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


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:

Shield HealthCare | Medical Supplies For Care At Home Since 1957