Veganuary – Can you be a vegan with a stoma?


After the indulges of Christmas, many of us look to a healthier lifestyle to kickstart the new year. Veganuary, which was started in 2014 by Jane Land and her husband Matthew Glover and aims to educate and promote veganism by encouraging people to eat vegan for the month of January. Eating a mostly plant-based diet is considered to have many health benefits but for someone with a bowel disorder or stoma it may sound like a daunting or impossible task due to the fibrous content of the food. Thanks to the help of Vegan Ostomy, we’re here to debunk the myth that you can’t go vegan with an ostomy.

The Myth

When we are faced with having stoma surgery, we are often armed with information that tell us what foods we need to stay away from with a stoma, which often includes high fibre foods, foods with tough outer skins/ shells for fear of a blockage.These are the same food groups that we tend to associate with veggies, nuts and seeds that make up part of a vegan diet so the idea of enjoying an entirely vegan diet for someone with an ostomy seemingly goes out of the window. With some careful introductions, there is no reason why an ostomate can’t enjoy a nutritious and balanced vegan diet.

Facing The Fear

One of the reasons that people with a stoma don’t consider a vegan diet is the fear of certain foods causing pain or a blockage within the intestines. Food in general can cause a great deal of anxiety for stoma patients as it has commonly contributed towards pain whilst we’ve been unwell. Whilst it’s important to remain cautious if you are just post surgery or are suffering with active bowel disease such as diverticulitis, Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, if you are otherwise fit and well, there is no reason why you can’t eat the diet of your choice. The key to overcoming this fear is to try small portions of different food groups, chew well and then chew some more to make sure it is well digested!

Many people who have experienced bowel disease have trigger foods, which are foods that they associate with pain, sickness or feel negatively towards these. Quite often these are food types that we associate with being difficult to digest such as sweetcorn/ popcorn, peppers, potato skins, nuts and seeds etc. It is a good idea to figure out what your trigger foods are to begin so you can learn to avoid them and also what foods you consider safe to eat when you are feeling unwell. These are generally foods that are easy on the digestive tract such as mashed potatoes, bananas, soups, fortified milkshakes

Where Do I Start?

Do your research! Find out which foods contain animal products, most food labels list all the ingredients used for allergy information but if you’re unsure if you contact the manufacturers directly they will normally be happy to help you. The same with restaurants, cafes and sandwich shops, allergy and dietary advice should be openly available.

List the ingredients that you like to eat and that you know are safe with your ostomy and then write a weekly plan of recipes using those ingredients. You could look to include one or two new food groups a week on different days to see how you react to them.

Do your research. Find out about what foods contain animal products, where you can buy locally sourced foods, so many recipes available online now!

Experiment with your ingredients to inject some fun into your dishes. If you like dairy products then test out the large variety of non-dairy milks on offer, same with egg substitutes such as scrambled tofu, vegan cheeses and mayonnaises.

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t eat 100% vegan straightaway, start with your good intentions and then build as you learn more about what you can eat.

How Do I Avoid Stoma Blockages?

Start with foods that are easy to digest such as pasta, rice, potatoes, squash, carrots and then slowly include other veggie food groups. Eat small, but more regular meals and remember to chew and then chew some more!

It may well be that there are just some food types that may not agree with you and that will be different for everyone that experiences this kind of issue. Keeping a food diary will help you keep track of any issues.

How Do I Make Sure I’m Getting The Right Nutrients?

Many people worry that when switching to a plant based diet they will be missing out on the proteins and nutrients that you gain from eating meat, fish and dairy. By making sure that you eat the right type of food, you can make sure that you are getting everything you need.

Good foods to include in your diet are wholegrains that are found in foods such as wholewheat pasta and bread and brown rice, legumes, lots of dark leafy greens and a good variety of fruit and vegetables.

You may also like to think about adding in a B vitamin supplement into your diet as it can be difficult to maintain in a vegan diet but it’s important that you consult your GP before taking any additional vitamins or supplements.

If you have any other bowel disease such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis) then it is worth contacting a dietician to discuss the best plan for you in terms of switching to a vegan diet. It may well be that you will need to introduce certain food groups into your diet slowly to avoid flare ups or blockages.

How Do I Eat Vegan Straight After Bowel Surgery?

Firstly. It’s important that you speak with your surgical team about your diet and what you should eat. Your hospital will normally provide you with a guide on what you can eat following bowel surgery

Food post surgery should be easy to digest, contain enough calories to allow you to heal and increase your weight if you lost weight and provide you with enough hydration. Protein shakes and meal replacement shakes can be a great way to increase your calorie intake but kind on your digestive system after surgery. You may need to check the ingredients to make sure they are vegan friendly.

Vegan Ostomy has a great article which outlines foods that may be easier to eat post surgery.

Where Can I Find Great Vegan Recipes?

There are so many places to find great vegan recipes. With more and more people looking to change to a plant-based diet, the amount of food and recipes has increased. Here are some of our favourites…

The veganuary website has an array of delicious recipes with all styles of cuisine

Jamie Oliver has some great looking vegan recipes

Fearne Cotton has some lovely easy-to-follow home cook vegan recipes in her book Happy Vegan



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