What You Can Eat After Colectomy Surgery (2023)

If you've had anytype of colon surgery (in which part or all of the large intestine is removed), chances are you've been told you need to follow a special diet as you recover over the next few weeks. Your long-term diet after a colon resection (surgery) however, should not be affected.

Typically, a few days after surgery, you'll be able to start drinking clear liquids. From there, you'll gradually add foods back into your diet until you're back to eating as you did prior to the surgery. As your colon heals some foods are easier to digest than others.

This article will explain which foods you can eat during the weeks following your surgery as well as the foods you should avoid.

What You Can Eat After Colectomy Surgery (1)

Diet Immediately After Surgery

For the first two to three days after a colon resection, you'll probably receive only intravenous (IV) fluids given through a tube inserted in a vein to give your colon time to heal. After that, you'll switch to aclear liquiddiet. This means you will only drink liquids that you can see through,such as broth, fruit juices without pulp (like apple juice), sodas, and gelatin.

Once you're ready to start eating solid food again, the first foods you eat will be easy-to-digest foods, such as toast and cream of wheat.

Long-term, when can you expect to eat normally again after colon resection?

Typically, patients can resume their normal diets by eight weeks after the surgery. Your healthcare provider will determine a more specific timeline depending on how your recovery is going.

Foods to Eat After a Colon Resection

Common symptoms after a colectomy include diarrhea and dehydration. These symptoms can happen because your colon hasn't yet returned to working normally. One of the things the colon does is absorb liquid. Ifit's not doing that properly, diarrhea and dehydration can occur.

Foods that are easy to digest and can help to minimize diarrhea include:

  • Applesauce
  • Bananas, pears, peaches, and melons
  • Boiled white rice
  • Cooked beets
  • Cream of rice or cream of wheat
  • Low-sugar cereals (avoid high-fiber cereals such as wheat bran)
  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Potatoes
  • Pretzels
  • Spinach
  • Tapioca and angel food cake
  • White bread or toast
  • Yogurt

Other soft, low-residue foods include eggs, cooked fish or tender meat, mild cheese, soft-cooked fruits or vegetables, pudding, sorbet, and ice cream.

(Video) Diet to follow after colon resection surgery? - Dr. Rajasekhar M R

Foods to Avoid Right After Colon Resection

Since you are still healing, it's best to stay away from foods that might carry the risk of food poisoning. These include:

  • Non-pasteurized soft cheeses (choose only pasteurized cheese)
  • Undercooked meat
  • Uncooked fish (avoid sushi for the time being)
  • Fruits or vegetables that you haven't thoroughly washed

Having surgery may make you more likely to get an infection. Getting food poisoning shortly after an operation could land you back in the hospital.

If you have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea after getting home from a colon resection, call your healthcare provider right away. Violent vomiting, in particular, can lead to an incisional hernia, in which tissues from the abdomen push up through the muscles under the incision. It's a common complication of colon surgery.

Foods to Ease Back Into After Colon Resection

You will be able to go back to your normal diet after surgery, but you may find that some foods you used to eat are difficult to digest. It is best to avoid these foods for now.

Over time, your body will adjust, and you should be able to eat what you want. No two people respond the same way after a colon resection. Take your time to find out which foods work for you and which don't. In addition, adding back foods slowly makes it easier to figure out which food is responsible if something upsets your stomach.

If you're unsure about a certain food, start by eating smaller quantities. Add a little bigger portion with each meal.

It's usually better to eat smaller meals every three hours or so rather than overloading your digestive tract with one large meal. Snacking also keeps your digestion moving and helps minimize constipation or diarrhea.

The foods you may need to limit until your body adjusts after a colectomy include:

  • Raw vegetables, particularly "gassy" vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, and asparagus
  • Vegetables such as celery, corn, mushrooms, and onion
  • Skins and peels of fruit, particularly acidic fruits
  • Dried fruits, such as raisins and dates
  • Dairy products
  • High-fiber food such as wheat bran cereals and bread
  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds (especially if you have diverticulosis)
  • Popcorn
  • Brown rice and wild rice
  • Cakes, pies, cookies, and other baked sweets
  • High-fat and fried foods
  • Beer, red wine, and hard liquor
  • Hot soup or drinks
  • Caffeine, including coffee and chocolate
  • Very spicy foods
  • Licorice
  • Prune juice

It can take time for your body to readjust to high-fiber foods. Try adding back one high-fiber food at a time so you don't overwhelm your system, which can lead to constipation. Remain patient and listen to your body as you slowly add more foods to your diet. If you feel sick to your stomach or full, stop eating or slow down.

Long-Term Reminders After Colon Surgery

In addition to eating the right foods, be sure to drink plenty of water (eight to 10 cups per day). This will help your body digest food and remove waste.

