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The role of Superfoods in Ostomy Health

The role of Superfoods in Ostomy Health

Various digestive challenges affect ostomates, including emotionally-draining experiences such as accumulation of gas and odor accumulation, which can impair an ostomate’s social and private life. Others could create physical and mental issues.

Ostomy surgery disrupts the digestion process which could cause nutritional deficiencies and related health problems if not managed correctly. How can superfoods help in the prevention of such a situation? What are superfoods?

Understanding Superfoods

Superfoods are mostly plant-based foods renowned for their nutritional density. Although superfoods are not restricted to criteria or factors to qualify as a superfood, the health benefits of certain foods stand out. This is relevant for people with digestive issues, after surgery or an ostomy. The foods listed below are notorious for their nutritional value among other dietary properties.


Barley has been around for thousands of years and is a relevant high-value food for ostomates. Barley contains folic acid and vitamin B6. It also has minerals such as calcium, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. In addition, the fiber in barley helps prevent constipation and intestinal obstruction.

“Barley is a small, oval-shaped grain with a nutty flavor that has contributed to the human diet for at least 10,000 years. Historically known as the food of athletes and gladiators, barley has earned nutritional accolades as a ‘superfood.’ It is a rich source of phytonutrients, niacin, thiamin, zinc, manganese, copper, selenium, and soluble and insoluble fiber. The nutritional benefits of barley consumption are vast, including lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, slowing the absorption of glucose and stabilizing blood glucose levels, increasing satiety and bowel regularity, and protecting against cancer. Barley is available in hulled kernels, flakes, grits, pearls (i.e., a form of barley that is polished in a process that removes the bran layer, decreasing nutrition), and ground flour. Although all of the forms of barley are excellent dietary sources of fiber and nutrients, hulled kernels of barley are the most nutritionally valuable

Action of barley

  • The soluble fiber in barley is called beta-glucan. Benefits of beta-glucan include that it –binds with water and slows the digestive process, which allows the body to better manage postprandial (i.e., after eating) glucose and insulin responses –increases the volume of intestinal contents, which hinders the absorption of cholesterol. The added bulk of barley also promotes more regular bowel movements, which improves intestinal health –increases bile acid excretion into the intestines, which results in lower serum cholesterol levels because bile acids contain oxidized cholesterol.
  • Colonic flora (i.e., “good” bacteria) is able to use some of the soluble fiber from barley to form short-chain fatty acids, which can promote intestinal health and may help to resolve abnormalities in the intestinal mucosa in persons with conditions such as ulcerative colitis.
  • Barley has been shown to lower blood pressure
  • Barley is a good source of the phytonutrients known as lignans, the most notable of which is 7-hydroxymatairesinol –Lignans are metabolized by the flora in the colon to form enterolactone and enterodiol, which have estrogen-like effects. Increasing serum levels of enterolactones may help to protect against hormone-dependent cancers such as breast and prostate cancer.”1


These are edible seeds with nutrients that support an ostomate’s health. It stands out for its fiber content, helping prevent constipation. It also contains plant-based omega 3 that supports multiple organs including bones, the heart, and the brain.

“The predominant lipids in chia are α-linolenic acid (ALA; an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (LA; an omega-6 fatty acid), with lesser amounts of palmitic (saturated fatty acid), oleic (omega-9), and stearic (saturated) acids. ALA and LA are the only two essential fatty acids for humans—lipids that people must ingest in their diet because their bodies cannot syn-the size them. Of the fatty acids in chia, ALA comprises about 60%, and LA about 20%. ALA is a precursor to the longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA), which have been linked to various benefits, including cardiovascular and neurological health.

Chia contains a higher protein content than most grains and cereals. In addition, the protein is more complete in terms of amino acid content. However, chia cannot be used as a sole source of protein because the seed lacks sufficient lysine. Chia also contains more fiber than most other grains, with soluble and insoluble fiber in a ratio of about 1:5. The antioxidants in chia, mostly polyphenolic compounds such as isoflavones, inhibit lipid peroxidation in the seeds. On a per-gram basis, chia contains more ALA, fiber, protein, and calcium than either flax seed or salmon. The nutrient content of chia varies based on the region where it is grown and the growing conditions. Reported ranges of nutrient compositions include protein, 16–24%; total lipids, 26–34%; ALA, 57–65% of lipids; and fiber, 22–38%”2


Ostomates with a liquidy discharge may help thicken the discharge. Bananas also have antacid effects for those with hyperacidity issues; and potassium, an excellent property when ostomy surgery causes electrolyte and fluid imbalance.

