It is National Vegetarian Week! In January this year, I decided to go veggie, something I didn’t think I would be able to do with a stoma. And so I thought this was the perfect time to write about being a vegetarian with a stoma.
Firstly, let me just say that I am no dietician or medical professional and if you are making a big change to your diet and you have underlying health problems, you should speak to someone far smarter than me. I have had a stoma since 2013 and over the past 7 years, I have figured out what works for me and what doesn’t. You know your body really well, and in my opinion diet with a stoma is totally personal and differs drastically from person to person.
When I first got my stoma, I heard these horror stories of blockages and never again being able to eat certain things. A nurse told me I would never eat curry again and coming from an Indian background, I nearly lost my head. I got a very basic pamphlet telling me to try and eat a healthy diet and that was it.
After struggling with my weight going up and down, having no energy and feeling totally adrift over what I should or shouldn’t eat now I had no large intestine, I got a referral to a dietician. It took a year to get an appointment and it was a total waste of time. At the time, I had a J pouch and she asked if she could see it… For those who don’t know, a J-Pouch is a pouch formed from your small intestine and is inside your body attaching your intestine to your rectum. She had no idea about how to advise me and just gave me the same pamphlet I had been given years before. It was a total waste of time. If you are seeing a dietician, it really needs to be one who has a good idea of diseases such as Crohns and Colitis and the body after having parts removed.
Anyway, I digress. Last year, we decided to really cut down on the amount of meat we were eating. Then I watched a documentary called Cowspiracy. It is about the environmental impact of eating meat. It made me realise all the things we were doing like recycling, not buying single use plastic etc was overshadowed by eating meat due to mass meat farming. Now this isn’t a post to preach to you about the rights or wrongs of eating meat, that is up to you. But I just wanted to explain our reasons for going vegetarian this year.
My concern was that as I don’t have a large intestine, I don’t digest food the same way as other people do. Especially non soluble fibre, so those foods that are great for someone with a full digestive system like roughage and veg. So sometimes the food I eat comes out in my bag looking very similar to how it went in. (Peas and onions, I am looking at you!)
But I know my body well now and know what I can manage and what I can’t and I have learnt to chew well. VERY WELL. And now there are very few things that I can’t eat. Some things still cause me issues, particularly black beans.
What do I eat?
So how have I found it? Well after 38 years of being a meat eater, I did miss meat at first. And I have to admit that we have had one or two meat meals since January. But once I got used to it, we actually find it easy. Meat replacement foods are much more prevalent now, so we get quorn mince, sausages and chicken nuggets and fake burgers. But generally we just eat the same meals but without the meat. Supermarkets are so much better now, we literally see the plant based food fridges expanding every month. It turns out I can be a vegetarian with a stoma!
Some of the meals we eat are;
I also love a smoothie (though they can be high in sugar so I don’t have them all the time), spinach, mango, and apple juice is a particular favourite.
Can you be vegetarian with a stoma?
I have met hundreds and hundreds of people with stomas in the past few years and every one has different food issues. Some can eat mushrooms but would be in agony and blocking up with brocolli. Some can happily eat raw carrot but not popcorn. We are all so different. And we also change. For years, I haven’t been able to eat mushrooms, they would just cause pain and blockages and come out looking whole no matter how much I chewed. But now, I eat mushrooms at least once a week.
I have read people saying that people with stomas can’t be vegetarian, and that might be true for some people. But if you want to give it a go, then it is worth a try. Think about the veg you eat now alongside your meat diet. Meat eaters still eat veg too! If your system ca manage a good amount of fruit and veg, then great!
It is also about how things are prepared. I love salad. But if I have too much then I know I struggle. The lettuce is hard on my system, but if I shred lettuce and limit it to once or twice a week then it is ok. Other veg like cabbage and brocolli can be hard to digest but if I cook them for longer so they are soft, then it is ok for me.
Digestion with a stoma
And chew. Chew, chew and chew again! Digestion starts in the mouth, so don’t be rushing meals and shoving it down. Chewing well grinds up the food into smaller pieces and increases saliva which helps the process.
When you have a stoma, it can feel like your food world shrinks and it does take some time to settle into your new digestive system. But with time and learning about your own body, you can find a diet that suits you. I know there are some people who will never manage a full veggie diet, who have a very limited diet. And this isn’t a post to talk you into changing your diet.
But if you are considering going veggie or even just having more meat free days and you think having a stoma will stop you, I just wanted to share that it can be possible to be a vegetarian with a stoma.
For inspiration, I love Pinterest and you can see my Veggie food Pinterest board here.
Let me know about your diet and what foods you can and can’t eat and if you are a vegetarian with a stoma.
Peace and love