Ostomy Lifestyle Question (Jan 27, 2015)

Question:

I am having problems with blockage due to radiation treatments 9 months ago. It has thickened the wall of the bowel apparently. I am having trouble with regular function of the ostomy, is this normal? Sometimes I have to change bags 3 times in one day and then I go for 2 days with nothing. I know diet is important but I had this operation over 16 months ago. I was in perfect health before for my age – at the time I was in my late 70’s. I would appreciate it if you could give me information on regaularity. Thank you.

Answer:

Yes, diet is important especially if you have been having problems with blockages due to radiation treatments plus you have a thickened bowel wall. You didn’t mention what kind of ostomy surgery you have, but based on what you describe it sounds like it is a colosotomy?
As for regularity, just as people with an intact set of bowels can get constipated so can people with a colostomy. As long as you feel well otherwise, periodic inactivity doesn’t mean there is anything wrong. You can drink grape or prune juice if things haven’t moved in 24 hours. Give your body a chance to sort itself out before resorting to laxatives and if you do, take such products sparingly. However, if you have a ileostomy prolonged lack of output is NOT NORMAL and should be reported to your doctor or ET nurse.
On the other end of the spectrum, people with ostomies can also experience diarrhea and rehydration is EXTRA IMPORTANT for these people. Always make sure you are drinking adequate amounts of fluid, NEVER limit your fluid intake – this will not impact the output of your osotomy (unless it is a urostomy). You can always help thicken your output by choosing things such as applesauce, cheese, white rice, bananas, peanut butter. It is also a good idea to choose foods high in potassium since it is lost during bouts of diarrhea. Foods high in potassium include orange juice, coconut juice, potatoes, bananas, soybeans, avocados, apricots, pomegranates, parsnips, and turnips. An electrolyte replenisher from the pharmacy or even a Gatorade (or similar sports drink) is also an option.
Because of the risk of blockages in it is especially important to chew your food really well and take it easy with things like nuts, fruit skins, raw vegetables and popcorn.
Signs or symptoms of a blockage include the following:
-swollen stoma
-distension of the abdomen
-minimal or no stomal output
-cramping and pain
-nausea and vomiting
If symptoms are severe and not going away, you should seek medical attention right away!
Sticking to regular mealtimes can help you learn your body’s behaviour patterns and anticipate when output is higher vs. lower. Also pay attention to what foods seem to move more quickly through your digestive system and which are slower. We are all unique and it does sometimes involve some detective work to see what works!