Eating after surgery

Surgery that removes part of the digestive system, such as the oesophagus, stomach or bowel, will change the way you eat and digest food. This section covers the effects of particular types of surgery on nutrition. Suggestions for coping with common dietary issues after surgery, such as poor appetite, change in taste or smell, diarrhoea or nausea, are covered in the Treatment side effects and nutrition.

Learn more about eating after surgery for:

Surgery for bowel cancer

When part of the bowel is removed, many people have more frequent bowel motions (diarrhoea). This usually improves in a few months, but it may take longer for some people. Your doctor, nurse or dietitian might recommend a low-fibre diet that is easier to digest.

In some cases, surgery for bowel cancer creates a temporary or permanent stoma, an opening in the abdomen that allows faeces to leave the body (a bag is attached to collect the faeces). If you have a stoma, you may need to make some dietary changes until your body adjusts.

For more on this, see Bowel cancer. You can also call 1800 330 066 for the Australian Government’s Improving Bowel Function After Bowel Surgery booklet or visit

Surgery to the head and neck area 

Your ability to chew and swallow may be affected after surgery to the head and neck. If you are having difficulty eating or drinking, seek advice from your dietitian and speech pathologist. In some cases, you may be given a temporary or permanent feeding tube to help you maintain or gain weight during this time.

For more on this, see Head and neck cancer.

Surgery for stomach cancer

Removing part or all of the stomach will affect what you can eat and how you eat. The change in the structure of the stomach may mean that you require smaller quantities of food more often and you feel fuller more quickly.

In addition, foods high in sugar move through the stomach faster. You may experience cramps, nausea, racing heart, sweating, bloating, diarrhoea or dizziness. This is called dumping syndrome, and it usually improves over time. Your treatment team can suggest dietary changes and medicines to help manage dumping syndrome.

For more on this, see Stomach and Oesophageal cancers.

Surgery for oesophageal cancer

Surgery that removes the oesophagus will change how you eat. After surgery, you will usually have a feeding tube, then progress to a liquid diet, followed by a diet of soft or moist foods. If you cough while eating or feel like the food is getting stuck in your throat when you swallow, consult your doctor, dietitian or speech pathologist immediately.

For more on this, see Stomach cancer and Oesophageal cancer.

Surgery for pancreatic cancer

After surgery to remove part or all of the pancreas, your body may not be able to make enough enzymes to digest food and you may experience diarrhoea. If this occurs, your doctor and dietitian may advise you to take enzyme supplements with every meal.

Some people develop diabetes before being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or soon after surgery. The way diabetes is managed varies from person to person, but it usually includes a combination of dietary changes and medicines.

For more on this, see Pancreatic cancer.

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Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in June 2019
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