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7 Important Tips for Living With a Colostomy

Marc Kaplan


Have you been told that you will need to have an ostomy? The very idea of having to live with a bag attached to your abdomen can be stressful for some but you'll learn to realize that it really isn't as bad as you think. For the most part, nobody will even know you're wearing it unless you go out of your way to tell them.

Having a colostomy, and knowing what to do is less of a battle than living with it. Doctors will give you careful instructions on what you should do but we're going to give you the basics today.

Here are 7 things you should know about living with a colostomy before you have the surgery.

1. The Surgery

In some cases, the surgery takes place only a few days after the diagnosis which doesn't give you much time to cope. Before the surgery, your bowls will need to be cleaned out.

Thankfully the ET nurses make this process a lot more calming. They will sit down and talk with you about the ostomy, teach you how to properly care for the stoma, and answer any burning questions about ostomy care.

Once the surgery is done, you will be given painkillers and be required to rest for several days. During those days you will begin to get up and walk short distances.

2. Understanding How it Works

Most colostomy appliances are a 2-pouch system. This system will consist of a flange which is the rubbery circle that sticks to your skin over the stoma and a pouch.

The pouch is the small bag that attaches to the flange. It collects the stool. There are several different types out there so you might want to keep trying different ones until you find one that works for you.

Your nurse will give you a few more details than this. She can tell you where to buy the supplies you need, how to shower while wearing the pouch, and actually show you how to change your bag rather than just telling you.

3. Changing Your Bag

You need to make sure you have everything you need immediately on hand before you begin. Use one hand to support your skin while you carefully slip the bag off.

You can either empty the bag and rinse it before you throw it out or just go ahead and toss it.

To put on a new bag, wipe the area around the stoma and let it dry for a few moments. Remove the plastic cover from the adhesive flange, fit the pouch over the stoma, and then smooth it down. Make sure there are no creases because that might cause leakage.

4. Cleaning the Stoma Area

Cleaning the stoma area is pretty simple and again, an ET nurse will go over the process with you.

For the most part, you use plain warm water and a dry wipe to clean around the stoma. Make sure you don't rub. Dry the skin gently with the dry wipe. Again, take measures to pat, don't rub.

That's all there is to it. Once you're done you just throw away the wipes and then thoroughly wash your hands.

5. Make Changes to Your Diet

You might want to alter your diet a little to do away with foods that cause excess gas. An experienced dietician can help you choose a balanced diet that can help you avoid foods that may cause constipation and diarrhea. Here are a few foods that you might want to stay away from.

  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carbonated Drinks
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Dairy foods and drinks that contain lactose
  • Onions
  • Whole-grain foods
  • Bran
  • Some fruits and juices.

Your dietician will most likely add on to this list a little bit but these are the basic ones that you want to avoid.

6. Tracking your Stool

This is might sound gross but it's a good idea for you to track your stool. Constipation can be a problem for someone with a colostomy so you need to keep track of it.

Take a note for how hard or soft they are and when they occur. You can drink plenty of water to make sure the stool stays as hydrated as possible while it's passing through.

Another thing you can do is occasionally take a dose of a laxative to soften things up. Make sure you talk to your doctor before giving this a try. While some fruits and fruit juices can hurt you, some can help with this issue as well.

7. Living With the Pouch

You don't have to tell everyone about your pouch but your place of employment might need to know that you can't lift heavy objects or that you will need frequent bathroom breaks to manage your pouch.

If you really want to keep your pouch hidden loose fitting tops and pants can do this for you. Make sure you are careful about letting your little ones or pets jump on your lap where the pouch is located.

When you're traveling always pack extra supplies with you. If you're flying, don't pack all of your supplies in the checked baggage. Limit or be aware of what you're eating before the flight.

If you're worried about odor then you can get liquid and solid products that can get it under control. It also helps to change your bag out often.

It really won't be as bad to live with a colostomy once you're used to it. It's all about what you make of it.

Living with a Colostomy

As you can see it is possible for you to carry on as normal and living with a colostomy. If you listen to the instructions of the nurses you can learn to easily care for your colostomy and get back to your life of work and playing with your kids and pets.

Need to pick up medical supplies? You're in luck because we have you covered. Contact us to see if we have the brands you need.