Living with a Colostomy Bag: Diet, Probiotics, Exercise & Reversal

A friend of mine recently underwent a procedure to have a colostomy bag. After the initial surgery and recovery phase, he is on the mend and getting back to a normal life. He has made some modifications, but plans on making the best of best of the situation and has a very positive outlook.

If you or someone you know has to undergo this procedure, you too may have to make some modifications, but overall you’ll be able to get back to a normal diet and a healthy lifestyle. If you didn’t have a healthy diet and lifestyle prior to the surgery, then there’s no time like the present to start.

I hope you will consider making these diet and lifestyle changes; they will assist you in getting back on track and feeling better quicker, which will enable your whole body to heal. Use some or all of these tips to help you manage living with a colostomy bag. Just remember every individual is different, so be sure to consult with your doctor before you begin.

How should I approach my diet?

Before we discuss diet, I want you to keep in mind 3 things.

  1. Consume plenty of fluids daily.
  2. Consume smaller meals that are calorically dense.
  3. Always chew your food thoroughly.

Fluids are very important not only for staying hydrated, but this will ensure your digestive system is functioning optimally. Consume a minimum of eight glasses of liquid a day, eight ounces in each glass between meals.

You might find that you have trouble consuming the portion size you were accustomed to consuming prior to surgery; this is normal. Try consuming several smaller meals throughout the day. Just make sure these meals are calorically dense and full of nutrients if you are prone to weight loss.

Chewing food thoroughly is important for everyone, but even more so for an individual with a colostomy. Be sure to chew your food until it is a liquid consistency. Chewing your food thoroughly will assist your digestive tract and help you better manage your colostomy.

What can I drink?

Water is the best choice, but juices and milk can be good sources of extra calories. You will have to see how you tolerate dairy products. Some individuals have a harder time digesting dairy products. If you had a hard time digesting dairy before then you probably won’t be able to handle it after the colostomy either.

Both cranberry juice and buttermilk can be beneficial and soothing to the gastrointestinal tract.
Limit your consumption of sodas, beer and coffee. Consider avoiding soda altogether as it has no nutrient value and can be extremely taxing on the gastrointestinal tract.

What foods can I eat?

  1. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure the vegetables are gently steamed and not raw.
  2. Consume meats, fish, eggs and cheese. Select lean cuts of meat.
  3. Opt for whole wheat bread rather than white bread.
  4. Select potatoes and whole grain pastas.
  5. Eat oatmeal and cereal. Select a cereal that is higher in fiber and has minimal amount of sugar.

Quick tips:

  • Fiber can help your digestive tract. Oatmeal, cereal, fruits and gently steamed vegetables can be good sources of fiber.
  • Yogurt and buttermilk can eliminate or minimize the production of gas. Try to consume 8 ounces of buttermilk or yogurt daily.
  • Milk and dairy foods can be consumed 2-3 times a day as tolerated; they are rich in calcium. Choose lower fat versions whenever possible.

What should I avoid?

There are some general guidelines to follow, but ultimately you’ll have to be the judge of what you choose to limit or avoid altogether.

  1. Raw vegetables.
  2. Very high fiber.
  3. Beans, peas and lentils.
  4. Corn and popcorn.
  5. Nuts and seeds.
  6. Processed foods including sugary cereals, cookies and pastries.
  7. Fast food, high fat and fried foods.

Quick tips:

  • Some cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower can cause extra gas and bloating.
  • Beans are also known as being gassy.
  • If you do choose to eat these foods consider when you are eating them. Keep in mind, if you are heading out for the evening or attending an event it might not be the optimal time to consume them.

Do I need to take a probiotic?

As much as I encourage you to eat yogurt and other dairy products, no amount of them will make up for a good probiotic. Food such as yogurt may have lactic acid bacteria, and other live cultures, but can’t survive in the stomachs acid. Less than ten percent of what is ingested will reach your intestines.

Probiotics are important for everyone, but even more so after a colostomy procedure.
Your best bet is to select a probiotic that contains a minimum of 100 million to a billion, live bacteria for good gut health. There are many probiotics available on the marked today and they are available in both capsule and powder form.

As for myself, I have tried a variety of probiotics from Pearls to Yougourmet. Recently, I discovered VSL#3 it is a potent probiotic and considered a medical grade food. They carry it in both capsules and powder form. I am currently using the powdered form and swear by the stuff. You can check it out here.

Can I exercise?

Yes, once you consult with your doctor and are given the okay, you will be able exercise again. Exercise is good, but don’t push yourself too soon. Remember you just had a major surgery and your body needs time to heal. Depending on how active you were prior to the surgery will determine where you will start.


Whether you were an avid runner or a power walker; you’ll want to start off slow. Begin by walking and over time, you will work your way back up to your normal activity level.


Yoga can be great for your overall balance and flexibility. If you are new to yoga you might want to take a class, you can also purchase DVD’s which allow you to practice the poses in your own home.

Weight training

Once you get your strength back, you will be able to resume training. Again this will depend on your level of fitness prior to the surgery. Just remember you’ll want to take it slow and make modifications until you are feeling 100%. Speak with your doctor about weight restrictions and any limitations you may have.

After many of my own personal setbacks, I find it’s easier to start with a lighter weight and work my way back up to where I was before. Try to aim for one set of 8-10 reps and no more. As you get stronger increase the sets and the reps and the weight will come.

Quick Tips:

  • Be active, you will get your strength back quicker by exercising.
  • You should empty your colostomy bag prior to exercising; it will be less likely to break.
  • You can secure the bag in place with some medical tape; this will ensure that the colostomy bag remains in place.
  • If you are prone to weight loss, remember that you’ll need to consume extra calories to make up for the difference.

Can I get it reversed?

Ultimately this is a decision you will have to make. Be prepared that your recovery time will be similar to the first operation. As with any surgery the stronger you are prior to the surgery the quicker you’ll recover, so if you decide to get the reversal procedure, make sure you have been taking extra good care of yourself. Consuming healthy calories and leading an active lifestyle will promote faster healing.

Living with a colostomy bag may provide some challenges at first, but with a positive outlook, healthy dietary choices and an active lifestyle you will be well on your way to enjoying life again.

No matter what you decide about the reversal procedure, use some or all of these tips to help get you back on track and feeling good again.

Was this article helpful or do you have an experience you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment in the section below.


While my friend Verne is awaiting his reversal procedure, I had a chance to talk to him about what he has been going through, and he wanted to share some tips with you.

Verne’s Tips:
  • If you’re experiencing major discomfort after applying the adhesive wafer, check the size of the hole in the wafer. For example: If your stoma diameter is 1 ½ inch, try cutting the hole in the wafer approximately ¼ inch larger than the stoma.
  • The adhesive wafer tends to tug at the outer edge of the sensitive area, where the stoma meets the skin during movement. This can actually cause the stoma to bleed as it tugs where the stoma meets the skin.
  • The tugging can cause a stinging pain, and a burning sensation. The discomfort is partly due to the high enzymes that are present in the fecal matter.

Were Verne’s tips helpful? Please leave a comment in the section below.


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