Managing Diarrhea with a Stoma

Most people will experience an episode of diarrhea in their lives, and that isn’t a fun time for anyone. For those with an ileostomy or colostomy, this is no exception. Loss of fluids and electrolytes is common for those with an ostomy, and having diarrhea can be dangerous since this leads to dehydration.

What is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is characterized by sudden loose or watery bowel movements and can be accompanied by abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, and even a fever. If you have a colostomy or ileostomy, episodes of diarrhea are possible. Some people with an ileostomy have watery or loose stool most of the time.  There are many possible causes for diarrhea, but there are several ways to help manage diarrhea with an ostomy, so that’s the good news!

Diarrhea can pose some complications for those with an ileostomy or colostomy such as:

  • Diarrhea can clog ostomy pouch filters.
  • Diarrhea can cause more leaks, odors, embarrassing noises, and gases to release.
  • Diarrhea erodes the wafer, resulting in frequent wafer changes.
  • Diarrhea can cause you to empty or change your ostomy pouch more often, which can be unpleasant and messy.
  • Diarrhea could lead to dehydration since nutrients are not being properly absorbed.

Common Causes of Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be caused by several different factors. It is important to take note of your diet, medications, stress levels, and overall health to determine what the culprit could be. Then, with some simple adjustments, you can hopefully gain control of producing more regular bowel movements.

Here are a few of the more common causes of diarrhea with an ileostomy or colostomy:

Diet

The consistency of your stoma’s output can be drastically changed by the foods and beverages you consume. Usually, within an hour or two after consumption of certain foods, you will be able to identify what it was that set off your symptoms. Often, the foods and beverages that are identified as the cause of your diarrhea are not actually needed for a healthy diet and can be eliminated.  You might find other benefits from cutting out these unnecessary culprits. We’ll discuss diet in further detail later.

Medications and Supplements

Some medications or supplements can cause diarrhea for various reasons. Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria in the body, and some of that can be the healthy bacteria that help with digestion. Any over-the-counter medicine that contains magnesium or calcium can also cause diarrhea since these minerals work to relax the digestive tract and neutralize stomach acids. For those that may be undergoing cancer treatment, chemotherapy disrupts how the small intestine breaks down food, which may also cause diarrhea. 

Blockage

When you aren’t seeing much movement from your stoma or it appears larger than normal, you might be experiencing an obstruction or blockage. When the body attempts to flush out the blockage, sometimes a watery or liquid stool is experienced. As the intestines continuously try to push contents through the blockage, symptoms usually follow such as abdominal pain, nausea, and possibly vomiting. Note: If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Dietary Impact on Diarrhea with a Stoma

Most of the time, by simply modifying your diet, you can start managing your diarrhea with a stoma. Drinking enough fluids throughout the day and paying attention to the meals you eat can help. Since diarrhea is watery, you’ll want to incorporate some foods that will thicken up your output from your ileostomy or colostomy.

The following foods are suggested to thicken ileostomy or colostomy output:

  • Starchy foods like noodles, white rice, potatoes, and white bread
  • Crackers and pretzels
  • Marshmallows
  • Applesauce
  • Under-ripe bananas
  • Nut butters (peanut, almond, etc)
  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal

It is also important to remind yourself that fluid intake is critical. Replacing electrolytes that are lost when you have diarrhea is essential for proper hydration. Drinking beverages such as Pedialyte or Sqwincher products can be a great way to get ahead of potential dehydration.

If you suspect food poisoning or another bacterial cause of your diarrhea, you’ll want to contact a medical professional.

Foods to Avoid When Experiencing Diarrhea with a Stoma

If you consume certain foods and beverages and then notice a dramatic change in your output’s consistency, you’ll want to take note of them and avoid or cut them out of your diet altogether.

Some of the foods and beverages that are suggested to avoid to prevent diarrhea with a stoma are:

Foods to Avoid During Episodes

  • Coffee or tea
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Dairy
  • High-fiber foods
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Soda
  • Fruit juices
  • Chocolate
  • Fried foods

Foods That May Cause Odor

  • Seafood
  • Garlic
  • Eggs
  • Alcohol
  • Asparagus
  • Spices such as curry, cumin, & chili

Foods That May Produce Gas

  • Dairy
  • Beans
  • Carbonated drinks (including beer)
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel sprouts

Sometimes a bit of trial and error is needed to find out what works for you. High fiber foods can cause blockage, and the skins of some fruits and vegetables can be difficult to digest. To get the nutrition needed from these types of foods and beverages, there are alternatives that are easier to digest offered by Thick-It, Nestle, and Abbott Nutrition.

Other Suggestions for Managing Diarrhea with a Stoma

Gelling Agents

Specifically designed to absorb ostomy pouch contents, these products are a popular choice for those with an ileostomy or colostomy. The Osto-Gel Ileostomy Pouch Gel is a packet of granules that is dropped into a new or clean ostomy pouch. As the pouch fills with output, the packet dissolves, and the granules form a thick gel that stays at the bottom of the pouch and away from the stoma. These gelling agents can come in granules, tablets, powder, or capsules, but they all work in the same fashion.