To make sure they get enough fluid, some people find it useful to place a full pitcher of water in the fridge each morning and finish it over the course of the day. Your fluids don't all have to be water. Apple juice and cranberry juice count as part of your requirements too.

Chewing your food very well is important after colon surgery. Try to chew your food until it has a liquid-like texture before swallowing. This is especially important with meats or other dense foods that might cause a blockage if not broken down before swallowing.

(Video) Colorectal Surgery: After, What Food Can I Eat Or Not Eat?

No matter what your condition, it's important to eat a healthy, balanced diet. If needed, work with a dietitian to design a plan with the right amount of carbs, fats, and proteins for your age, weight, and level of physical activity.

Summary

After a colon resection, it's important to follow the diet your healthcare provider recommends. Immediately after your surgery, you will receive only IV fluids to give your colon time to heal. Later on, you will switch to a clear liquid diet.

Finally, you will begin eating solid foods that are easy to digest, like toast and cream of wheat. Following your healthcare provider's directions will help prevent diarrhea and dehydration. Soon, you'll be able to go back to a normal diet. You can expect to live a normal, healthy life after colon surgery.

Don't be afraid to ask your healthcare provider very specific questions about what you can or can't eat. Making sure all your questions are answered before you leave the hospital can go a long way toward making you comfortable and confident when you go home.

Foods to Eat After a J-Pouch Surgery

5 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. PearlPoint Nutrition Services. Colorectal surgery nutrition guidelines.

  2. Rebori K. UTMC. Colectomy. February 18, 2019.

  3. Hogan BV, Peter MB, Shenoy HG, Horgan K, Hughes TA. Surgery induced immunosuppression. Surgeon. 2011;9(1):38-43. doi:10.1016/j.surge.2010.07.011

  4. Navaratnam AV, Ariyaratnam R, Smart NJ, Parker M, Motson RW, Arulampalam TH. Incisional hernia rate after laparoscopic colorectal resection is reduced with standardisation of specimen extraction. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2015 Jan;97(1):17-21. doi: 10.1308/003588414X14055925058274

  5. Kaiser Permanente Thrive. Patient handbook for colectomy.

Additional Reading

(Video) Colectomy: How to Prepare for a Successful Recovery

By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, RD
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RDN, is an award-winning registered dietitian and epidemiologist, as well as an expert in cancer prevention and management.

See Our Editorial Process

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FAQs

What foods are good to eat after a colectomy? ›

Foods that are easy to digest and can help to minimize diarrhea include:
  • Applesauce.
  • Bananas, pears, peaches, and melons.
  • Boiled white rice.
  • Cooked beets.
  • Cream of rice or cream of wheat.
  • Low-sugar cereals (avoid high-fiber cereals such as wheat bran)
  • Pasta.
  • Peanut butter.
Apr 8, 2023

Can I eat chips after colectomy? ›

Avoid Fats and Grease

Fatty meats. Butter and cream. Fried foods. Greasy snacks like potato chips.

Can I eat salad after colon resection? ›

Your doctor may advise you to stay on the low fiber diet after surgery, as well. As a rule of thumb, you must avoid anything high in fiber, including any raw fruits or vegetables, any fruits or vegetables with skin or seeds (like blueberries), and any unrefined grains.

What is a full liquid diet after colectomy? ›

Diet after colon surgery may be clear liquids for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on how the patient reacts. These liquids are often easy on the stomach, so individuals who are having difficulties with nausea and vomiting after their operation may be kept on this diet.

Can you eat lettuce after colectomy? ›

What foods should I avoid in the few weeks after surgery? Caffeinated Beverages, Alcohol and Chocolate can worsen dehydration. Raw Fruits (except bananas, cantaloupe and honeydew melon) and Raw Vegetables (except for small amounts of shredded lettuce), Beans and Whole Grains can cause blockages early after surgery.

What not to eat after a colon? ›

In the hours following your colonoscopy, avoid these foods:
  • Spicy or heavily-seasoned foods.
  • Fried foods.
  • Nuts or crunchy nut butters.
  • Popcorn.
  • Legumes.
  • Brown rice.
  • Whole-grain bread.
  • Raw veggies.
Apr 25, 2022

Can you eat pasta after colon surgery? ›

Low Fiber: Choose white bread, rice cereals, white rice, and regular pasta. Avoid all whole grain breads, whole grain cereals, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and popcorn. Avoid raw vegetables and juices with pulp.

Can I eat crackers after colon surgery? ›

Hard, chewy and crunchy foods are not allowed on the soft diet, including tough meats (any meat you have to bite or chew), jerky, raw fruits or vegetables, crackers, nuts, seeds or peanut butter.

