Electrolytes, Minerals, Vitamins—Common Ostomy Deficiencies

Common Ostomy-Related Deficiencies


While typically thought of as one of those ingredients that’s “bad for you,” salt is a key component of a healthy diet for ostomates. A great way to get enough salt and stay hydrated is to drink oral rehydrating solutions (ORS). These can easily be made at home.


 Potassium is a key electrolyte found in electrolyte mixes and some ORS recipes. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) recipe includes salt and a salt substitute, which contains potassium. Recipes using Gatorade also contain some potassium. Many juice recipes typically don’t include supplemental potassium.


Magnesium has a direct impact on the balance of other electrolytes in the body, such as sodium and potassium. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure you’re getting enough of this key electrolyte. Homemade ORS solutions typically don’t include magnesium. To ensure you’re getting enough of it, consider using electrolyte powders or tablets. These are typically designed for athletes and contain sodium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as sugar. Or talk to your medical provider about introducing a multivitamin (more on that below) or a magnesium supplement.

Vitamin B12

B12 is a key vitamin that affects many body functions. This vitamin is absorbed in the terminal ileum, a part of the intestine that may have been removed in the creation of an ostomy. Deficiency in this vitamin can lead to mild to severe neurologic symptoms. The good news is that you can get your levels checked with a simple blood test. Talk to your medical provider about this and the possible need to supplement.

Vitamin D

 Vitamin D plays an important role in the body, especially in bone health. This isn’t generally a vitamin that most ostomates are deficient in because of their ostomies, but is rather a vitamin that many people in Canada are deficient in. Talk to your doctor about starting a vitamin D supplement.  

Should I be Taking a Multivitamin?

Taking an oral multivitamin is a great way to ensure you’re getting an adequate range of the most common vitamins and minerals. As highlighted above, potassium and magnesium are of great importance and should be included in the oral multivitamin. Additionally, it’s recommended to have a multivitamin with vitamins A, D, E, and K. These are fat-soluble vitamins that are usually absorbed in the ileum; therefore, people with ileostomies may have difficulties absorbing them.

Some people with ostomies may have difficulty completely digesting pills. If this occurs, you might notice that a formed pill has made its way into your ostomy pouch. While this can happen, it’s generally not common, and most people are able to digest pills just fine. However, chat with your medical provider if you’re experiencing this. In addition, check out liquid and chewable supplements, as they may work better for you.

While supplements can be a key part of a healthy lifestyle for ostomates, it’s important to keep in mind that over-supplementing can lead to too much of a good thing. Getting excess amounts of certain vitamins and minerals can negatively impact your health. If you choose a generic multivitamin, make sure to follow the dosing instructions on the bottle and talk to your medical provider about combining any other medications or supplements. It’s also important to consult with your medical provider about what supplements you might need and what dose, as well as if any blood tests are necessary.

By Erika Kana, RN, Content Writer, Ostomy Canada Marketing Team.

Erika Kana is a Calgary-based Registered Nurse and health content writer. She has experience in geriatric and medical-surgical nursing and specializes in emergency nursing. Her diverse nursing experiences have sparked an interest in wound and ostomy nursing. Erika regularly seeks out ways to learn more about ostomy management and research.


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