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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What can you eat soon after Bowel Cancer surgery?

    Hello everyone,

    I have just been diagnosed with bowel cancer. I am expecting surgery in the next week.

    What can you eat within the first few weeks after surgery? Are you given a feeding tube through your stomach, or can you eat mushy food? I don't know what stage it is yet.

    I've seen the posts re possibility of colostomy bags, but can't find anything about what is actually available, if anything, to eat.

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Christine

    HealthShare Member

    Hi Maureen,  I had surgery 6 months ago. I was told to expect to stay in hospital between 5-10 days.  I think I was in 7days, for the first few days you will be on a drip so there will be no need for food.  Once you are back on the ward, you will be on a liquid diet until you have a bowel motion.  Soup, soup and soup followed by Jelly.  You can have juices and hot beverages.  Once you have a bowel motion, you can then east fairly normal stuff, like caserole with rice, pasta and soft vegies.  Basically normal food.  If you end up with a stoma, not sure what your eating habits will be.
    Best of luck, its not as bad as it sounds.  I listened to a CD by Martin L Rossman MD called Preparing for surgery.  It really helped me prepare mentally beforehand and during my post op period.  I'm sure its what got me through so easily.

  • Bowel Cancer Australia is the leading community-funded charity dedicated to prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and care for everyone affected by bowel cancer. We … View Profile

    Hi Maureen,

    If you do have to have a ostomy (bag) there are some helpful tips to assist you manage your diet.

    - Eat smaller amounts - little and often seems to help, this is roughly 200 grams or the size of a full teacup per serving.

    - Take some good yoghurt or Kefir daily before food one to two tablespoons is ample or a capsule of probiotic such as Inner Health by Ethical Nutrients from the chemist or health food store, taken before food twice a day.

    - Or enjoy yoghurt as a snack avoid fruit yoghurt (may have pips or seeds); keep to plain, custard or vanilla flavor.

    - White rice is often very useful to slow diarrhea/bowel motions, swap to brown rice if bowel is slowing down.

    - Try low fiber vegetables such as pumpkin, carrot, green beans, zucchini, squash and peeled potato - cook them well and keep to 1/2 to 1 cup per meal

    - No nuts as these can irritate the bowel - cashew and macadamia seem to be ok, but chew well, they have no skin, consume about 20 grams only, if you are eating them in your hand you should be able to put the nuts in your palm and close your hand over them touching the palm with the fingertips.

    - Cook soups made from a protein source such as meat, fish, legumes, and chicken and add the above vegetables.

    - Use oil in moderation, choose foods that have less than 10 grams of fat per serve and cut fat off meat.

    - Aim to eat white fish twice to three times a week; colored fish such as salmon can be too oily at this time.

    - Eggs can be nutritious and are usually well tolerated, make egg dishes such as scrambled egg, poached or quiche. If you cannot tolerate whole egg try egg whites.

    - Include plain nutrient enriched white bread or rice or wheat crackers to help slow bowel movements or if the bowel is working well and bowel movements have slowed down you can use whole meal wholegrain foods

    - Keep up calcium levels with dairy or tahini, or use calcium enriched milk substitutes; your GP may suggest a calcium supplement such as caltrate with added vitamin D.

    - Have a rice porridge breakfast made with milk and mix an egg into it or eat rice bubbles or corn flakes. If the bowel is slowing down try a wholegrain breakfast such as rolled porridge oats.

    - This diet is restrictive you may need a multivitamin.

    - Take a liquid multivitamin such as Hivita Liquivita.

    - If there is weight loss use a protein powder such as Sustagen hospital grade and add milk (or milk substitute) take twice daily or Ensure a pre made liquid nutrient drink from the Chemist.

    - Ensure water intake is adequate.

    Kind Regards,
    Bowel Cancer Australia Nutritionist Adviser

    Please Note: The information provided by Bowel Cancer Australia’s Nurse and Nutritionist Advisory Services is intended for Australian residents as a reference guide only. It is not a substitute for independent professional advice and is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or disorder.

    If you believe your symptoms are consistent with those of bowel cancer or a digestive illness, please consult your doctor.

    Bowel Cancer Australia, its directors, officers or medical professionals shall not be liable to any person, company or any other body for any loss, direct or indirect or consequential on whatsoever account for any omission or negligent misstatement.

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