Nutritional Supplements

There are several nutritional supplements on the market today that are formulated to deliver the vitamins and minerals needed without the dairy and sugar. Novasource Renal Nutritional Support Formula contains optimized electrolyte content and is an excellent nutritionally complete product that is also lactose- and gluten-free. The Hormel FiberBasics line of beverages contain 3 grams of fiber to promote bowel regularity and are another great option to help manage diarrhea with a stoma. Just be careful with the amount of fiber intake as you do not want to end up with a blockage.

Consider a High Output Ostomy Pouch

High output ostomy pouches are designed to better manage liquid output and are able to hold larger capacities of stoma output. The SUR-FIT Natura Two-Piece Ostomy System by ConvaTec is a perfect example of a simple design that features a removable filter to reduce pouch ballooning while neutralizing odor and an anti-reflux valve that decreases liquid output backflow. This high output ostomy pouch easily drains high liquid output and users can change the pouch quickly without the need to remove the skin barrier.

Managing diarrhea with a stoma is possible and there are options. Although we offer suggestions, it is always a good idea to speak to your physician to determine what is the best treatment plan for you.

For any questions related to the products we have mentioned or any other home delivery medical supplies we carry, give us a call. One of our Personally Delivered Product Experts will be happy to speak to you.

Diet Tips After Ostomy Surgery

Are you nervous about what you can eat after having ostomy surgery? Are you wondering if there are certain foods you should avoid? Are there any dietary restrictions that you should follow? We have a few diet tips and suggestions for you here to help clear up any worries.

Diet Tips for the 3 Types of Stomas

A stoma is an opening on the abdomen that is attached to your urinary or digestive tract to allow waste to be redirected out of the body. There are 3 main types of stomas: colostomy, ileostomy, and urostomy. Here are a few suggestions about your diet after each type of ostomy surgery.

Colostomy Diet Tips

When part of the colon is affected by a disease or if it is not working properly, a colostomy may be performed. The large intestine is disconnected from the rectum and rerouted to the abdominal wall as a new opening, called a stoma. A colostomy pouch is then attached to the stoma and is used to collect output which is then disposed of. A colostomy can be temporary to give the colon rest after surgery or it can be permanent if the person suffers from a disease such as cancer.

After a colostomy, a person may be more likely to become constipated. It is important to drink plenty of fluids such as water throughout the day to avoid constipation. Eating slowly and thoroughly chewing food will help with digestion and exercising regularly may keep you on a regular schedule. With a colostomy, there aren’t any dietary restrictions, but you may be more sensitive to foods right after surgery. It is recommended to try new foods in small portions to see if they affect you. Keeping a food journal will help you find if anythng doesn’t agree with you. Maintaining a healthy diet is always a good habit.

Ileostomy Diet Tips

When an ileostomy is performed, the lowest part of the small intestine is disconnected from the large intestine and rerouted to the abdominal wall to form a stoma. This procedure can also be temporary when surgery was performed on part of the large intestine and this allows it to rest for a bit. An ileostomy may be permanent if the large intestine and rectum have been removed due to disease.

With an ileostomy, intake of more fluids that normal is very important. Normally, the stool thickens as it passes through the large intestine since this is where fiber is digested. In this case, the small intestine is doing all the work, so output will be less solid. It is also important to limit foods high in fiber to avoid blockage since the large intestine is missing from the digestive process. Chewing your food well and sticking to small frequent meals throughout the day can also help to regulate the function of your stoma and result in less frequent changes of your ileostomy pouch.

Urostomy Diet Tips

When a person has bladder cancer, a birth defect, or a serious spinal cord injury, a urostomy may be necessary due to the bladder either not functioning normally or having to be removed. The ureters are detached from the bladder and then reattached to a small piece of the bowel that has been removed. That piece of the bowel is then attached to the abdominal wall that redirects urine from the kidneys and into a bag.

As with the other 2 types of ostomy surgeries, it is important to get the necessary fluids to avoid the risk of a urinary tract or kidney infection. Continuously flushing the urinary system by taking in enough water, eating foods high in Vitamin-C, and drinking cranberry juice can help. Studies have shown that cranberry juice works to fight against bacterial growth and has been effective in preventing urinary tract infections.

As you can see, after ostomy surgery there really aren’t that many specific changes you’ll need to make. To sum it up, the main suggestions that are common for all types of stoma surgeries are:

  1. Intake plenty of fluids.
  2. Chew your food well.
  3. Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.

Keep an eye on certain foods and beverages that may produce changes to the output or health of your stoma and always consult your doctor about any concerns.

For any questions about the ostomy products we carry for these types of ostomy surgeries, please give us a call and one of our Product Experts will be happy to discuss the options we offer.