If you've had some type of surgery that has left you with an ostomy (a small opening called a stoma, which connects an internal organ to the outside of the body for the discharge of stool and gas or urine), you may feel as though it will interfere with all aspects of your life. Although it will take some time to adjust to it, you can continue to live a normal life with an ostomy.
With an ostomy, you may be more worried about eating foods that could cause gas and odour. It's likely that the same foods that caused gas and odour before your ostomy will cause the same issues after.
Some foods that commonly cause excess gas and odours include asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, onions, garlic, and cabbage. Some foods that may reduce odour include parsley, buttermilk, and yogurt. Having cranberry juice with your meals or drinking a lot of water throughout the day might also help minimize odour.
Foods that may not be fully digested and could cause blockage of the stoma include celery, dried fruit, popcorn, nuts, seeds, and cabbage. Take small bites when eating these types of foods and chew them thoroughly.
Changing your ostomy pouch when it is 1/3 to ½ full and using a special deodorant will also minimize the risk of odours. You can find special deodorant for ostomy pouches where you purchase your ostomy supplies.
You should be able to wear whatever you wore before your surgery. Most pouches are unnoticeable and can even be worn under tight-fitting clothes. However, depending on the location of your stoma, some items such as belts may be uncomfortable. You can smooth out any bulges and support the pouch by wearing stretch underpants, pantyhose, or jockey shorts over the pouch. Ask your doctor or nurse about specialty swimsuits or swim trunks.
You can shower or bathe with or without your ostomy pouch. The opening (stoma) will not be harmed by soap and water and water will not enter the opening. If you choose to shower without the pouch in place, try to do so at times of the day when your bowel is less active.
After you have healed from your surgery, you should be able to participate in most of the same physical activities you did before. Keep in mind that some physical activities require extra precautions. Contact sports and weightlifting may present a problem because of risk of injury to the stoma or because the pouch may come off. Talk to your doctor about engaging in contact sports and special ostomy supplies that are available.
It is up to you if you want to tell your coworkers, family, and friends about your ostomy. Although you may feel self-conscious about it, no one will notice if you choose not to tell. However, it is important that you do tell all your health care providers as well as your significant other.
Having an ostomy will not restrict you from travelling in any way. Being well-prepared ahead of time will minimize any stress and problems. Make sure you always bring along enough supplies plus a little extra to be safe. If you are flying, it is wise to bring some supplies in your carry-on bag in case your checked luggage gets lost. A note from your doctor may help to explain your supplies when being screened by security personnel.
Intimate and sexual relationships can still continue normally when you have an ostomy. It is normal to take some time to get used to having an ostomy before you engage in sexual activity again. Although it may be difficult to tell your significant other about your ostomy, being open and honest will help to develop intimacy and make you feel more confident. Ensuring that your pouch is clean and secured before sexual activity will make you feel more comfortable. Ask your doctor or nurse about opaque pouches, pouch covers, and specialty ostomy lingerie available for use during sexual activity.