What Are the Best Tips for Living with an Ostomy?

A.E. Freeman
A.E. Freeman
An ostomy may be performed after the surgical removal of the rectum.
An ostomy may be performed after the surgical removal of the rectum.

An ostomy is a surgical procedure that creates an opening in the digestive tract so that waste matter can leave the body after a portion of an organ, such as the colon or rectum, is removed. The ostomy may be permanent or temporary depending on the condition and disease of the patient. Living with an ostomy can be difficult, as a patient may need to adjust her diet by avoiding certain foods and changing her daily activities, especially those involving physical contact. Traveling will also require extra preparation and packing of supplies. Many people, however, find living with an ostomy similar to life before the procedure after making a few adjustments.

Learning what to eat when living with an ostomy is essential for digestive health and comfort. Some foods can cause gas, while others may lead to diarrhea or constipation. People with an ostomy may want to avoid eating beans and cabbage, as these foods can produce gas, which can be especially unpleasant, particularly with a colostomy, or when the colon is attached to the stoma, or opening, and the rectum is removed.

If a person has had an ileostomy, she should avoid eating foods that are particularly high in fiber during the first two months after the procedure or until given permission to eat those foods by her doctor. Foods that should be avoided include popcorn, celery, and nuts. These foods can block the narrow passageway. To help prevent blockages while living with an ostomy, a patient should be sure to drink a lot of fluid and to chew all foods well so that they are broken down into minute pieces.

Under most circumstances, living with an ostomy does not mean that someone needs to discontinue her daily activities unless those activities involve physical contact. Sports such as football and wrestling should be avoided, as the stoma can be damaged if it is hit with a hard blow. A person can stay physically active otherwise, by participating in solo physical activities such as running or swimming.

Traveling with an ostomy may prove a little difficult. Some patients will need to prepare for travel ahead of time by pre-cutting the ostomy bags, especially if traveling by air. A patient should have a note from her doctor explaining the condition that she can present to security. She may want to have the statement printed in the language of the country she is traveling to so that there is no confusion. When traveling, it's best to be over-prepared by bringing extra supplies in case ostomy supplies are not available at the destination.

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    • An ostomy may be performed after the surgical removal of the rectum.
      By: Alexandr Mitiuc
      An ostomy may be performed after the surgical removal of the rectum.