Can I drink coffee after colectomy? ›

Conclusion: Postoperative consumption of coffee is a safe and effective way to accelerate the establishment of the bowel function after colorectal resection surgery.

How long after colon resection can you eat normally? ›

Generally you can aim to build up to your usual diet again within 2-6 weeks of your surgery. So once you are managing the Light Diet well, you can continue to reintroduce foods and build up to your usual diet again over the following weeks.

What is the recovery time for a colectomy? ›

It takes approximately two to three weeks to completely resume normal activities. However, we recommend that the patient avoid heavy lifting for approximately six weeks.

How can I heal faster after colon surgery? ›

How can you care for yourself at home?
  1. Rest when you feel tired. ...
  2. Try to walk each day. ...
  3. Avoid strenuous activities, such as biking, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
  4. Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  5. You will probably need to take 3 to 4 weeks off from work.

How many bowel movements should you have after a colectomy? ›

After this procedure, you can expect to have 4 to 6 bowel movements a day. You may need more surgery and an ileostomy if you have Crohn disease and it spreads to your rectum. Most people who have this surgery recover fully. They are able to do most of the activities they were doing before their surgery.

How do you take care of a colon colectomy? ›

Your incision should remain dry and covered for 48hrs after surgery. At that time, you may remove any outer bandages to shower, taking care to wash around the incisions. If you have steri-strips (white tape-like coverings), leave them in place. They will typically fall off on their own in 1-2 weeks.

How long does diarrhea last after colectomy? ›

It may take 3 – 4 months before your bowel habits normalize.

What vegetables to avoid after bowel surgery? ›

Diet restrictions after surgery

Avoid fizzy drinks, green leafed vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli which can produce wind; if you do notice a wind problem avoid eating these foods for a couple of weeks to see if it improves.

Can I eat oatmeal after colon surgery? ›

Once your bowels are back to normal, your doctor will re-introduce soft foods to your diet. Bread, tender vegetables, cheese, oatmeal, and tender meat will be allowed in your diet.

Should you take probiotics after a colectomy? ›

Your body needs to heal. Soft foods that are easy to digest and swallow are going to be the best for after surgery. Foods that help boost your immune system are also great for recovery. Probiotics, which help restore your gut flora, can be helpful for after surgery.

What foods heal the colon? ›

Well-tolerated fiber sources include tender cooked vegetables, canned or cooked fruits, and starches like cooked cereals and whole wheat noodles and tortillas. Between flares, eat a wide variety of foods as tolerated. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat and nonfat dairy products.

What foods hurt the colon? ›

There are certain foods that can contribute to inflammation in the colon. Red meat, fried foods, refined sugar and carbohydrates, alcohol and coffee can all contribute to inflammation.

What foods damage the colon? ›

Foods to Avoid
  • Raw veggies and fruit: Certain types or parts of fruit and vegetables can upset your colon, causing intestinal distress. ...
  • Whole grains: Also a source of fiber, whole grains should be eliminated. ...
  • Certain proteins: Tough meats, nuts and beans should be eliminated.
May 17, 2017

How long does it take for the colon to heal after colon surgery? ›

You should feel better after 1 to 2 weeks and will probably be back to normal in 2 to 4 weeks. Your bowel movements may not be regular for several weeks. Also, you may have some blood in your stool. This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover.

Can you eat spaghetti after surgery? ›

Slow carbohydrates such as rice or pasta. They improve digestion, which is very important before acute medical interventions, as the suspension of the body during surgery promotes constipation.

Is milk good after colon surgery? ›

Limit dairy products to 2 cups per day. If you are lactose intolerant, consume only low-lactose dairy products or avoid dairy foods completely. It is recommended that you follow a Low-Fiber diet for one month following surgery.

What food Cannot eat after surgery? ›

Generally, avoid high-fat meats, eggs, dairy products, and sugary sweets. According to the National Institute of Aging (NIA), these foods are low in fiber and may lead to constipation.

What are the physical restrictions after colectomy? ›

No lifting more than 20 pounds (or lesser weight that forces you to use your abdominal muscles) and no aerobic exercise (other than walking) until your follow up office visit (about 2 weeks after surgery). Further restrictions will be discussed at that time.

How do you sleep after a colectomy? ›

To minimize pain when you are moving about, support your incision with a small pillow or rolled up towel. Sleeping with a pillow under or between your knees will relieve stress on the incision area.

Is it hard to poop after colon surgery? ›

Constipation is common after surgery. Taking pain medications such as vicodin or percocet also cause the bowel to move more slowly. A stool softener, such as Colace, milk of magnesium, or prune juice may help. Diarrhea is also common after a colon resection.

When will I poop after colon resection? ›

The stress of surgery and direct bowel manipulation cause a surge in sympathetic stimulation, overriding parasympathetic stimulation and slowing bowel function. The effects of this are most pronounced in the colon, where it may take 2 to 3 days for normal peristalsis to return in the postoperative period.

