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Eating out with an ostomy

Generally speaking, once you have the initial recovery out of the way, you begin to get an idea of what foods you can tolerate.

Tip: A food diary is a really good idea when you begin to introduce new foods – simply write down what food you have tried, and then log the outcome of it; frequency, urgency, consistency, pain, gas…

Eating out can be a source of anxiety for many ostomates. We simply think too much sometimes, ultimately causing us to worry.

Here are some of the things ostomates worry about in relation to eating out:

  • Not being able to eat menu items
  • Making a smell in the toilet
  • Passing gas/noise
  • Portion size

Preparing to eat out

Worry not, I’ve got you on this! There’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to go out to eat and socialise. With a little bit of consideration, you can prepare for every eventuality!

I personally think that the most important thing to consider is who you go out to eat with. Good friends will be considerate of your needs, and will try to make you feel comfortable.

I hate when things go off my usual schedule. I generally eat at the same time every day, and if I eat later, meaning I wait longer between meals, air builds up, and then it has to come out!

There are very few silent restaurants (that I know of), so most of the time, you will be the only one who is close enough to even be aware of the symphony your stoma is playing. That said, if it makes you uncomfortable then you’ll obviously want to try to avoid it. I try to keep to my normal eating time, but it’s not always possible because the world doesn’t revolve around me, apparently. So, if a meal is planned for later than usual, I have a little snack a couple of hours before. If you don’t think that will be enough, then book a restaurant that is on the noisy side, but not so noisy that you can’t have a conversation!

If there are several foods that you cannot tolerate, and this worries you, most restaurants have a menu available online so you can always pop along and check that out before you book. If you’re not sure how an ingredient affects you, you can always try it at home first.

Choose an outfit that you are comfortable in, which has room for expansion of both your belly and your stoma bag! Grab your emergency ostomy bag supplies on your way out, and if you worry about leaving a smell behind you in the restroom, then pop an air freshener in there. Don’t forget any medications you take before or with food!

When you get there

When first you arrive, locate the toilets. If you feel more comfortable sitting near them, do tell the person sitting with you.

We live in an age where restaurants are used to catering to specific dietary requirements, as food intolerances are on the rise and so are many weird and wonderful diets! You should never be afraid to ask what is in a dish or to request they remove a certain ingredient. I never wanted to be the “fussy eater” of a group. I even felt embarrassed about it for a while, but I have come to terms with this over time. I would rather be fussy than hospitalised for a blockage or end up lying awake at night in agony, purely because I didn’t want to ask the restaurant to accommodate my needs.

There is usually a menu section for “light options” if big meals don’t suit you. I often just order a starter to come out with everyone else’s main meals.

If your output is loose anyway, then it’s recommended that you don’t eat and drink at the same time. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t order a drink with your meal, just that you shouldn’t guzzle a pint of fluid between mouthfuls of food. Starchy foods may help bulk up output, so a side order of something like chips, rice, or bread may help.

Lastly, don’t forget your sense of humour, and to enjoy yourself! It’s human nature to worry, but worrying doesn’t equal prevention, so, being prepared is the best you can do!

About the advice and opinions of our bloggers

We hope you enjoyed this article from our guest blogger. They are expressing their views or knowledge on a topic because of their experience & background. Some of the opinions expressed may not reflect the views of Fittleworth or your NHS professional.

It goes without saying, but this is not clinical advice. Each person will have an individual set of medical factors to consider. So please do not to make significant changes to your diet, exercise or treatments before consulting with a NHS professional.

Sahara was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 19, Picture of author - Saharaafter just two weeks of being incredibly unwell. One week later, she had emergency surgery to remove her colon and rectum, and had her first ileostomy. A turbulent journey followed; a multitude of treatments, complications, seven surgeries, a failed J-Pouch, and three ileostomies later, she is living with a permanent stoma and is a pro-active IBD and ostomy advocate. 

Sahara joined the online IBD and ostomy community in 2014, and it very quickly became apparent to her that whilst awareness is important, even more important than that is providing support to others as they navigate the stormy waters of life with IBD, or an ostomy.

She runs #IBDSuperHeroes fundraising and awareness campaign, and the Facebook support group. She is a blogger for InflammatortyBowelDisease.net and an IBD Patient Consultant for merakoi – bridging the gap between patients and healthcare. She gets involved with research whenever she can, and is a volunteer for Cure Crohn’s Colitis, where she donates her time and expertise in social media marketing and content creation.