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Hydration with an Ostomy

Laura Cox, LPC
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
06/17/15  5:23 PM PST
Hydration with an Ostomy
Updated March 2019

The Importance of Hydration

Water makes up 60% of our bodies and is crucial to every bodily system. Because of the important role of water, proper function and survival depends on hydration. The functions of water in the body include:

  • Regulating body temperature
  • Lubricating joints
  • Flushing waste from the body via urination, perspiration and bowel movements
  • Helping prevent constipation
  • Carrying nutrients and oxygen throughout the body
  • Moistening mouth, eyes and nose

When it comes to staying hydrated, there is no “one size fits all” recommendation. The amount of water individuals need greatly vary and depend on environment, exercise, overall health, pregnancy and breastfeeding. To determine if you are properly hydrated: pay attention to your thirst and urine color. Signs of dehydration include: weakness, confusion, dizziness, low blood pressure and dark colored urine. A well hydrated individual should rarely be thirsty and have colorless to pale yellow urine. A doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist can help determine how much water you need to drink daily. 

Hydrating with an Ostomy

Hydration with an ostomy can be difficult due to an interruption of the large intestine (colon) — where water is mostly absorbed. Since some water is absorbed in the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum and ileum) it is possible to stay hydrated but can be difficult with a colostomy or ileostomy. 

  • A colostomy is when your stoma is created out of the colon. This can be a result of disease in the colon. And depending on the location of the colostomy, water absorption is limited to the small intestine and a portion of the large intestine. 
  • An ileostomy is when your stoma is created out of the last part of the small intestine. This can be a result of disease in the colon and/or ileum. In this situation, water absorption is limited to the first two parts of your small intestine. 

Both cases require someone with an ostomy to pay close attention to hydration status. However, those with an ileostomy can become dehydrated quickly. If hydration is a persistent problem for you, contact your doctor.

Fluids, Foods and Tips That Help with Hydration

Electrolytes are minerals that help balance water in your body. To stay properly hydrated it’s best to drink electrolyte beverages that are also low in sugar content.

  • Coconut Water
  • V8 or other vegetable juices
  • Gatorade (G2 has less sugar) or other low sugar sports drinks
  • Pedialyte
  • Homemade oral rehydration solutions

Eat foods that have high water content, this makes absorption more efficient – remember to avoid foods that do not work for you, or chew well when foods have skins/seeds/are difficult to fully digest.

  • Watermelon
  • Tomatoes
  • Apples/applesauce
  • Cucumbers
  • Yogurt/pudding
  • Smoothies
  • Jell-O

Also eat foods that are not high in water content, but still assist in absorption and slowing down transit time.

  • Potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Bread
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels

Additional tips:

  • Always carry a water bottle with you and make sure you refill it whenever it is empty.
  • Sip, don’t chug! Chugging fluid will make fluid go through your system too fast to hydrate properly.
  • Eat before drinking. This helps absorb fluids.
  • Mix up what you’re drinking. You’re more likely to drink things you aren’t bored of and enjoy.
    • Infuse water with fruits.
    • Drink smoothies for an added nutritional bonus.
  • Also, if you only drink water you may need to add fluids with more electrolytes.
  • Ask your doctor about taking Imodium or Metamucil to slow transit time and optimize water absorption.

Recipes for DIY Rehydration Solutions

Your rehydration solution should contain higher levels of carbohydrates, sodium, potassium and other electrolytes.

Four recipes for a good rehydration solution:

  1. 1 ½ cups of water, 1 ½ cups of Gatorade, ¾ teaspoon salt
  2. 2. 6 oz. Pedialyte (unflavored), 2 oz. chicken broth
  3. 4 cups of coconut water or water (or a mix of both), 1 cup freshly juiced/squeezed orange juice, 1/2 cup of freshly juiced/squeezed lemon juice, 6 – 8 tablespoons of sweetener (raw honey is best), 1/4 teaspoon unrefined salt
  4. 32 oz. water 1 orange or cucumber sliced (both with peel), 1 lemon sliced (with peel), 1/4 tsp. Himalayan sea salt or other unrefined sea salt, or Trace Mineral Drops

Combine ingredients in a glass water bottle, shake and cool in the refrigerator.


Mayo Clinic

Harvard Health Publishing

For more information, see related ostomy nutrition articles and resources here:

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