10 FAQs about Ostomies

Laura Cox, LPC
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
03/20/15  6:58 PM PST
FAQs about Ostomies

Hi again! Laura Cox here, Shield HealthCare’s Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist. I am often asked questions about my ostomy and what best practices are when one has an ostomy. Here are 10 of the most FAQs about ostomies:

  1. What’s the best time to tend to your ostomy?

I find the best time to change the ostomy bag is about 30-45 minutes after waking up. I take Imodium immediately (ask your doctor before taking anything new), walk around for 10 minutes, and do not eat or drink anything until after I have changed my ostomy pouch. You can find more information about changing your ostomy in Shield HealthCare’s video.

  1. How difficult is it to travel with an ostomy?

I don’t find it difficult to travel with an ostomy. Precut one or two wafers, keep all ostomy supplies in your carry on, and make sure to empty your ostomy prior to going through security so the TSA doesn’t get suspicious. I usually sail smoothly through security and arrive at my destination without any problems. If the machine does detect the ostomy pouch, simply tell the TSA officer you have an ostomy and he or she will ask you to pat your abdomen, then test your hands. Traveling by train and car is easy too. It is always helpful to bring twice as many supplies as you think you’ll need when you travel. You can find more information about traveling with an ostomy in Shield HealthCare’s video.

  1. What does the stoma actually look like?

A stoma is part of either the large or small intestine that diverts stool or urine into an external pouch. The diameter and width of a stoma can depend on what type of ostomy a person has. The color of the stoma is red, and the surface is wet. You can see an image of my stoma in this Shield HealthCare article.

  1. How many times do you empty it a day? How do you empty it?

I empty my diverting ileostomy bag six to ten times a day. The number of times I empty depends on how much Imodium I take and if I eat before I drink. I also prefer to empty my pouch when it gets about 1/3 to 1/2 full, so that the bag never bulges unnecessarily and is noticeable under my clothes. Colostomy bags are generally emptied less, and urostomy bags are emptied around every two to four hours. To empty, simply unclasp the bottom of the drainable pouch, unroll over a toilet, let gravity do most of the work. If some contents are still leftover, gently encourage the contents to empty by pushing thicker output lower in the pouch with your hands on the outside the bag. Clean the opening of the drainable pouch with toilet paper then fold back up and clasp or clip it shut. Some people use closed pouches, that are single-use only. They are removed after use, then put into a small bag and thrown away. There are also liners that can be put into either a closed or drain-able pouch, that are single-use, and then removed from the pouch and thrown away. Keep in mind, though, that those liners are generally not covered by insurance. You can watch a video of me emptying an ostomy pouch (filled with water).

  1. Can you go in the water – like showering or swimming?

Yes! Waterproof barriers that are part of the pouching system work well. There are also other products that can make an ostomy more water resistant. You can find more information about showering with an ostomy, and more information about swimming with an ostomy in this article or this video.

  1. Can you control your bowel movements?

As an ileostomate, I cannot control my bowel movements. People with colostomies can regulate their bowel movements by irrigating. You can learn more about irrigation in our recorded webinar.

  1. What clothes can you wear with an ostomy?

I can wear almost everything with my ostomy. I use Spanx® under my clothes, which helps conceal my stoma and bag well when wearing tight clothes. Patterns and darker colors also help conceal an ostomy well. You can information about dressing with an ostomy in our article.

  1. What can you eat with an ostomy?

I can eat everything aside from vegetables and most fruits. The fruits that I can eat have to be skinned. I can tolerate bananas, mangoes, cantaloupe and honeydew. In addition, I have to chew all foods very well. Every person is different. Some ostomates are vegan, others can’t eat any fruit or veggies without blending them. The best way to learn what you can tolerate is to carefully introduce one new food at a time. Chew well and drink a lot of water when trying new foods. Moderation is important for potentially blockage-causing foods! You can find more information about getting nutrition with an ostomy in my video, or Shield HealthCare’s Registered Dietitian’s video or her article.

  1. Can you have an intimate relationship or get pregnant with an ostomy?

You can have intimate relationships with an ostomy. The ostomy doesn’t put limitations on sexual intercourse. You can get pregnant with an ostomy as well, but sometimes women with with ostimies have trouble concieving because because scar tissue has built up from their surgery, making it difficult for sperm to fertilize the ovum. In these cases, in-vitro fertilization can help with becoming pregnant. You can learn more in my article called, “Intimacy and Ostomies,” and you can check out Stephanie of the Stolen Colon to learn more about her successful pregnancy in 2015.

  1. How do you tell people about your ostomy?

I generally tell people about my illness, and how it affected my life horribly. I then go on to say I had surgery to remove my colon and now I feel much better! As a result of my surgery I had to have a stoma. At this point I ask the person I’m talking to if they know what an ostomy is. If they say no, I go on to say that because my intestines are not linked up to my rectum now, the doctors had to pull a little bit of my small intestine outside my body and now it empties into an external bag. I add that I love my ostomy and that it has given me a second chance at life. I always talk about my ostomy in a positive way when telling people about it. You can find more information about speaking to someone about your ostomy in my article or my video.

Thanks for reading and please comment below if you have other questions about ostomies or ostomy lifestyle – or would like to add your answers to the questions above!

Find related articles and resources about ostomy surgery below:

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