Foods That Thicken Ileostomy Stool

Updated July 19, 2017

People with ileostomies have temporarily or permanently lost the use of their digestive tracts from the colon onwards, usually because of congenital illness, injury or cancer surgery. The ileostomy surgery takes the end of the small intestine, or ileum, and routes it through a new opening in the upper abdomen. This opening is called a stoma, from the Greek for "mouth," or "opening," and its output is managed with various devices and techniques. One problem people with ileostomies face is runny, difficult to manage output from their stomas. Fortunately, dietary management can ease this problem.

Fibre and its role in digestion

Understanding dietary fibre is a good first step toward choosing a diet that will thicken ileostomy stool. Fibre is the chief thickening agent in a normal western diet, and it occurs in two forms, soluble and insoluble. The distinction is made between fibres that dissolve in water, and those that do not. Soluble fibre can be dissolved by the gastrointestinal tract, but insoluble fibre remains as bulk while food is digested. All plant-sourced foods such as grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables contain one or both kinds of fibre. Meats, including poultry and fish, contribute no fibre to our diets.

Fibre and Ileostomy

The individual with an ileostomy can adjust his diet to make stoma management easier. He can eat foods high in insoluble fibre to reduce the liquid component of the output from his stoma. Thick output is easy to control and allows a more relaxed lifestyle for the individual.

Give it Time

It is not a good idea to make sudden changes in diet when living with an ileostomy. A sudden increase in fibre could lead to bowel obstruction. Adding foods that increase stool thickness should be done gradually to see how they are tolerated.

Foods that Work

Some very basic foods like baked potatoes, rice, bread, peanut butter will lead to thicker stool in most people with ileostomies. Among desserts and sweets, pudding, applesauce, and baked apples have the same effect.

Not Too Thick

Other foods create so much bulk in your ileum that there is a danger they will not pass through your stoma, leading to a painful and perilous obstruction. Obstructions invariably place the patient in an emergency room on morphine or another powerful painkiller. Foods to avoid include raw fruits, nuts and seeds, celery, popcorn, and some hard vegetables like broccoli. Anything that would still be hard if you left it overnight in a glass of water falls into this category.

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About the Author

Ana Larkham earned a Master's degree at New York University and Doctorate at Stanford University. She has been writing instructional materials since 1995, when she completed an internship at academic publisher Simon and Schuster. Since then she has written for and in other publications on topics including garden design, high school homework problems, personal computer use, and dating.