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How to Live with a Colostomy: Tips and Advice

There are many reasons why a person may need to have a colostomy. But once it is performed, the person may undergo changes in lifestyle. Here you will find a few tips and advice on how to have a normal and active life after a colostomy. 

  • What is a colostomy? 

A colostomy is a surgical procedure through which an opening is made in the abdomen wall to create a new route to the colon (a section of the small bowel) for stool discharge. Generally, a piece of bowel is taken through the incision out in the abdomen. The opening that shows the piece of intestine seen on the abdomen is known as the stoma. This opening can be temporary, when the colon can be restored to its normal healthy condition and the colostomy can then be reversed or, permanent when the colon has to be surgically removed and the surgery cannot be reversed. When a person has a colostomy he/she will evacuate stool through this route. 

  • Tips and advice on how to live with a colostomy 

Here are some useful tips to have an active life once you’ve had a colostomy:

  • After surgery, you will need time to heal. You may feel pain and discomfort, have emotional issues and may need to rest for a few weeks. It is important to quickly learn about your stoma and pouch system and how to take care of them. Issues such as knowing how to clean the stoma, showering or bathing, avoiding infections, purchasing the most convenient pouching system, handling and changing the pouch are things to be covered. A trained nurse or caregiver will initially attend you in these matters.
  • The stool coming out after a colostomy can be affected by the section of the colon surgically treated. The consistency of the stool can vary from being very hard to very watery depending upon which part of the large bowel was surgically treated. Whether the stool is too thick or too loose, this can be a very important issue for an ostomate. Therefore, it is advisable to ask your surgeon where your colostomy was set, so that you can expect a certain type of consistency in your stool and progressively learn how to control it. 
  • Also, stool thickness can be affected by your diet. Carefully monitor what type of food is eaten and the effect it has on stool thickness and frequency. Some foods such as broccoli, cabbage, beans, bananas, cauliflower, cheese, some carbonated drinks and whole milk may cause excessive gas in your pouch. Drinking lots of water and having a healthy diet with fibers, vegetables, and some fruit juices can prevent constipation, which is an important issue for ostomates.  
  • You may need to tell family, friends, and co-workers that are close to you as this may help in some way. It is your choice who should know and who should not. 
  • It is also advisable to keep a kit with spare pouching systems and accessories. Always have extra ones, especially if you are traveling away from home.  If you are very active you may need to consider having extended wear and large capacity pouching systems. 
  • Exercising, having enough sleep, avoiding smoking and eating healthy food will help to cope with some of the physical and psychological effects of living with a stoma.