Diet after Bowel Surgery

Last Modified: April 29, 2010

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Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I'm a survivor of anal cancer and also had to have 6-8" of small bowel removed last year because my radiation treatment really messed it up. [The only thing] dietitians have told me is that plenty of fruits and veggies are good. My problem is [that] I can't digest them or lots of other foodsl, so what am I supposed to eat to stay healthy?


Sherri Cirignano, MS, RD, LDN, Clinical Dietitian Specialist for the Abramson Cancer Center, responds:

The following are recommendations that may be helpful in the situation you have described.

  • Frequent, small meals (5-6 times daily)
  • The diet should consist of mostly complex carbohydrates, which are whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This should comprise 50-60% of the total daily calories.
  • Lean protein from sources such as the white meat of poultry, fish, and lean meats.
  • No more than 20-30% of the diet should be fat from sources such as olive oil & canola oil.
  • Canned fruit and cooked vegetable such as green beans, beets, and carrots can be eaten if fresh fruit and vegetables are not tolerated.
  • Simple carbohydrates/sugars should be avoided. Examples of this are fruit juices and beverages and food items with sugar listed as one of the first 3-4 ingredients
  • Foods should be well-chewed
  • Fiber and vitamin supplementation may be indicated

It may also be beneficial for you to have another face-to-face meeting with a Registered Dietitian if you continue to experience difficulties and/or are losing weight. Perhaps meeting with a dietitian several times over a few months while you get things regulated would be helpful. Keep a log of what you eat and when, what side effects you experience, and when they occur in relation to meals in order to review everything with your dietitian.

Eating, Exercises Improve Diet After Pharyngeal Cancer Tx

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