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Supporting a pescatarian with bowel cancer

My sister has just had an operation, thankfully via keyhole surgery, to remove a cancerous tumour from her rectum. Nearly all the post-op dietary advice presupposes that people are meat-eaters. However, my sister has been a pescatarian for decades and the challenge we face together is to make her food as varied and appealing as possible, given all the restrictions placed upon what she can now eat. She is struggling with bland white bread and the fact that she can no longer eat mushrooms or Quorn-based products. Flavour is difficult in the absence of opinions and garlic. I tried to find a cookbook to support her, but have been unable to find one. Any help and advice that members of the online community can offer would be very welcome. Thank you in advance. Family member of a pescatarian survivor of bowel cancer.


Good morning @pescatarian, a very warm welcome to the forum although I am sorry to hear about your sister’s rectal cancer diagnosis.

The first few weeks and months following this kind of surgery can leave you feeling that you will never be able to eat your usual diet ever again, but this is very rarely the case. Recovery from surgery on the inside takes much longer than healing on the outside which is why a low fibre diet is recommended at first. To put things in perspective following my second bowel surgery I was only allowed mashed potato, later with gravy added, for three weeks as my bowel wouldn’t wake up! I now eat normally and healthily.

A food diary can be really useful as different foods are slowly introduced - including mushrooms and quorn. Is it the relative high fibre or the mycoprotein constituent of the latter that means it is not recommended? I have never heard of quorn being on the avoid list, but I am more than happy to be corrected!

There is no reason that your sister shouldn’t get back to very close to her normal pescatarian diet, but it will take time. The Penny Brohn website may be of help - can strongly recommend it.

Please stay in touch and let us know how your sister gets on, Kim :x::x:

Liz Blakelands

@pescatarian Hi and welcome to the forum and really sorry about your sister's rectal cancer diagnosis. You don't say it but I am assuming that your sister has a temporary ileostomy while the joint from the op repairs itself.

I can really identify with the problems your sister is having as I was almost totally vegetarian before my op and found there were just so many things that I enjoyed eating were out of bound with the ileostomy. However you really do have to be careful and allow time for your body to heal.

White bread is a lot better if access and funds allow for buying really good quality bakery white bread, light years away from supermarket white sliced. A really important thing is to make sure getting enough protein in diet, about 50g a day, as your sister eats fish, along with eggs this should be quite easy. You need protein to repair your body so it is really important during recovering for surgery.

My stoma nurse told me it was really important to chew your food well when you have a stoma. As time goes on your sister will able to eat more things but they have to be introduced gradually but initially choice is restricted and it is all a matter of getting the protein and the calories in.

Keep in touch
Liz :x::x:


I had a right hemicolectomy 6 weeks ago where they removed a good third of my bowel. I was dismayed at my food choices initially as I too was mainly eating fish/fruit/veg before. I am eating almost normally noe with a few hits/misses ie tomatoes with skins are a definate no! But I can eat a baked potato with skin now plus fresh rasberries, strawberries etc. she has to be patient.

Amanda Sandham

Hi, sorry your family find yourself in this situation but you will get lots of support here.
I had a tumour removed from my rectum in December 2020 and had a temporary ileostomy until 4 weeks ago. I spent the first month after my operation with no appetite at all. The thought of the beige food I had been advised to eat turned my stomach so I lived on toast and scrambled eggs. After the initial recovery period, I decided that in order to feel anything like myself, I needed to eat real food. I tried each newly introduced food in a normal portion size with things that I knew were ok. After a few weeks I was eating normally which for me is wholefoods, no meat, some fish and some Quorn. Fish, especially salmon could be a problem as it moved through very quickly, as could salad. But when I ate the problem foods, I just had a doorstep of bread and butter later on to slow things down. I had a bit of bloating with brassicas, especially sprouts. Beans and legumes were fine as was spicy food. Quorn was no problem at all. I don't drink much alcohol so didn't have to worry about that.
I would say have a try, see what happens. And just to make you smile as you realise that even with a stoma, your body can sort itself out, I'll tell you about my loose dental crown... It disappeared one afternoon and I spent 24 hours wondering if I should go to A&E. Two days later it made its return into the toilet bowl having passed through my stoma without me noticing. Luckily (!) , the root of my tooth was broken so it couldn't be refitted.