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Eating well with a Stoma

People who have been through bowel surgery have the same nutritional needs as everyone else. You need fats, proteins, carbohydrates and an abundance of vitamins and minerals to enable your body to perform at its best. There are however additional considerations for those with a stoma and we have asked Nutritionist Jenny Phillips to advise us on some tips to make healthy eating a breeze.

Eat to feel great

The one thing I see in clinical practice every day is that when people move to a more natural diet then their health improves dramatically. One of the best things reported are increased energy levels, which give added zest and an ability to go about daily life with more momentum. This is not surprising because making energy occurs in every cell of your body and requires a huge amount of nutrients to work effectively.

However when the digestive system has been compromised it is even more important to choose nutrient dense foods to ensure that you can extract the maximum amount of goodness. This is where a natural diet comes in, because choosing from fresh (or frozen) vegetables, fruit, meats, fish, nuts, seeds, pulses, whole grains, dairy products and oils ensures a wide variety of nutrients are consumed. The more colour the better! Beware of eating too much beige and brown or baked goods as these are generally much lower in nutrients and more likely to upset blood sugar levels. So switch a baguette for a salad, or chocolate bar for an apple. Add nuts to main meals for a bit more crunch and some fruit to get your taste buds zinging (see below).

For those of you that find it difficult to digest vegetables, then juicing or smoothies may be a good idea. Always make veg the main event and just add a little fruit for sweetness. Juices give you a huge dose of vitamins and are readily absorbed into your system. Smoothies still contain the fibre and so may be more filling, especially if you add a nut milk such as almond or coconut for a creamy texture.

Improve your digestion

Some of the common foods that cause digestive problems are grains including wheat, pulses, beans, fizzy drinks and excessive fruit juice and fizzy drinks, but generally food sensitivities are quite individualised. Keeping a food and symptom diary may be helpful to identify problem foods, and you can then apply trial and error to modify your food list. If you want to go further, a Nutritional Therapist would be able to arrange a food intolerance test for you.

If you are suffering from constipation, first check to see that you are drinking sufficient water, and also that you are eating foods containing fibre. A cup of black coffee on an empty stomach may have the desired effect. Or soak 1 tbsp of ground linseeds in a little prune juice overnight and eat in the morning (it should form a mousse like consistency).

On the other hand, diarrhoea may indicate a food intolerance and you may like to try removing wheat and dairy from the diet for 7 days and see if there is an improvement. Stewed apple can be calming for the digestive system, so make a batch and store in the fridge in small ramekins so that you can eat it regularly.

If you like to eat nuts and seeds regularly then you may like to try soaking them overnight both to improve digestibility and to remove an anti-nutrient called phytic acid. This binds to minerals such as magnesium and calcium in the digestive tract and deprives you in the process. Soaking breaks down phytic acid and also removes enzyme inhibitors. Nuts can be used in their soaked form, or dried by lining a baking tray with kitchen towel, spreading the nuts in a single layer and leaving overnight in a warm airing cupboard. Once fully dried, store in glass jars (an old jam jar works fine) in the fridge.

Optimise your gut health

One of the most healing foods for gut health is bone broth. Your butcher may sell you some bones which can be roasted for 30 minutes and then either simmered in a pressure cooker or on the top of the stove. The ultimate easy way to make a delicious broth is to use the carcass of a cooked organic chicken. Simply strip away the meat and then place in a slow cooker with hot water. Simmer overnight and then sieve in the morning into a clean jar and refrigerate. (If you don’t have a slow cooker use the stove for 2-3 hours).

You can use the stock to add to soups or stews. Or take half a mug of the jelly, add half a teaspoon of bouillon and top up with hot water. Drink before lunch.

Bone broth is rich in minerals and also contains amino acids which are essential for gut health. For instance, glutamine acts as fuel for the intestinal cells, and helps them to regenerate (the cells of the intestinal lining are replaced every few days).

You may also have heard of probiotics in relation to gut health. These are good bacteria, and can be found in live yoghurt (always buy plain natural or Greek yoghurt and add your own fruit, as commercial brands are often high in sugar).

Another terrific source of probiotics is live sauerkraut. This can be purchased from: or made at home by pickling cabbage and other shredded vegetables in salt water. Unfortunately the sauerkraut on sale in the supermarket is pasteurised and doesn’t contain live bacteria.

Recipe – chicken and strawberry salad


100g cooked chicken

White cabbage

½ avocado, diced

¼ yellow pepper, chopped

Handful of strawberries

Glug of olive oil and 1 tbsp mayonnaise

Finely chop a small handful of white cabbage (the Pampered Chef food chopper does this perfectly). Add the avocado and yellow pepper and mix well.

Chop all bar two of the strawberries and add into the cabbage, along with the cooked chicken. Add olive oil to taste and the mayonnaise and mix well.

Transfer to a side plate or bowl, and top with the remaining strawberries.

Cookery book recommendation

Against All Grain, by Danielle Walker is based on grain free, dairy free, gluten free food. This contains delicious recipes using natural ingredients, and all manner of foods are included. For instance, breads and cakes are reinvented using nut flours, spiralised courgettes replace pasta and her cauliflower rice is a firm favourite in our household.

For more news information and recipes about eating with health in mind, please join our mailing list here:

AL/1770/08.14/0.001. Date of preparation: August 2014.

Date: 3rd October 2014  
Author: Opus Healthcare

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