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diet ? after rectal surgery

forme's picture
Posts: 1162
Joined: Aug 2010

Hi All,

I posted earlier about my family member having rectal surgery in about a week in Florida.
I have a question that seems a little silly, but hopefully you all might have an answer.

I was wondering about diet after the recovery from the surgery. I know that right after in the hospital the diet is very limited. But what about after, when you are home. Are there foods that work better, or some that you should really avoid?

Also, if there is an ileostomy, does this effect the foods you can eat and enjoy?

This is new territory for me and I would like to be able to help my family member out with some real deal advice.

For me, these boards have been the best way to hear the truth about what you can expect or what real folks go through.

Thanks so much for any advice or suggestions I can pass along.

Peaceful healing

pete43lost_at_sea's picture
Posts: 3908
Joined: Nov 2010

dear Lisha,

its just on a year ago since my rectal tumour was removed, i would be careful giving out advice. your family member really needs to rely on the advice of surgeon and colorectal nurses. everyones surgery is different, everyones bowels are different and our recoveries are unique. taking it slowly and carefully would be my only advice. blockages are no fun.

I believe that trying to achieve peak nutrition all the way through the cancer treatment.
I had chemo starting 4 weeks after surgery date, given i did not eat anything for 14 days i had two weeks before my first chemo. this is pretty standard for those of us getting chemo after surgery.

my surgical wounds healed ok, but now i have hernia's that are the result of chemo getting in the way of how the body heals. so a diet the promotes healing would be worth researching. also a diet that gentle and supportive of your digestive system.

I had an ileostomy, if you get this or not changes the diet game plan.
from memory I was warned about no corn, celery, no stringy foods, anything that may cause a blockage. my first meal was steam fish, barramundi i think. I had a simple bland diet for about the first month out of hospital. Pureed soups. mashed potatoe, pumpkin, squash etc etc.

I hope your family member recovers well. The surgey is a big deal, with lots of pitfalls.

I would be focused on breathing to keep the lungs clear, walking up and down the corridoor. I remember pushing the trolley with the drips countless times. For what its worth helping with the walking might be a good place to start.


maglets's picture
Posts: 2585
Joined: Jun 2006

yours is a very good question ....not silly and hard to answer. I had colon and 2 liver resections and i was never able to get advice about diet...there just didn't seem to be any help with such a simple and important fact of recovery.

I am going to tell you a few I learned even though the cases are different. Pain meds after surgery tend to constipate....just getting bowels working after surgery is sometimes hard....after colon i used stool softeners and glycerine suppositories

after liver....again i used a very mild laxative to encourage the bowels. My family tried to get protein into me to begin all the healing of tissues....we used eggs softly scrambled..milk shakes, soft mild pasta sauces with cheese. Stay hydrated...little drinks beside the bed at all times....tiny meals....6 or 8 a day....sometimes after surgery the appetite is gone...

good luck....sorry not to be of more help


abrub's picture
Posts: 1862
Joined: Mar 2010

I was sent home on a Low-Fiber, Low Residue diet for 8 weeks post-op (and I was in the hospital for 4 weeks with ileus.) After that, I was able to ease other foods into my diet.

I didn't have rectal surgery, but I was re-sected in 3 places. No ostomy - my surgeon put me back together ultimately as good as new.


maglets's picture
Posts: 2585
Joined: Jun 2006

Alice the dietician is a good tip...our little hospital could not deliver that service. I paid for a consult with a dietician...she was sweet and young and looked at me when i described liver resection as if I had just been beamed in from outer space.....haha sweet but no help


son of hal
Posts: 117
Joined: Mar 2011

Hello Lisha, I am just about four weeks out (Sept 19)of surgery for rectal cancer and I am doing great. I was fortunate to have a great response to my initial chemo/rad treatment that allowed me to get the best surgery possible and avoid a permanent colostomy. I had laprascopic sugery to remove the tumor and rectum with a temp illeostomy. I only spent 48 hours in the hospital after surgery and returned back to work last Thursday (just over three weeks). Mine was a "best case scenario" and I attribute it to my focus on nutrition before the surgery. I have mostly returned to my normal (healthy) diet plus some "not-so-healthy things trying to put some weight back on. The point is that sometimes, things go good so try to relax a bit. First I would suggest asking if their doctor has a problem with boosting their Vitamin C intake.( look up vitamin C and surgery) I always took supplements but boosted my C the week before surgery and actually in the hospital during recovery. I took 2 grams (ascorbic acid powder in water) per day leading up to surgery and brought it to the hospital with me. I asked my surgeon ahead of time and his response was "It's not necessary, there's no proof it benefits recovery" but he didn't prohibit me from doing it. So I did and he was astounded at how quickly I recovered. I almost returned to work after two weeks but was advised not to.
So anyway, the diet afterward should be recomended by the hospital's dietician. Make sure someone requests that the dietician comes to see the patient by the second day in the hospital. They will have recomended selections from the menu. When they get home they should follow the recomended diet for the first two weeks then re-introduce other foods gradually watching their effect on output. The only things I have not continued full steam is raw fresh fruits and vegetables. Many raw veggies are hard to digest but they could steam them to soften them and chew very thouroughly. Skins on fruit are also tough so advise to peel or stay away from some. They can also juice any veggies and fruits but it will creat a more liquidy output. Docs suggested I can take a multi-vitamin but I prefer individuals better. Increase water intake to around ten cups per day. They say no nuts or high fiber foods initially but I have re-introduced some without issue so far. My favorites are peanut butter and bananna on wheat bread, natural applesauce and yogurt are always good, eggs, even cheese has been fine with me. I did lose about 10 pounds so I'm eating more now than I used to and my "output" is really good. I don't eat red meat but I've had plenty of turkey, chicken and tuna without issue.
It is a tough situation but very doable. My only issue has been the "internal pressure" near my tail bone and the sensation that I have to make a bowel movement. Both normal according to my doc. I occassionaly take Tylenol and it makes it better.
Sorry if the following is graffic but this is something doctors don't fully explain.
One thing I was not prepared for was some degree of drainage from the anus. The portion of intestines that are connected to the anus (during surgery) continue to produce a mucos that is intended to allow stool to pass through smoothly. Although there is no stool, the mucos still accumulates and must go somewhere. So it goes out the anus. For the first few weeks this could contain some blood as well but small amounts should not be a concern. The amount of drainage can be reduced by sitting on the toilet (whenever they urinate) and relaxing the muscles in that area (don't push) and just let gravity work. No one explained any of this to me before hand and I was a little freaked out at first. Going on 4 weeks out and it has gotten easier to manage. The illeostomy part of this is a breeze.
Well, good luck to them and to you. Bless you for being there to help your family member, I know I couldn't have done it without the love and support of my family.
Take care, CJ

Brenda Bricco
Posts: 579
Joined: Aug 2011

I can share with you the diet that my husband was given after surgery but of course your loved one needs to rely on his/her doc's instructions.
The day of surgery he was aloud to have clear liquids soon after in his room. The next day he was aloud to have anything that he could cut with a fork (no raw fruits or vegetables -none). Last night (Day 3 after surgery) as I was dozing off he was eating whoopers. The thing that worked for my husband was to take things very slow as far as portions, he would eat a small amount then rest and see how it went. We are going home today and as the cook I am going to lean towrd softer foods like pasta and mashed potatoes for a few days but the ostomy nurse said it is very important to get meat back in his diet right away i.e. hamburger, chicken and fish (things that shred easily)
We are going home today and I am so happy and nervous. He had his surgery Thurday at 7:30 am and going home today which is Sunday.
I wish the best for your friend. God's blessings.

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