Short bowel syndrome (SBS) happens when your small bowel (intestine) is not able to digest and absorb enough nutrients from foods and beverages to support your health. SBS can result from surgery that has removed any segment of the small bowel or can also result from poor function of the small bowel. Learn more about short bowel syndrome.

What is a colostomy?

A colostomy is an opening from the large intestine to the skin to release stool. The location of the colon that is used to make your ostomy will influence the consistency of your stool output.  

A colostomy near the small bowel (ascending colostomy or cecostomy) may produce liquid or diarrhea-like stool. A colostomy near the end of the colon (descending colostomy or sigmoid ostomy) may produce soft-solid or formed stool. What you eat and drink will also affect your stool output.  

Getting started on a colostomy diet with short bowel syndrome

Every ostomy is different, and it can take time to learn which foods you tolerate. Some foods may thicken your output and others may cause more gas or bloating. It is helpful to keep track of your ostomy output as you eat different foods.  

Try new foods one at a time. Write down the foods that you do well with and the ones that cause discomfort or problems. Plan to eat foods from many groups at each meal to help balance your diet. Remember to eat throughout the day. 

Eating healthy with a colostomy and short bowel syndrome

The following guidelines will help to regulate your ostomy output.

  • Eat 3 to 4 small meals a day. 
  • Cut your food into small pieces and chew the food well. 
  • Choose foods that are low in fat content and avoid fried or greasy foods.  
  • Soluble fiber absorbs water and turns into a gel-like substance to help form your stool output, so it passes easily. Good sources of soluble fiber are oatmeal, bananas, applesauce and melon. 
  • Drink fluids throughout the day. Most adults with a colostomy will need at least 8 to 10 cups of fluid each day. 
  • If you have difficulty passing stool through your ostomy, increase your intake of fluids and limit difficult to digest foods such as corn, popcorn, nuts and seeds. If your output doesn’t improve with these interventions, contact your health care provider or dietitian. 

Recommended foods

  • Grain

    Breads, crackers, rice, pasta, cereals, pretzels, chips (may need to avoid nuts and seeds in breads and cereals)

  • Protein

    Tender meats, poultry, fish, eggs, hummus, smooth nut butters, tofu, soft-cooked or blended lentils

  • Fruit

    Banana, melon, mango, peeled apple/pears/peach, applesauce, fruit canned in juice, fruit juice (may need to avoid fruit with seeds and fruit peels.)

  • Vegetables

    Soft-cooked carrots, green beans, peas, potatoes, stewed tomatoes, chopped soft-cooked greens, soft-cooked zucchini (may need to avoid skins)

  • Dairy

    Milk (cow, almond, soy, rice, pea), cheese, yogurt (may need to limit lactose-containing foods)

  • Beverages

    Most are tolerated, but may need to limit those with lactose

Other considerations for the diet

Foods that may help thicken stool

Applesauce, bananas, peanut butter, tapioca, rice, noodles, potatoes, pretzels, marshmallows (made with gelatin)

Foods that may cause gas and odor

Alcohol, asparagus, dried beans, broccoli, cauliflower, eggs, fish, brussel sprouts, cabbage, onions, carbonated beverages, chewing gum, drinking through a straw

Foods that can cause blockage

Celery, whole nuts, seeds, corn and popcorn, coconut, mushrooms, pineapple, vegetable skins, dried fruits

Complications of a colostomy diet for short bowel syndrome

If you find you have constipation or difficulty passing hard stool through your ostomy, try:  

  • Increasing your fluid intake. 
  • Increasing your fiber intake by eating bran, fruits (including prunes) and vegetables.  
  • Drinking warm coffee or prune juice. 
  • Exercising! Moving and being active can help the bowels be more active.  

Resources small bowel ostomy diet

Parrish, CR. A Patient’s Guide to Managing a Short Bowel, 4th edition. Go to “Sign Up” and register for a free book.

Now it is time to meet with a GI-expert dietitian. To get more information about this topic, find a dietitian in your area using our Find a Health Care Provider tool.

Written by

Jessica Younkman, RD, CDN, CNSC, and Elizabeth Wall, MS, RDN-AP, CNSC
DIGID Short Bowel Syndrome Workgroup © 2021.