A colon resectioning, more commonly referred to as a colectomy, is the most common surgical procedure used in the treatment of colon cancer. During the procedure, the surgeon removes the diseased section of the colon before joining the remaining parts together. The surgeon may perform a partial colectomy or a right colectomy, depending on the conditions in the patient. Regardless of which type they opt for, it is crucial that the patient follow all dietary instructions before and after the surgery.

In the days leading up to the surgery, the colon will need to cleanse and empty, so the surgeon will give very specific instructions on when to stop eating solids. Post-surgery care, though, is equally as crucial, as this will minimize the risk of complications and ensure that the wound can heal. Patients will need to very slowly transition back to a regular diet.

Immediately after a colectomy, doctors will first recommend that the patient follow a diet of clear liquids, such as broth, tea, gelatin, popsicles, and pulp-free juice. Normally within a few days, full liquids are permitted. These include creamed soup, nutritious shakes, oatmeal and cream cereals, grits, pudding, and ice cream. It’s important to remember that dairy products may increase feelings of nausea and should be avoided if they are not tolerated well. As the sutures continue to heal, low fiber grains, such as breads, cereals, and pastas can be introduced. Dried fruit, nuts, fried foods, and tough meats should be avoided for quite some time.

All foods should be re-introduced to the system slowly, one at a time, and in small portions. Smaller meals that are higher in nutrients will be the best. Recovering patients should use a ‘quality over quantity’ mentality. Digestion and response will take a few hours, so it’s important to wait at least that long before determining whether it’s safe to continue eating that particular food. Remaining hydrated is also critical. Post-surgery, patients should be drinking at least eight to ten glasses of water each day. The body’s tolerance for food after surgery will depend on each individual, and it’s important for each person to listen to his or her body and respond accordingly. Most doctors will recommend keeping a food journal to track the body’s responses to different foods.