OstomyLife Community

Top 10 Ostomy FAQs

Laura Cox, LPC
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
03/31/16  11:45 AM PST
Frequently Asked Ostomy Questions

1. When is the best time to change your ostomy pouch (for ileostomies)?

I find the best time to change my ostomy pouch is about 30-45 minutes after I wake up. I take Imodium immediately, walk around for 10 minutes, and do not eat or drink anything until after I have changed my pouch. You can find more information about changing your ostomy in my video.

2. How many times do you empty your pouch in one day? How do you empty it?

I empty my diverting ileostomy 6-10 times a day. The number of times I empty depends on how much Imodium I take and if I eat before I drink. Colostomies are generally emptied less, and urostomies are emptied around every 2 to 4 hours. Watch this video to see how I empty my ostomy pouch.

3. What can you eat with an ostomy?

Many people do not have to change their diet radically. Some ostomates may not be able to fully digest vegetables and fruits with skins. The best way to figure out what you can tolerate is to gradually add different foods to your diet. When you introduce a new food, try taking a couple bites, chewing very well and following it up with a glass of fluids. If your body seems to be handling the food okay after a couple hours, follow the same process. This method helps avoid any food blockages for people with ileostomies or colostomies. People with urostomies shouldn’t have to change their diet, but must monitor fluid intake carefully. You can find more information about getting nutrition with an ostomy in my video here, or Shield HealthCare’s Registered Dietitian’s video here or her article here.

4. Can you control your bowel movements?

People with ileostomies cannot control their bowel movements, and similarly people with urostomies cannot control their urine flow. Many people with colostomies do not have control over their bowel movements either, but if a person has a descending colostomy, they may be a candidate for irrigation. This helps people with colostomies become more continent and have a say in when they eliminate waste.

5. What can I do to eliminate or lessen odor?

Shield HealthCare carries odor eliminating liquid drops you can put into your ostomy bag. I keep this product in my purse and use it after every time I empty my ostomy bag. I also like to carry around a small air freshener just in case I forget to use my odor eliminating drops. You can find more information about odor management with an ostomy in my article here.

6. Can you get in the water?

Yes! The waterproof barrier works well. There are also other products that can make your ostomy more water resistant by “picture framing” the wafer. You can find more information about showering with an ostomy here, and more information about swimming with an ostomy in this article or this video.

7. What clothes can you wear with an ostomy?

I can wear most everything with my ostomy. I like to use Spanx under my clothes, which helps conceal my ostomy well when wearing tight clothes. Patterns and darker colors help conceal my ostomy well. You can find information about dressing with an ostomy in my blog post here or my video on that subject here.

8. 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, although sometimes people with ostomies have to use in vitro fertilization because scar tissue can build up, making it difficult to fertilize the woman’s ovum. Be sure to discuss pregnancy planning with your physician. You can find more information about intimacy and ostomies on my blog post here, and Stephanie from The Stolen Colon has a lot of great information (and personal experience) about pregnancy with an ostomy.

9. How do you tell people about your ostomy?

I generally tell people about my illness, and how it affected my life negatively. 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 get an ostomy. 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 paint my ostomy in a positive light when telling people about it. You can find more information about speaking to someone about your ostomy in my article here or my video here.

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

I don’t find it difficult to travel with an ostomy. I precut one or two wafers, keep all my ostomy supplies in my carry on luggage and make sure to empty my ostomy prior to going through security. I usually smoothly sail through security and arrive at my destination without any problems. Travel 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 my video and my blog post about the subject.

For official travel guidelines, visit https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures


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!

Click here for the PDF version of this article.

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

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Serving Medicare Ostomates Nationwide
Dear Laura, I wear a two piece ostomy bag. I need help with concealing an ostomy bag. When I move around my shirt hikes up and the tip of the bag peeks out from under my shirt.
Hi Tom, I have a few suggestions that may help!
First, I'm wondering if a stealth belt would be a good option for you. This is a black belt that you can conveniently tuck your pouch...



  1. mel kennedy
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 11:43 am PDT

    thank you so much. i found your information in phoenix magazine and i think it is just wonderful. i only had 45 minutes of training in hospital so i love to get all the information i can get to make life easier. i am 80 years old and this has been very hard on me. thanks again for your help. i am going to bookmark your site and find something new to learn every day

  2. Aimee Sharp
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 8:58 am PDT

    Hi Mel! Thanks for commenting. We’re so glad you have found this information helpful. We’d love for you to come back to our page often and find all the answers you need. If you have any questions that you don’t find addressed in our OstomyLife community, please Ask Laura! We wish you much support during this transition. Best of luck, and please have a lovely weekend! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  3. Norma B.
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 11:36 am PDT

    What is a good way to muffle stoma sounds?

  4. Aimee Sharp
    Posted September 13, 2017 at 12:16 pm PDT

    Hi Norma. Thanks for your question. In this video about Ostomy Concerns, Laura says that she just covers her stoma with her hand when she suspects it’s about to make a noise. If she doesn’t catch it in time, for her, it just sounds like her stomach gurgling. Stephanie from The Stolen Colon also talks about this in her blog post here. You can also look up something called a “Stoma Stifler” but we don’t have any experience with it, so we can’t recommend it one way or another. Hope that helps! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  5. celinda
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 5:43 am PDT

    My bag is always ballooning out what can I do to keep that from happining

  6. Aimee Sharp
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 11:14 am PDT

    Hello Celinda. Thank you for commenting on our article. That is a common problem, and there are a few solutions. One is to get a pouch with a filter (the charcoal that is part of the filter allows the air out but keep the odor in). Another is to limit your intake of foods that create gas in the system (you can find a list here). We would also recommend “burping” your ostomy when you start to notice even the smallest start of ballooning, and emptying the pouch when it’s a third full should help as well. Our friend Eric from Vegan Ostomy has a whole article on ballooning here, and he also mentions a Osto EZ-Vent, which Shield HealthCare does stock. Hope that helps! Let us know if you have any other questions! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  7. Robin
    Posted March 30, 2019 at 8:50 am PDT

    Can i go without a bag with towel to collect the poop of course to just let my stoma breath I’m new at this got mine jan,2019

  8. Aimee Sharp
    Posted April 5, 2019 at 12:13 pm PDT

    Hi Robin. Sure, there’s no reason why you can’t let your stoma have a little breathing time, as long as you can handle any mess that it might make. We’ve heard from a lot of people that use the shower as their “stoma breathing time” after taking their pouch off and before putting a new one on, and that that twice a week breathing time is enough for them. You don’t have to let your stoma breathe, but sometimes it’s nice to have the peristomal skin be uncovered for a bit. Hope that helps. Best of luck! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  9. Sharon Murray
    Posted March 23, 2020 at 9:02 am PDT

    Does anyone else have an issue with the skin barrier leaking? I have tried using a hair dryer to, warm it up and to make sure the area is dry, extra glue and additional tape. Just ordered another glue prep. Wondered if anyone else has had this problem? We are new to this since Feb. 2020

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