What Can I Eat After Colectomy Surgery?

A Few Smart Food Choices Can Go a Long Way

peanut butter and toast
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If you've had a colectomy, chances are you've been told you need to follow a colectomy diet. What does that mean? 

This article will help you navigate eating after your colectomy surgery.

The First Days After Surgery

For the first 2 to 3 days after a colectomy, you'll probably receive only IV fluids to give the colon time to heal. After that, you'll be transitioned to a clear liquid diet. As the name implies, this means only liquids that you can see through, such as broth, fruit juices without pulp (for example, 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 oatmeal.

Food Choices to Ease Symptoms

Some of the common symptoms you might experience after a colectomy include diarrhea, dehydration, and gas. These symptoms can happen because your colon has not yet resumed normal functioning. One of the things the colon does is absorb liquid–if it's not doing that properly, dehydration and diarrhea may result.

These foods are easy-to-digest and should minimize diarrhea:

  • Applesauce
  • Bananas
  • Boiled white rice
  • White bread or toast
  • Cream of rice or cream of wheat
  • Low-sugar cereals
  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Potatoes
  • Pretzels
  • Yogurt
  • Tapioca

Other easy-to-get soft, low-residue foods are eggs, cooked fish or tender meat, mild cheese, soft-cooked fruits or vegetables, puddings, sherbet, and ice cream.

Foods That Might Be Hard to Digest

You will be able to go back to your normal diet after surgery, but you may find 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. It's important to understand that no two people respond exactly the same way after surgery. 

A couple tidbits are to add foods back into your diet gradually, so you can assess how your body deals with each food.

It's also helpful to eat smaller, more frequent meals (every 3 hours), rather than overwhelming your digestive system with a large meal.

Foods that sometimes need to be limited until your body adjusts to a colectomy include:

  • Raw vegetables
  • Skins and peels of fruit (fruit flesh is OK)
  • Dairy products
  • Very high fiber food such as wheat bran cereals and bread
  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Cakes, pies, cookies, and other sweets
  • High fat and fried food such as fried chicken, sausage, and other fatty meats
  • Beer and red wine
  • Hot soup or drinks
  • Too much caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Very spicy food
  • 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 advance your diet. If you feel sick to your stomach or full, then stop eating or slow down. 

Be sure you also drink plenty of fluids (8 to 10 cups of water a day) to help your body digest food and eliminate waste.

A Word From Verywell

If you are worried about eating after colectomy surgery (or have a loved one undergoing the surgery), please speak with your doctor and dietician, so you can transition well and confidently.