A colostomy bag diverts stool from your colon. Learn how different foods, including chocolate and sweets, can affect your bowel movements with an ostomy.

A colostomy is a surgical hole, or “stoma,” created from your colon to the wall of your abdomen. A bag is attached to the outside of your abdomen to collect stool as it forms in the colon.

Colostomies may be needed for a few reasons, usually in some way related to a difficulty with your digestive or elimination systems. What you eat can affect the texture, consistency, and other qualities of your bowel movements with a colostomy, just as they do when you poop naturally.

This article will review how different foods, such as chocolate and other sweets, may change your bowel movements and what kind of eating changes you may need if you have a colostomy.

Chocolate doesn’t affect a colostomy bag itself.

The bags are made of plastic and attached to your skin with an adhesive ring. The bag, and the stoma your stools pass through, are designed to hold up against poop.

But what you eat can make a difference in what you see in the bag and how easily it passes through your body.

A stoma is a surgically created hole that acts in place of your natural rectum. If you have a medical condition or surgery that prevents stool from passing through its natural route, an ostomy might be placed at some point in the intestinal tract out of which stools can pass.

Nutrients, liquids, and different types of foods are absorbed differently in each part of your intestine. A colostomy is placed in an area of the large intestine that receives liquified food from the small intestine.

By the time food has reached your colon, most of the nutrients from what you ate have been removed. The job of the colon is to remove some of the water from this liquid food, forming the leftover waste products into stools.

When you have a colostomy, you may not absorb as much water before stool is passed through the ostomy. The lack of water absorption usually results in more liquid stool than you may be used to, but this isn’t a bad thing when you consider how poop collects in and is emptied from the ostomy bag.

Chocolate may affect your bowels in different ways depending on your individual digestive system and what other medical issues you may have. The most common effect of chocolate on the digestive tract is a laxative effect. Cocoa products have been linked to digestive traits such as:

  • increased frequency of bowel movements
  • thinner stool consistency
  • quicker transit of stool through the intestine

There has also been research that suggests cocoa and chocolate products may play a role in triggering irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Studies have also linked eating chocolate to constipation, but constipation can be the result of other ingredients the cocoa is mixed with such as milk and sugar.

The bottom line

You won’t have to avoid chocolate completely with an ostomy, but certain foods are definitely recommended over others to maintain good stool consistency and prevent complications.

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Sugar in general can affect healthy stools. Different sweeteners have different effects, but many sugars and sugar substitutes — especially sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol — may lead to stimulation of the digestive tract and diarrhea.

Because stools that are diverted through a colostomy already have more liquid than normally excreted stools, a healthcare team may recommend consuming high-fiber foods and avoiding — or at least limiting — sugar-sweetened foods and drinks.

Low-residue desserts and treats are usually the best bet if you’re looking for a sweet snack. These desserts are typically plain foods that are gentle on your digestion. Examples include:

  • plain cake
  • popsicles
  • pudding

Just remember to try and consume small portions, especially to start, and to introduce new foods slowly after a new ostomy.

Peanut butter is acceptable to eat if you have a colostomy, but there are certain quirks to this food.

Nuts can cause blockages in a colostomy, so you may want to avoid chunky peanut butter. Peanut butter also has a thickening effect on stool, so you may want to consider when and how much to eat carefully.

When you have a new ostomy, a healthcare team will outline specific foods and amounts that you should stick to right after surgery.

You may need to begin with simple, more bland foods that are easier to digest. You may also want to go through some trial and error at home with different foods before trying them in public.

If you develop excessive gas, leaking, constipation, odor, or watery stools after eating certain foods, you may want to avoid these when you’re out in public.

If you think you’ve developed a difficulty or blockage with your ostomy, get in touch with an ostomy nurse or healthcare team right away. Drinking plenty of liquids and chewing your food well can also help you maintain a healthy stool consistency with a colostomy.

A colostomy is a surgical opening that’s created for poop to pass through when there’s an issue with your natural elimination. Like natural bowel movements, consistency is key when it comes to healthy stools, so watching what you eat is an important part of the recovery period after a new ostomy.

You won’t have to change your diet completely, but you may need to make adjustments based on the texture and volume of the stool that collects in your ostomy bag. A healthcare team can make specific recommendations based on your nutritional needs and metabolism.