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How To Unblock A Stoma

How To Unblock A Stoma
Kevin Cleary

Anyone living with an ostomy (ileostomy or colostomy) understands the importance of diligent care of the stoma. A blockage in the stoma is also known as a bowel obstruction and is often caused by food, inflammation, or even a twisting in the intestines. Since waste is expelled through the abdominal incision or stoma, how do you know if you even have a blockage? The thought of a blocked stoma may be a little disconcerting to ostomates!! We here at HPFY can explain this potentially dangerous issue and have some tips on how to get rid of a stoma blockage. Visit HPFY for all your ostomy needs.

Symptoms of a Stoma Blockage

Often, ostomy blockages can be dealt with easily at home if you are experiencing symptoms. So, what exactly are the symptoms? The most obvious symptoms of a blockage include a slowdown of stoma output, no output at all, or some change in stool output. Other than these, the most common symptom is a stomachache. This can be accompanied by waves of cramping and abdominal pain, while other symptoms include:

  • Swollen abdomen
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Signs of swelling or color change in the stoma
  • Vomiting
  • Urine output decreased

The symptoms of a bowel obstruction can be slightly different for those with different types of ostomies. A person suffering from a colostomy may suffer a blockage that takes several days before symptoms appear. They may eventually feel constipated but at first it may not be so obvious. For those with an ileostomy, any blockage can occur quickly and may not be accompanied by constipation. Since ileostomy patients regularly pass waste, it’s alarming when your pouch is empty when it’s normally full. 

Types of Blockages

The two main types of blockages are -

  1. Partial Blockage - This is when a small amount of liquid can circumvent the blockage, resulting in the expulsion of foul-smelling liquid or mucus from the stoma.
  2. Complete Blockage - As the name indicates, this is when the intestinal blockage prevents anything from passing through your stoma.

How to Unblock a Stoma

At the first inkling of a blockage, you should contact your stoma nurse or doctor immediately. If caught early enough, treating a blockage at home can be the easiest course. Some at-home tips to clear your stoma blockage are:

1. Increase Fluids

Drink more, and be sure to include fresh fruits in water and hot tea. Often, carbonated drinks can help.

2. Massage Your Stoma

This can help stimulate the blockage to work its way out.

3. Hot Bath or Heat

This can help your abdominal muscles relax and make it easier to alleviate a blockage and pass stool.

4. Keep Mobile

Movement and activity can help you digest food and help your body pass stool.

5. Laxatives

These can include over-the-counter options, plus if things get worse, your doctor can prescribe prescription laxatives. Be sure to drink plenty of water to maximize effectiveness.

6. Lie Down with Legs Up

Lying on your back, pull your knees towards your chest and slowly roll from side to side to help free up any abdominal blockage.

7. Avoid Certain Foods

According to research by the National Institute Health, people with ileostomy should limit your intake of foods that are high in fiber, such as raw or unpeeled vegetables, popcorn, or nuts since they can clump together when eaten in large amounts and cause gastrointestinal problems.

8. New/Larger Pouch

You can try a pouching system that has a larger opening to allow for easier stool passage.

If these home remedies fail to free up any abdominal blockage, symptoms can worsen. You may experience abdominal cramps that become severe, no stoma output for 8-12 hours, vomiting, and dehydration. If you do experience these increased symptoms, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Sometimes, the best way to unblock a stoma is to prevent a blockage from happening in the first place. Preventive steps you can take include drinking 8-12 cups of water a day or other fluids, chewing your food thoroughly, and limiting your intake of bran and other high-fiber grains such as granola. Be sure to visit HPFY for any and all of your ostomy needs and be sure to contact your physician quickly if any symptoms should linger or worsen.

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HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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