What I Eat In a Week – Post-Ileostomy Reversal | 7-Day Food Diary

As a colorectal cancer survivor that had an ileostomy which was reversed, I get a lot of questions all the time about what I eat and what I take to help control my bowels and to keep the toilet from ruling my life. It’s really hard for me to describe to people what exactly I do so I thought that doing a food diary vlog and taking you guys with me for a week to show you exactly what I eat and what I take would be the best way to give you a sense of the bigger picture of things, so here we are!

If you’re new here welcome to Life as a Cancer Survivor. This channel will give you all the ups AND the downs of what life is like after you hear those words, “You have cancer.” My name is Jelena and in May of 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Rectal Cancer. If you are new, please make sure you hit the subscribe button down in the corner or right underneath the video. I also have the link in the description so that you’ll be notified when all of my new videos are uploaded.

ileostomy stomaFirst, if you’re unsure what an ileostomy is let me give you a brief explanation. So it’s basically when part of your small intestine it’s run out of your abdominal wall and you wear a bag over it to collect your waste. So basically you’re pooping out of your stomach instead of your butt. Not using your full digestive system for months and having part of that digestive system cut out and sewn back together it just wreaks havoc on the system so that ileostomy reversal surgery is when they just tuck that small intestine back in. That’s when a lot of people start having issues with digestion and with their bowel movements. I’ll provide a more in-depth explanation and show you pictures of more of what exactly they are in a future video so stay tuned for that in a couple of weeks.

Doctors don’t even fully understand how to solve these digestive issues, so as patients we do a lot of trial and error trying to figure out how to solve and make our bowels a little bit more controllable. I also want to say that I only got two diet tips from my surgeon after my ileostomy reversal surgery. One was to just go back to eating like normal immediately after I got home from the hospital including a very high fiber diet. Then two and a half weeks later at my follow-up appointment with my surgeon, he said that I could start taking Metamucil and Imodium to help control my bowels but didn’t give me any kind of tips as to how to take them. And that was it. Did you get better advice from your surgeon? If so, let me know in the comments below any good tips that you got to help out fellow survivors.

This fall I went in to see a gastroenterologist that specializes in both woman’s digestive issues and colorectal cancer survivors. I went to the GI doc based on a recommendation from the therapist that I was seeing, which I was seeing her because of anxiety issues that I was having because of my cancer diagnosis. Now I want to emphasize that all of our digestive systems are different so what works for me may not work for someone else but this could be a starting point of some new ideas for you to discuss with your doctor to try.

I’ve been experimenting with different solutions to regulate my digestive system for the last two-and-a-half years and it seems like whenever I would find a solution it would work for a couple of weeks maybe a month or two, but then my digestive system it would get used to it and be like, “Nah, I don’t want that to work anymore,” and then just throw fits and I would have to find a new solution. I’ve been doing this current routine since the end of August and it’s now January so this might be a long-term solution for me. It’s been working well for the most part. The holidays didn’t even throw things off very much. And then the only thing that I don’t really show in the video is that I always have water with me so I’m drinking a ton of water all day. But otherwise, I’ve tried to show everything in there I may have forgotten a couple of times like my nighttime pills I may have, I didn’t videotape those every evening but those are taken daily.

At the end of each day I’ll have a calendar pop up that’ll show you a summary of what I ate for the day and I’ll just keep adding to that as the days go on throughout the video so keep an eye out for that. So here we go, here’s what I ate for the week.

Yesterday (Monday) I had that CT scan and did the barium smoothiewhich cleansed me out so I have not pooped yet today but seeing as how much I went yesterday morning after those smoothies, not a huge surprise. So I have been gassy and it’s been pretty smelly but nothing solid yet but for dinner, I want to show you what I’m having for dinner and you might think that I am crazy because for dinner, chili. Yes, that’s black beans, kidney beans, and corn and then this is some focaccia bread that’s got parmesan and tomato on it. So this chili it should be okay for one day I can’t eat this two days in a row otherwise I will have another one of those colon cleansing episodes but I’ll keep you posted and let you know how tomorrow goes and if corn and beans are just coming straight out of me.

Hi guys! It is bedtime. I usually shower at night and I don’t know what is going on with my little swoopy hair here I just let my hair air dry but anyway I wanted to go over my bedtime pill routine because that could have an effect on my bowel habits as well. These first two I don’t think because I’ve been all over the place and I’ve been on these basically well I guess a little after my reversal. So those are the two pills that I’m on for at least the next 10 years are because I went into menopause from treatment so artificially going into menopause in your 30s puts you at higher risk for heart attacks, osteoporosis and I mean just going through menopause you get a ton of hot flashes which I totally was getting. So I’m on 100 milligrams of progesterone and one milligram of Estradiol.

