If you’re a new ostomate, you probably feel your life has drastically changed. At first, getting into a routine seems hard. Thinking about returning to work is scary. Even getting back to the things you love to do seems far off. The first few months is the hardest but you will adjust to life with your new ostomy. And for some of us, it is an improved life!
During the first few months of having my ostomy, I was aware of the pouch every minute of every day. My thoughts were consumed by the pouching system. I could not move around without feeling it, or worrying about leaking or emptying it. I called a friend who has had an ostomy for many years and asked if this feeling of constant awareness ever goes away. His response was “Yes! It’s like wearing shoes. You know they’re on your feet but you don’t feel them!” I thought to myself WOW, I can’t wait for that to happen. Sure enough, it happened.
Preparing to resume regular diet
This is all about understanding how your ostomy functions and how diet affects you. Once cleared by your doctor to resume a normal diet:
Changing the system should be done when the stoma is least active. For many with ileostomies, that’s the first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. Some with a colostomy have decreased output later in the day. Urostomies are active all the time but early morning before drinking anything is best.
If you are changing the system in the morning, be sure to allow extra time on the days of pouch changes, before going to work.
Be sure to empty your pouch before leaving the house. This will delay the need for emptying in public. If you are out for the day, plan on emptying your pouch when it is 1/3 to ½ full. This will reduce the bulging of the pouch. Eat foods that you know won't bother the stoma output much. For example:
Consider Beano or Phazyme tabs at the start of each meal to decrease gas
Avoid those that increase odor
Asparagus, broccoli, onions, peas, dried beans
Eggs, fish, garlic
Avoid those that thin the stool
Fried or spicy food
Grape or prune juice
High sugar foods
Avoid those that do not digest well
Cabbage, celery, mushrooms
Apple peels, skin of fruits or veggies, dried fruit, pineapple
Coconut, corn, popcorn
Foods that reduce odor
Buttermilk, cranberry juice, parsley, yogurt
Along with knowing your diet effects, products are available to help with odor when emptying your pouch in a public rest room.
Pouch deodorants and lubricants
Charcoal tabs taken orally
The first few weeks after surgery, most are wearing loose, comfortable clothing. As you start to venture out, you may need to consider a different style. No clothing is off limits but keep in mind, some of your clothing may feel less comfortable after having ostomy surgery. Tight clothing and belts may feel restrictive. Experiment with clothing styles. Depending on stoma placement, a different style may be warranted. Consider:
Longer, flowy tops
Aline dresses that flare at the waist
Wear patterns or dark colors
Under garments to minimize the outline of the pouch
Wrap, Stealth belt
Remember, looking down at your clothing you may see the ostomy pouch but others looking at you don’t see it from their perspective. Most people will not know you have an ostomy unless you choose to tell them. Who you tell is up to you.
Returning to a work routine
Returning to work is a great way to get back to routine. You can transition or ease into work slowly. Start with ½ days, giving time for you to feel more confident with the ostomy at work. This will minimize the need for pouch emptying until you feel more comfortable in your work environment.
Colleagues at work will be happy to see you and many will ask how you are. Some may have questions about your surgery. Before returning, plan your response. Again, you don’t need to tell anyone about the ostomy.
Resuming activities as part of your routine
If you were active before your stoma surgery, you can resume your activities after healing. Some precautions may need to be taken depending on the activity.
Uses smaller containers for carrying away clippings
If travel routine for you, a little pre-planning goes a long way.
TSA travel card
Pack extra supplies. A good rule is to pack almost double what you usually would use. Having enough supplies will help you feel more confident and worry free.
Take ostomy supplies in your carry-on bag.
Always carry a travel pouch with a change of pouching supplies for emergencies. Other supplies you’ll need are flushable wipes for cleaning (make sure they do not contain aloe or moisturizers as this will prevent your next pouch from adhering well). Don’t forget your moldable rings, paste, barrier strips or other accessories you may need.
Using a public bathroom can be intimidating for a new ostomate. Here are a few tips to help:
Before emptying your pouch, place a small, thin layer of toilet tissue in the water to prevent splashing
Try spraying poo-pourri into the water before emptying. These are available in travel sizes for easy carrying
Internal deodorants are available to reduce output odor. Devrom is Chlorofresh is another internal deodorant.
Foods that help reduce odor are parsley, yogurt, and buttermilk
Deodorant drops can be placed in the pouch each time you empty. Many are available in travel sized packets. Coloplast Brava, Hollister Adapt or M9, or ConvaTec Diamond gelling sachets are a few examples. Devko tablets can be placed in the pouch for odor control as well.
Biologic odor eliminator sprays for air freshening are available in 1-2 oz sizes for travel.
For those with an ileostomy, gelling agents will help thicken output. I already mentioned ConvaTec’s Diamond gelling sachet, but others are available as well. Ile-sorb made by Cymed, Nu-sorb powder made by Nu-hope, or Gel-X tablets made by Secure Health Products.
If traveling out of the country, be sure to learn or write down important questions such as “where can I find a restroom?”
Returning to intimacy
If you have had a partner through your illness and ostomy surgery, before resuming intimacy, talk to them about your concerns. Most likely, they have concerns too. Take care of your body and learn how to manage the ostomy before planning intimate encounters. Once ready to participate in sexual activity, here’s a few tips:
Christine Kijek is a colorectal nurse at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, CT. She has a wealth of knowledge in this field as well as personal experience. HPFY is thrilled that she has been an active participant in the Ostomy Support Group. She has experience working as a coordinator for cancer patients, post-operative care, and home health care for disabled children and adults. And guess what! Christine is also the recipient of the Nurse Exemplar Award. Christine lives in Bethel, CT with her husband Ed. Her children are married and live nearby. She has 4 grandchildren and is known as GiGi. Christine enjoys riding motorcycles and spends many hours gardening. She can often be found onboard a Carnival Cruise ship lounging by the pool.
Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.
Christine Kijek, RN, BSN, WON
Christine Kijek is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. She has completed courses for wound and ostomy specialty and has 20 years of experience. She has ...
When traditional oral intake is not feasible, enteral feeding comes into play. It supports nutritional needs of individuals recovering from an injury or surgery. Dive into this informative article and learn what, when, why, and how of enteral feeding and ensure optimal patient care.
Looking for a non-invasive option to manage carpal tunnel symptoms? Experience relief from constant tingling and pain with this Carpal Solution Wrist Support. Read this article to know about the unique features and benefits of this wrist support brace designed to deal with CTS and find why it is one of the most reliable wrist braces available on the market.
Need an effective and affordable nebulizer? Look no further, in this article we offer 5 of our best reviewed nebulizers that are loved by our customers. Click to read more and find the perfect nebulizer for all your respiratory needs.
Neck pain can wreak havoc on your otherwise healthy life. Traction device improves your cervical health and overall well-being. Read more to find our best cervical traction devices designed to curb the stiffness and discomfort of cervical muscles.