First of all, I gain weight differently that I did before. And yes, I know, this is actually a good thing. It means I’m healthier and that my body is actually absorbing the nutrients it is supposed to. (This is actually a major testament to how much better I am doing, because a common issue that can arise with having your colon removed is that you don’t absorb everything you need. But even without my colon, the rest of my body is doing so much better at taking in what I need.) Honestly, I’m probably the size and weight now that I’ve always supposed to have been. But at the same time, as a woman, it’s difficult to be used to being one size your whole adult life and suddenly having to get adjust to being a different size… and not being able to fit into your skinny jeans.
Secondly, the foods I eat have changed (only slightly). I never could eat corn before my surgery. It always upset my stomach so I stopped eating it probably 5 or more years ago. And I love to eat corn. So it has been great that I can now eat it again. But I’ve also know that I can only have it in moderation. Since for me, everything comes out “uncompacted,” things like corn that don’t break down can potentially cause blockages. I’ve been blessed so far and haven’t had any issues with a blockage, but it can be a serious problem for people with an ostomy.
Just this week, after nearly 5 months of living with an ostomy, I realized that I need to pay more attention to what I eat. As I just said, foods that don’t break down can cause issues. And apparently I have eaten a TON of them this week. Rice, black beans, mushrooms, lettuce, spinach, peppers, potato skins, sun-dried tomatoes… all of these don’t digest particularly well. And I believe I have eaten all of them in some fashion this week. Rice is probably the worst if I eat in a large volume (i.e. the fried rice I had early this week) because you swallow so many rice grains whole and they come out whole and in large clumps. It was so thick coming out that it actually caused a leak after I had just changed my bag 3 days prior.
So my advice to anyone out there living with an ostomy, is to pay close attention to what you take in. If you’re like me and can now eat other foods that you couldn’t before, that doesn’t mean you should just eat whatever you want. If you’re going to eat one of those un-digestible foods, be sure you take the time to chew it extra well. And also, don’t make a plan to eat all of them in just a couple of days. Spread it out a little. It’ll make your day go a little “smoother.” (pun intended)