So both of those they’re hormone replacements basically. Then starting in June of this year I started taking Escitalopram, 20 milligrams. I started having anxiety attacks and so because I was having issues with that they put me on meds so that I was not having daily panic attacks. And because I was having trouble sleeping once those attacks started I’m also on 50 milligrams of trazodone nightly but I have cut them in half I don’t know if you can tell that so I’m only taking half of a pill each night now. I’m trying to get myself off of that because I’m just like constantly feeling tired and it’s really hard for me to stay awake when I drive more than 20 minutes. Which is bad when I have to shuttle my daughter all over town for practices so I’m hoping within the next maybe week or two I don’t know or by the new year I’ll be able to get off of the sleeping meds and then also after the new year I’ll talk with my doctor about starting to wean me off the Escitalopram for my anxiety. Since it’s been under control since I have adjusted to that med. So I just wanted to talk to you about those real quick because those side effects are you know different things with your bowels so those could also have an effect on how often and the consistency as all that of my bowel movements. So I’ll see you tomorrow morning for breakfast.

So I forgot that I also take vitamin D every day. I had a vitamin D deficiency before I even started cancer treatment so this is one thing that I did already take before all this went down so I take 5,000 IU’s every day and that gets me to the level that I need to be at. So two of these little ones I have are teeny tiny.

Now that you’ve had a glimpse into what I eat over the course of a week I want to briefly elaborate on a few of the things that you saw in the video.

The first one I want to talk about is the psyllium husk. I would always take it first thing in the morning no matter what time I woke up, but I finally realized that if I take it any earlier than 6:00 a.m. it ends up giving me diarrhea but if I take it after 6:00 a.m. it bulks up my stools which is what I want it to do. So on the days that I have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to take my daughter to the skating rink for practice, I just focus on getting myself hydrated and drink a bunch of water first thing, and then when we get home I take the psyllium husk and it’s usually around 8:00 – 8:30 when I’m taking it. After taking the psyllium husk, I limit my liquid intake for that first hour to make sure the husk gets into my digestive system and bulks up what’s in there and doesn’t work as a laxative. After an hour I’ll drink my coffee and then after 2 hours, that’s when it’s ok to start taking medications so that’s when I will take my 1 Imodium tablet.

The high potency probiotic was recommended to me by my GI doc. She was also the one that recommended I increase my daily Imodium intake from one tablet to two tablets, one in the morning and one in the evening every day. That change has both helped to regulate me and has decreased the amount of gas that I have and even the potency of my gas. I haven’t been back in to see how long that I’ll need to take those high potency probiotics, but after I finished the first bottle and I tried just stopping them my gas did increase and my stools loosened up some. So at least for the near future, I’ll continue to take those.

I also want to briefly mention that the kombucha, I only do it every so often I’m not drinking it every day. I get stomach cramping occasionally usually maybe like once or twice every month or two so it’s not often but when I do drinking the kombucha on the day that the cramping starts and then continuing for a few days helps to relieve it and kind of regulate things again.

It’s been two and a half years since I had my ileostomy reversed and I’ve gone from going to the bathroom 20-plus times a day right after surgery, to anywhere from 1 to 3 times a day now. So I’m pretty happy with where I am at the moment. I still have some bad days occasionally but I’m feeling like I really have things under control a little bit more and this is kind of the best spot that I’ve been in right now in the past two and a half years.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions you can comment below or my “About” page you can find my email address and you can reach out to me if you have any other questions that you’d rather not discuss in public since bowel questions can be a little bit of a touchy subject, a little taboo to some people, not to me obviously since I’m talking to you guys about it but others may not want to publicize their issues that they’re having.

Next week I’ll be talking about all the preparation that went into getting ready for my lower anterior resection surgery also known as LAR surgery. Please click on the like button if you enjoyed this video and make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss any of my future videos. I want to thank you guys for watching and I’ll see you next week.

Bonus for my website visitors!

Interested in the recipes for some of the things that I ate in my video?  You’re in luck!  Here are links to a few of the recipes:

Healthy Banana Bread – I use maple syrup, coconut oil, and whole wheat flour from the options that the recipe gives.   

Massaman Curry with Baked Tofu – I LOVE lime juice, but I leave it out in this recipe and to me, it tastes WAY better.

Kitchiri – This one comes from a cookbook I have, The Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook by Roz Denny.  (If you click on the link for the cookbook, know that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Don’t worry, it’s at NO COST to you.)  Here’s the recipe:

Serves 4

  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup Indian masoor dhal or green lentils
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 tbsp vegetarian ghee or butter
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 1/4 cups basmati rice
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves (or 2 tsp ground)
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 cups stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste 
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp fresh coriander or parsley, chopped
  1. Boil water then put lentils in for 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Fry the onion and garlic in the ghee or butter and oil in a large saucepan for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the rice, stir well to coat the grains in the ghee or butter and oil, then stir in the spices.  Cook gently for a minute or so.
  4. Add the lentils, stock, tomato paste, and seasoning.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 20 minutes until the stock is absorbed and the lentils and rice are just soft.  Stir in the coriander or parsley and check the seasoning.  Remove cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and cardamom pods.

*This video was originally published on January 8, 2020

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