How often do you need a colonoscopy after a colectomy? ›

Any patient who has had curative surgery for a polyp or colorectal cancer has approximately double the risk for developing new polyps. These patients need to have their first colonoscopies 1 year after surgery, a follow-up colonoscopy 3 years later, and subsequent colonoscopies at no less than 5-year intervals.

What are the side effects of a colectomy? ›

Risks of a colectomy include:
  • Reactions to anesthesia.
  • Blood clots in the legs or lungs.
  • Internal bleeding.
  • Infection at the skin incision site or inside the belly.
  • Hernia.
  • Scar tissue (adhesions) in the stomach, which can block the intestines.
  • A leak where the intestines are sewn together.
  • Damage to nearby organs.

How much should you walk after colon surgery? ›

The first four weeks of your post-op recovery are the most important, and you'll be increasing the intensity of your walks one week after the other. During your first week, you should stick to taking anywhere between 2 to 4 ten-minute light-paced walks a day. Week 2 is when you should increase their duration.

What are common problems after colon surgery? ›

Possible problems after bowel cancer surgery include a leak where the surgeon has joined the ends of your colon together, or your bowel not working properly. Other risks include infection, blood clots and bleeding.
...
Symptoms include:
  • shortness of breath.
  • chest pain.
  • coughing up blood.
  • feeling dizzy or light headed.

How do I get my strength back after colon surgery? ›

You should avoid heavy lifting for at least 3 months after any abdominal surgery due to the increased risk of a hernia. Besides your exercise programme, you must leave time for walking. Walking helps build your strength and endurance. Walk around your home 3 to 5 times each day.

What is the best laxative after colectomy? ›

After surgery, you should also plan to take a stool softener, such as docusate (Colace). A fiber laxative, such as psyllium (Metamucil), may also be helpful. Purchase a laxative or stool softener before your surgery so that you have it available when you return home.

How do you stop diarrhea after a colectomy? ›

Management of Diarrhea

Bananas replace potassium lost in the large volume of stool, while rice and toast contain healthy starches and sugars that normally bulk stool. Applesauce contains the natural bulking agent pectin.

How do you know if your colon is leaking after surgery? ›

In the case of intestinal surgery, your surgeon can check for leaks using a CT scan with contrast dye. The contrast is injected into your rectum near the anastomosis to see if it leaks out of the connection.

How long does it take the colon to heal after colectomy? ›

It takes approximately two to three weeks to completely resume normal activities. However, we recommend that the patient avoid heavy lifting for approximately six weeks.

How long does it take for your colon to heal after surgery? ›

Most patients will be fully recovered after six weeks but should expect to feel sore around the incisions, and may feel weak for a week or two after surgery.

What not to do after colon resection? ›

Avoid strenuous activities, such as biking, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay. Ask your doctor when you can drive again. You will probably need to take 3 to 4 weeks off from work.

How long does it take for bowels to return to normal after bowel resection? ›

You should feel better after 1 to 2 weeks and will probably be back to normal in 2 to 4 weeks. Your bowel movements may not be regular for several weeks. Also, you may have some blood in your stool. This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover.

How often do you poop after a colectomy? ›

After proctocolectomy to remove your colon and your rectum, your surgeon may connect your small intestine to your anus (ileoanal anastomosis). This allows you to expel waste normally, though you'll likely have several watery bowel movements daily.

What is the average length of stay after a colectomy? ›

Colectomy by minimally invasive surgery is associated with the quick return of bowel function (1-3 days) and a relatively short stay at the hospital (3-5 days after surgery).

Can you live a normal life after colon resection? ›

Can patients live a normal life after a colon resection? Yes, most patients have a successful colon resection procedure and go on to live full and comfortable lives. If there is an underlying disease, of course, continuing treatment may be necessary.

Why do I poop so much after colon resection? ›

The body absorbs water from undigested food as it passes through the colon. The waste material (poo) is then stored in the back passage (rectum) until you pass it out of the body through your anus. Straight after surgery to remove part of your colon, your poo might be a bit looser and more frequent.

How long does your stomach stay swollen after colon surgery? ›

The truth of the matter is that symptoms such as swelling, stomach discomfort and distention are very common after surgery. The good news is that these sensations are only temporary. Phew! Post-operative bloating and swelling usually peaks 48 hours after surgery, but will mostly subside by the 12-week mark.

What is lazy bowel after colon surgery? ›

Postoperative ileus is a prolonged absence of bowel function after surgical procedures, usually abdominal surgery. It is a common postoperative complication with unclear etiology and pathophysiology. It is a benign condition that usually resolves with minimal intervention.

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