Bananas contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which promotes the natural production of serotonin, enhancing good mood and restful sleep.

  •         “Digestive health. Bananas are included in the BRAT diet (an acronym for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast), a once commonly prescribed regimen for patients with diarrhea or who required a bland, easy-to-digest diet after stomach ailments. Not just easy to eat, bananas can help replete electrolytes like potassium that are lost with diarrhea or vomiting, and contain resistant starch (especially if using cooked less-ripe green bananas) that may support gut healing. Unripe bananas contain resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that “resists” digestion in the small intestine. It is absorbed slowly and does not cause sharp rises in blood sugar. The starch acts as food for the growth of beneficial microbes in the digestive tract. Microbes break down and ferment the starch as it passes into the large intestine, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that may play a role in the prevention of chronic diseases including digestive disorders. Clinical studies have shown the potential use of SCFA in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
  •         Weight control. There is no evidence that bananas contribute to weight gain, despite popular belief. […] Though higher intakes of apples, pears, and berries tended to more strongly show a link to less weight gain over time, bananas were also associated with less weight gain.”3


Sprouts contain plenty of readily available nutrients in higher quantities than conventionally prepared seeds. They are a favorable source of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and essential supplements for ostomates.

“Sprouts are commonly considered highly nutritious and are sometimes also called miracle food. Soybean sprouts have the highest level of protein (28%) of all sprouts, followed by lentil and pea sprouts with 26%. Soybean sprouts thus have twice the protein of eggs, but only 1/10th the fat. Due to respiration during the sprouting process, there is a loss in total dry matter, an increase in total protein, a decrease in starch, an increase in sugars, and a slight increase in some vitamins and minerals. As total carbohydrates decrease during germination, the percentage of other nutrients increases. The flatulence-producing carbohydrates in legumes largely disappear during sprout formation resulting in low levels of stachyose and raffinose. Due to the biochemical changes during germination sprouts contain significantly higher levels of vitamins than the respective dry seeds. Some sprouts such as mungbean are very good sources of ascorbic acid reaching over 50 mg ascorbic acid/100 g fresh weight. Vitamins of the B-group increase 100 to 300% during germination and sprouts are, therefore, often a good source of vitamin B12.  Moreover, phytic acid in the seed is degraded during germination due to phytase enzyme activity resulting in higher availability of the trace minerals compared to the dry seed”4

Prepare the sprouts hygienically to prevent the proliferation of harmful organisms and toxins that can cause food poisoning.


Kelp is a type of seaweed with abundant macro-elements and traces elements necessary for health. nOne of its most important ingredients is iodine, which helps our metabolism support optimal thyroid gland functions. “Sea vegetables, commonly called edible seaweed, are a class of marine algae packed with healthful nutritional value. Used for centuries around the world with documented use in Asian and Aztec civilizations, edible seaweed was called one of the hottest food trends in 2015 as it gained popularity in American cuisine. It’s an ingredient now used in mainstream dishes such as chips, snacks, pizza, and desserts in addition to more traditional cuisine including sushi and salads. Now that it’s known as a functional food used for complementary and alternative therapies, it isn’t surprising that edible seaweed is catching the attention of chefs, health providers, and environmentalists alike.”5

Other foods considered ‘super’

  • Tomatoes
  • Onions/garlic
  • Omega 3 fatty acids (from fish)
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Eggs
  • Coconut
  • Maqui, blueberries
  • Sweet potatoes

Although Superfoods are exceptional sources of nutritional resources, you should consume it with other foods. The aim is to ensure a balanced diet that supports a healthy lifestyle without limitations.




(1) Marcel, C., Danahy, Anne. (2016) Evidence-Based Care Sheet – Barley. Available online at 

(2) Cassiday, L. (2017). Chia: superfood or superfat. Inform, 28(1), 6-13. Available online at 

(3) Finger, L. The Nutrition Source. Available online at 

(4) Ebert, A. W. (2013). Sprouts, microgreens, and edible flowers: the potential for high value specialty produce in Asia. SEAVEG 2012 High Value Vegetables in Southeast Asia: Production, Supply and Demand, 216. Available online at 

(5) Hultin, G. Health Benefits of Sea Vegetables—Learn About Their Culinary Uses, Including How Clients Can Incorporate Them Into Their Diets. Available online at 


María Laura Márquez
13 October, 2018

Written by

María Laura Márquez, general doctor graduated from The University of Oriente in 2018, Venezuela. My interests in the world of medicine and science, are focused on surgery and its breakthroughs. Nowadays I practice my more:

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