BACKGROUND Degranulation of peritoneal mast cells (MCs) induced by intestinal manipulation has been proposed as a pathophysiological factor in postoperative ileus (POI). We aimed to explore the relationship between peritoneal and colonic MC degranulation and gastrointestinal (GI) recovery following colectomy. METHODS Patients undergoing elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy (using a laparoscope and small abdominal incisions, n = 14), and elective laparoscopic (n = 32) or open partial colectomy (through a large abdominal incision, n = 10) were studied. MC protease tryptase and chymase were studied in peritoneal fluid at the beginning, middle, and end of each surgical intervention. Density of MCs in colectomy samples were examined and oro-caecal transit time by breath test, GI function recovery by clinical composite endpoint GI-2 and association between MC proteases and clinical recovery. KEY RESULTS Open and laparoscopic colectomy caused greater peritoneal release of tryptase and chymase (323.0 ng/mL [IQR: 53.05-381.4] and 118.6 ng/mL [IQR: 53.60-240.3]), than cholecystectomy (41.64 ng/mL [IQR: 11.17-90.93]) at the end of the surgical intervention. However, there were no differences between laparoscopic and open colectomy. Increased peritoneal protease release during surgery was observed in patients who developed POI after colectomy. CONCLUSIONS & INFERENCES Colorectal surgery causes protease release from peritoneal MCs. Protease release does not differ between both types of colectomy (laparoscopy vs laparotomy). However, MC activation is increased in colectomy patients developing POI. Therefore, degranulation of peritoneal MCs as a factor contributing to human POI after colectomy might be considered in future studies as a target to avoid POI.