Hydration with an ostomy can have its challenges. There are many benefits to staying well hydrated in general, but it is especially important for those with an ostomy. Every biological function of your body relies on the body being properly hydrated. You’ll concentrate better, your skin will retain elasticity, wounds will heal quicker, and staying hydrated will help your digestive system function properly. The body’s ability to absorb water is often compromised after ostomy surgery, so staying hydrated is vital for all aspects of your health and well-being during this time.
Why Hydration is Important in General
Because water plays a vital role in the proper function of the human body, we are dependent on it. The human body is made up of 60% water, so we rely on it to:
- Keep our eyes, nose, and mouth tissues moist
- Regulate our body temperature
- Lubricate our joints
- Help prevent constipation
- Help lessen the burden on our kidneys by flushing out waste
- Carry nutrients and oxygen to cells throughout the body
- Help dissolve minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to the body
When it comes to staying hydrated, it is different for everyone. It depends on the size and weight of an individual, the environment they are in, their overall health, whether they are pregnant, or a variety of other situations. By staying hydrated, you can potentially prevent health complications further down the road. Your doctor should be able to help determine how much water you need to drink daily or refer you to a specialist that can further assist.
Why Hydration Is Even More Important with an Ostomy
When you undergo ostomy surgery such as a colostomy or ileostomy, the large or small intestine is diverted and its ability to absorb nutrients and electrolytes is compromised. Therefore, those that have had ostomy surgery are more likely to face dehydration and inadequate electrolyte levels.
Some water is absorbed in the small intestine, but most of it is absorbed in the large intestine, referred to as the colon. Because of this, staying hydrated with an ostomy can be difficult. Most colostomies and ileostomies result from a disease in the large or small intestines.
- When a colostomy is performed, the stoma is created by using the large intestine (colon) and bringing it out to the surface of the skin to divert the removal of waste at this new opening. Water absorption is sometimes limited to the small intestine depending on the location of the colostomy, making proper hydration difficult.
- When an ileostomy is performed, the stoma is created out of the last part of the small intestine and bringing that out to the surface of the skin to create a new opening. Water absorption is then limited to the first two parts of the small intestine, contributing to the risk of quicker dehydration.
Both of these surgeries require someone to pay close attention to hydration with an ostomy. Ostomy patients must ensure that they have an adequate intake of fluids to keep their electrolyte levels up so they do not start to suffer from dehydration symptoms such as dizziness or dry mouth. If signs of dehydration appear, consuming a drink containing electrolytes such as Sqwincher beverages can give a boost, but if hydration is a persistent problem, your doctor should be contacted immediately.
The Role of Electrolytes in Staying Hydrated
Electrolytes come from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink. They contribute to the proper balance of fluids in the body and they maintain the blood’s pH level. Electrolytes are minerals like sodium, potassium, and chloride that carry electrical signals to power our nerves and muscles. These minerals carry an electric charge when they are in a fluids like water that we drink.
Electrolytes play an important role to help our bodies properly function. Those roles include:
- Heartbeat regulation
- Body temperature control
- Muscle contractions
- Bladder control
- Energy production
- Neurological functions
Simply put, electrolytes are the minerals responsible for directing water to those areas in your body that need it most. They help us maintain fluid balance throughout our bodies which helps us stay properly hydrated, ensuring our bodies can function well overall.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Many people may find it difficult to stay hydrated with an ostomy and find themselves to be chronically dehydrated every day. They might suffer from daily headaches, lethargy, dizziness, or persistent muscle cramps. However, one of the best indicators of dehydration is simply the color of your urine. The darker the urine, the more likely fluid intake is too low.
Some of the most common symptoms of dehydration are:
- Persistent headaches or migraines
- Feeling dizzy, shaky, or weak
- Heart palpitations
- Thirst and dry mouth
- Decreased urine output and/or darker colored urine
- Leg or muscle cramps
- Poor concentration
- Constipation or bloating
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, your body is probably letting you know that you need to increase your fluid intake. As always, if these symptoms are affecting your daily life or are persistent, contact your doctor.
Tips to Stay Hydrated with an Ostomy
So we know that hydration with an ostomy is super important, but what are some ways that we can be sure we are getting the electrolytes and nutrition we need while also making sure these options are healthy?
Plain old water is good for hydration but alone, it is not the best source. Consumed by itself naturally, water doesn’t contain the salts and sugars necessary for hydration. When you’re using electrolytes for hydration, you’ll want to choose a drink that offers a good balance of electrolytes and healthy carbohydrates. An electrolyte drink that contains a lot of sugar can lead to further dehydration and end up defeating the purpose.
- Coconut water
- Vegetable juices like V8
- Sqwincher products or other low sugar electrolyte drinks
- Homemade oral solutions such as 200 mL Squash concentrate and 5mL of salt. Just sip throughout the day.
Not only are oral hydration solutions great for hydration with an ostomy, but consuming foods that have high water content are also important.
Some foods that are high in water content are:
Some additional tips for hydration with an ostomy:
- Drink fluids slowly so your body can properly absorb them.
- Try to eat first, then drink fluids. This helps with fluid absorption.
- Carry a water bottle and make sure you refill it when necessary.
- Try infusing water with fruits, or try making your own smoothies.
- Talk to your doctor about adding Imodium or Metamucil to your diet.
It is very important to pay close attention to signs that you may be becoming dehydrated when you have an ostomy. Always remember to contact your doctor if your symptoms are persistent or if you are struggling with hydration with an ostomy.
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