Oesophageal Patients Association
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What diet do I need?

Last August I had an eosophagectomy for the removal of my oesophagus. Despite the fact that I am now in my eightieth year I recovered very well indeed and have progressed well since then. I lost my voice for several months which was an absolute depressing disaster, but now at last it's back with a vengeance and my bathroom arias are once again much appreciated by neighbours several doors away - I have also recovered my sense of humour.

Quite frequently however, I get very hungry and forget myself and eat too much too quickly or eat the wrong thing which means that I feel lethargic, weak and generally unwell and have to lie down for about an hour or so until the malaise passes, which it always does.

But what is the wrong food? I still do not know exactly what kind of food is disagreeable to my new re-engineered digestive system. If I knew more about the previous role of my departed oesophagus then I think it would assist me in understanding why my digestive system rebels on a fairly regular basis.

So exactly what does an oesophagus do? Am I right in assuming that it prepares food for the stomach and generally slows down and prolongs the entry of food so that the stomach can more easily cope with large amounts of food? In which case the absence of an oesophagus means that large amounts of unprepared food can get suddenly dumped into stomach causing all sorts of problems. I think that high amounts of sugar can also cause a problem. I think this is called dumping, but I don't understand the mechanism, or what do do about it. All I know is that I don't want chocolates for my coming eightieth birthday, although just one occasional choc is OK.

So what foods should I avoid please? There doesn't seem to be much research material available for patients like me. Can you advise please?


6 Replies

It is great to know that you are doing well, and that age is not a barrier to successful surgery!

Your oesophagus takes food down to your stomach, and is part of your digestive tract. There is something that the doctors call motility - the regular transit of food at an orderly speed through your system. Probably a distant memory! It is controlled by the vagus nerve, which has had to be cut as part of the operation, so the speed and progress of your digestive system will feel out of control. A bit like an orchestra without a conductor! The good news is that the body gradually re-trains itself - but the other news is that it often does take some months.

Dumping syndrome is that feeling of dizziness, sweating and weakness that often occurs a while after eating. It is caused by the rush of food into the system triggering a false response in your body to create more insulin to deal with the sugar balance. Hence many people take some dextrose tablets to re-balance their sugar levels, or some lemonade before their meals to prepare the body for this effect. There is a good fact sheet about dumping syndrome done by CORE


(if this link does not work, try going to CORE charity website, then patient information).

Try to eat little and often. If you have a 'heavy' meal your system will punish you!

Eat what you can cope with. Trial and error will give you your own rules.

If you ring the OPA helpline (0121 704 9860) they will send you a recipe book (and a copy of the OPA booklet on Life after Oesophagectomy) .

Most people avoid spicy foods, and quite a lot more cannot cope with certain sorts of bread. Milk and dairy products can be a problem.

This is a great question and there should be loads of people who will be able to add their own hints and tips.


Hi Bazz,

My op was in Sept 2006 and has had the same problems with eating to much on occasions, it is so easy to forget but hard to cope the resulting problems.

I now tend to grazing during the day leaving an hour or so between eating and drinking, it seems to work for me.

Refined sugar seemed to trigger the dumping syndrone with me, still does sometimes even now.

I tend to just sleep off the effects of dumping with a heat pad on my stomach.

We changed to using un-refined sugar in drinks and for cooking with in curries, cakes etc.. and it has made a difference.

Chocolate, try Green and Blacks (dark or milk) as made with un-refined sugar.

Again for me it is the sugar in spicy foods gives me problems, worst is chinese sweet and sour.

We have also changed the oil we use for cooking from sunflower to olive and walnut oil.

It is trial and error as no one is the same, and it can change after time, coffee was a problem but ok now.

Hope it helps,

Best regards,

Dave C.


Hello Bazz,

I too tend to over eat, and it's only 4 years post opp that I'm finally learning when to stop. I've found that sitting down for large meals simply does not work for me. There's too much temptation to finish off the plate, especially if it's something I really like. I've found that snacking on fruit, low sugar cereal bars and believe it or not, toffee popcorn get me through most days. What I've learnt to do it only eat half of any portion and then wait 15 to 20 mins before having any more. So, for example, half a cereal bar per sitting.

Also, if you eat slower digesting foods, say for example, a corn tortilla wrap with some veg/meat you will feel satisfied and your sugar levels will remain balanced. Generally, your system will deal with a Low GI diet better, but it is trail and error to some extent. See what works best for you.




Hi Bazz,

I am 18months post op and developed dumping syndrome, I have found that following a low GI diet and avoiding all refined sugars and keeping carbs a small part of any meal seems to help lots. also if you eat small amounts at any one time and chew well helps. I take creon before meals which seems to have helped with putting on weight and giving me more energy from the food I eat

Cheers Liz


Hi Liz

hope you don't mind me asking but what is creon? and does it help you to put weight on or keep your weight stabalised ?

thanks marg


It seems to be different for everyone, I find pies and pastry a problem, deep fried food is not good for me, and Big meals are a no no, even though like you I am finally feeling like eating sometimes and then it is so easy to over eat. Hot chocolate and bannanas are almost certain to give me dumping. (but a bit like having a drink used to be, worth the occasional pain).

I can eat a whole bar of chocolate no problem most of the time, Pasta can be akward but rice is OK for me. A friend of mine is near enough the opposite he does steak and kidney pudding, meat pies and fish and chips no problems, has a banana every day. but if he touches chocolate its time out.

it seems to be a suck it and see thing, and just to make it more interesting as we progress our gut changes the rules as to what it like and doesnt like, bit like growing up.

Cheers Lizzy


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