Veganuary with a stoma: How do you eliminate all food derived from animals?

Veganuary with a stoma: How do you eliminate all food derived from animals?

Many ostomates, including Amy here at Comfizz, worry about eating fruit or vegetables, mainly down to its fibre contents. The same can be said for foods such as lentils, beans, tough skins. The idea of having a vegan diet often feels like swearing to ostomates, but there are ostomates out there who are vegan. A vegan diet isn't impossible with an ostomy, but it may take more time and energy to get it right and involve trial and error.

It's important to remember to follow medical guidelines on your diet, especially if you are new to the ostomy world, as your bowel needs time to recover and heal from surgery so eating certain foods can prevent this from happening. Your body also may require different nutrients and more of them to increase your calorie intake but by eating food that is easier on your digestive system. Hydration is also key.

Having a urostomy shouldn't be affected by introducing a vegan diet, although it is important to remember that some food and drink may affect colour and smell of urine such as asparagus.

Disclaimer: As always, this post is from our Social Media & Marketing Specialist, Amy's, experience of living with a permanent ileostomy, Crohn's Disease and from what she has researched. Nothing in our blog posts should be taken as medical advice. It's always best to consult a medical professional if you have queries or concerns.

Anxiety surrounding food

Understandably, ostomates are often fearful and anxious of trying new foods, especially after surgery, down to the fear of blockages or potential problems the food may cause. 

Also, ostomates experiencing "flare-ups" of Bowel Disease or even Diverticulitis may also fear that food such as this can make them feel worse. It's important to remember, as always, that everyone is different and trying new foods etc should only be approached with the go ahead of a medical professional such as your Gastroenterologist or Stoma Nurse, especially if you are currently experiencing symptoms of chronic illness. 

For some with chronic illness, even when they aren't experiencing a "flare up" of their symptoms, food can hold a lot of psychological triggers if it is food that has negatively impacted them in the past or they associate it with pain, sickness or other symptoms. 

Keeping a food diary, if you do not already know your trigger foods, can be a great way to gain more control and help you to know what to stay clear of, or to eat, but in small amounts.

Trying any new food should always be done exclusively, as in one new thing in one time period (eg one day), in small portions and food should be chewed thoroughly before swallowing. 

How to reduce the chance of blockages

If you've been advised that you have strictures (narrowings) within the intestine or stoma, then again, it is definitely best to seek medical advice before trying new foods as it may be that this isn't possible for you under the current circumstances.

Foods that are typically easier to digest include white rice, potatoes, white pasta, mushy veg without the skins such as swede and carrots and white bread, to name a few. Again, some of these might not be right for you. Exercise your personal judgement as you know your body.

Changing diet often causes ostomy output changes, so it's important to be aware of this and know what is right and what is cause for concern in your body and contact a medical professional if you are worried.

Start with small but regular meals and slowly introduce other vegan food groups. Don't forget to chew, chew and chew!

How do I start a vegan diet?

Don't put pressure on yourself all at once! Merely moving in the direction of a vegan diet is enough if this is your aim and then once you know how your body responds to vegan food more, you can slowly introduce more into your diet.

Record what foods are good and bad for you as you try them and then you can start to form a plan around this. Even having one vegan diet day a week can set you off in your required direction.

Experiment with foods such as substituting cheese for non-dairy cheeses.

Vegan recipe books include a lot of ideas for inspiration and there are plenty to find online. 

A lot of foods have ingredients listed on them or are in a vegan foods section, but if you are unsure, ask. If you plan on going out for food, you can always search online for the place you want to go, e-mail or call. 

 Making sure you get the right nutrients

Do you worry that eating plant based foods might mean that you then lack vital nutrients? 

Unfortunately, vegetarians or vegans in the ostomy world can become deficient in certain nutrients because an ostomy can lower nutrient absorption in the first place, then having a diet that contains less nutrients can make this worse.

Good foods to include in a vegan diet that will help with this include wholewheat foods such as rice, pasta and bread and a good variety of fruit and vegetables, served in a way that's manageable for you and your ostomy without causing negative side effects.

Seeing a dietitian can be super beneficial if you have chronic illness such as Bowel Disease for your diet in general, including if you want to go vegan.

It may also be a good idea to ask a medical professional about whether adding supplements into your diet may be beneficial. It might also be a good idea to ask your doctor to organise some blood tests to see if there are any deficiencies that need dealing with.

Vegan tips

  • Blend foods such as beans and pulses into hummus or pastes.
  • Ensure you have a few portions of vegetables with your meals and also a portion of fruit in your daily diet.
  • Smoothies or vegetable juices can be a good alternative to having vegetables and fruit whole. However, be mindful of the sugar content.
  • Some foods can cause odour. If this worries you and you still want to include them in your diet, ostomy deodorant drops and sprays can be tried.


Thinking outside the bag... Are ostomy supplies vegan or non-vegan?

What an interesting question and something you've probably never come across before.

Eric (also known as Vegan Ostomy) has a fairly up to date (and varied) list of ostomy products that are and aren't vegan. Discover this here.

 An important note

Eating vegan food doesn't mean it is healthy, just because it is labelled "vegan."

Do your research and remember to include things in moderation and try to avoid less healthy vegan foods where possible, if this is your jam!


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