Just kidding, kale is actually kind of tough to pass through after colorectal surgery.
I have started a new support group for this subject, so if you’re looking for a place to discuss nutrition and diet while coping with a fistula, head over to Facebook and join our Fistulas & Food Support Group!
This is my least favorite subject. Diets are the bane of my existence, but let’s face it: When your bottom is in disrepair, what you eat matters. When I first started out on this fistula journey, I read about so many different diets. Since every body is different, every digestive system handles things differently, so in some ways this will be a process of trial and error for you. There are definitely foods to avoid and foods you should go wild on, and that’s what I’ll focus on here.
Foods to Avoid
Let’s get this one over with first, since nobody likes to hear what they can’t or shouldn’t eat. Here is a basic list of foods that will not come out easy:
- fatty and fried food–they are just really hard on your digestive system, and you should consider cutting back on them if not eliminating them completely.
- foods that don’t break down: corn, certain nuts, seeds, foods with skins (especially post surgery), seeds, etc.
- foods high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sweeteners–these are also hard on the digestive system
- dairy: consider going light on heavy dairy, especially the week or two after surgery
- Gluten in moderation–whole grain can be a great source of fiber, but gluten is a large protein that is hard to break down, especially for those who are gluten sensitive (obviously if you have celiac you want to avoid gluten)
- caffeine, diuretics
See? That wasn’t soooo bad, right? Here comes the fun part…
Foods to Go to Town On
I have had the most success with a high fiber diet. Your doctor will most likely tell you to add a fiber supplement to your diet, and to get lots of fiber naturally. This is mainly because fiber binds water, making your stools softer and moving things through your intestines faster. While natural fiber is the best, it is a good idea to get some Benefiber or Metamucil because it can be difficult to get enough fiber throughout the day. Ideally you want to get at least 25 grams of fiber a day.
Fruits and veggies are where it’s at! My advice is to try to balance your intake from each group (in other words, eat about equal amounts of fruits and veggies). If you get too much fruit you might end up with the runs, and too many vegetables and your stools will get too hard. One of my saviors has been the smoothie. You can mix in your vegetables and fruits and get several servings from each category in one delicious drink. Cooking many of the veggies will make them easier to break down if you’re having trouble with raw.
Healthy Comfort Food
I think this is really important. There’s no getting around the fact that living with a fistula is unpleasant, painful, often debilitating, and at times downright depressing. In times like these, comfort food is a must. You can, of course, find your own healthy comfort foods, but I wanted to share a short list of foods I found comforting that did not irritate or harm my booty:
- Baked potatoes! Yes, you probably want to go light on the butter and sour cream, but potatoes go down great, and are the ultimate comfort food
- Mashed potatoes
- Mashed sweet potatoes & baked sweet potatoes
- Mashed cauliflower (surprisingly delicious)
- Basmati rice
- Fruity yogurt (if you are not lactose intolerant, yogurt is often one of the few forms of dairy that is okay)
- Rice crackers and rice cakes
Those are just a few things that have been comforting to me on rough days. I also really enjoyed my smoothies and snacking on cauliflower, or a bowl of strawberries or raspberries.
Of course there will be times that you just say, “Screw it, I’m splurging,” and you eat some stuff that will probably be rough coming out the other end. Don’t beat yourself up. I’ve done it plenty of times, and while I usually regret it, it didn’t do any real damage. It definitely effects your comfort, though, and ultimately you want to try to put the best possible foods into your body while you’re healing. What you eat will have an effect on your healing, so try to stick to really good stuff. Please try to eat organic when you can. I know it’s more expensive, but so was your surgery, and you want it to HEAL. The fewer chemicals, pesticides, and dyes you ingest the better.
I hope this was helpful! I will touch more on diet in the future, but wanted to get these basics out there for those who have been diagnosed recently!
Next week’s topic is the Seton band!
Leah R. Chatterjee