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December 24, 2016

The Ostomy Diet at Christmas (and beyond)

As I shared in a previous post, I used to eat pretty much whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  When I was a kid, a teenager, and especially as a young man, Christmas time took this dietary approach to a whole new level.  

“Turkey dinner with all the fixings…sure, I’ll have a third helping, mom!”  

“Yeah grandma, I have some room for another slice of that Yuletide log”.  

“No, I have no idea what happened to that box of chocolates, honey (insert stifled burp!)”    

That all dramatically changed when I had ulcerative colitis.  And after my ileostomy surgery, it didn’t take long to realize that my daily diet had a huge effect on the health of my entire digestive system, including my 2 piece ostomy.  

Eating the wrong things can have unpleasant side effects.  It can create extra gas, or make the contents of your ostomy bag harder to handle.  At worst, you can end up having a blockage of your stoma, which can be frustrating, painful and even dangerous.  Blockages should be avoided at all costs.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that it’s worth it to be what others might consider a “food Grinch” at this time of year.  I’m sharing the following tips in the hopes that I can increase the chance that your digestive health won’t steal your Christmas joy this year.  

As you read the following, please keep in mind that everyone’s body is different.  Some of these suggestions will be true for your unique system, while others may not.  Don’t be afraid to try small amounts of goods that you like in order to figure out your own tolerance.        


12 Tips for Merry Christmas Eating

1. More turkey please!  Meat is mostly digested in your stomach, so as long as you don’t overdo it, feel free to dig in.  Leaner meats, like turkey, are easier to digest than beef and ham.

2. Mmmm…did someone say mashed potatoes?  Eat your veggies, but be aware that cooked, soft veggies will be a lot easier on your system.    

3. Be choosy with your veggie sides:  Corn and peas hardly digest, and are vicious little stoma blockers.  Don’t even get near them.

4. Wow, I’m loving this cranberry sauce:  But only because the cranberries were blended really well rather than left whole.  The fiber of whole cranberries can be problematic in terms of digestion and obstruction.

5. That stuffing looks delicious, but what’s in it?  Fibrous vegetables, such as celery, are a lot more likely to cause blockages.  They should be avoided.  

6. Aunt Mildred, is that your jelly-fruit salad?  Take a close look before indulging.  Fruits such as oranges and pineapple are a definite no, as the (you guessed it!) fiber doesn’t digest well at all.  Yes, fiber in fruits and veggies presents a major risk for obstruction. 

7. Sorry, I’ll have to pass on that:  Your digestive health in general, and avoiding blockages in particular, is far more important than not offending Aunt Mildred!  You might have to forego consideration of others in order to respect your own body.  

8. Another glass of red wine?  Alcoholic and other carbonated beverages produce extra gas in your system.  You may want to avoid them if you’re going to be in a public setting where loud gas noises are more likely to be noticed…like a quiet Christmas eve church service! 

9. Just say no to fruitcake. As if you needed a reason, avoiding treats that contain nuts, seeds, and dried fruit is highly recommended, since these ingredients are likely to obstruct one’s stoma. 

10. Yes, I’m a slow eater! You can’t chew your food too much.  I used to count my number of chews per bite, but now overchewing is automatic.  I’ve been the last one at the table more often than I care to admit, but it’s worth it for the extra mechanical digestion.  

11. Popcorn…a nice tree decoration:  But if you’re sitting down to watch “Elf” or “A Christmas Carol” with the family, avoid eating this snack.  It’ll get you in trouble every time.  

12. When in doubt, throw it all in the blender!  As mentioned above in #4, many foods that are questionable when they’re whole are fine when they are blended really well.  Being able to blend my foods was revolutionary for me.  So if it’s not too late, ask for a high quality blender (I use a Blendtec) from Santa this year.  

This holiday season, don’t be afraid to eat, drink and be merry.  At the same time, be aware and be kind to your body with what you choose to put into it.  It’s one of the best gifts you can give, at Christmas and throughout the year.

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