Ask an Ostomy Lifestyle Expert

Where to get help during recovery

Question

Can you direct me to resources for what to buy someone to help with recovery after getting their ostomy bag?

Any information on things that would help the person while they recover and make recovery easier would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!!

Response

There is a multitude of resources that you will want to explore that will assist you in recovering from ostomy surgery, and adapting to your ostomy.

The 4 basic keys to successful physical and emotional ostomy surgery recovery/support:

  • Follow your physician’s post-surgery plan (wound healing, follow up appointments, etc…)
  • Support
  • Right ostomy equipment for you
  • Healthy Diet

Physician Post Surgery Plan

Your physician(s), will assist you in what to expect post-surgery wound care/healing. Ask questions, such as;

What special care do I need to do to heal my surgery wound(s)?

What potential infection symptoms should I look out for, while my surgery wound(s) heal?

When should I start physical activity, and at what timetable pace should I reintroduce my activities?

When should I go back to work?

Support

Support is very important during your healing process, and beyond. There are many support resources available to you.

New and seasoned people with ostomies find value in connection with one another. There are many Ostomy Support Groups across Canada. Ostomy Canada Society chapters, satellites, and peer support groups have been organized, and are meant to provide an opportunity for persons who have had or may have ostomy surgery and their families, partners, caregivers and friends to meet, provide support and understanding and share information. I highly recommend contacting your local Ostomy Support group, they are your best resource for peer support and for assistance in locating a supplier for your ostomy equipment and products in or near your location, for example. Ostomy Chapters often invite a health care professional, such as a nurse who is specialized in ostomy care, a physician, pharmacist, or dietician to speak at the chapter meeting. There may also be a presentation from a representative of one of the manufacturers or suppliers of ostomy products.

To find a Support Group near you go to www.ostomycanada.ca. On top of the page, you will find the site menu, click on “Support”. At this time a drop-down menu will appear, click on “Find Your Local Ostomy Group”, and follow the instructions.

Another very valuable resource is the NSWOCNurses Specialized in Wound, Ostomy and Continence, there will be a nurse located close to you. The NSWOC is highly specialized with a wide range of knowledge and experience who work with ostomates and their ostomies. They are the go-to experts that will assist you in your healing process and ostomy care. To find an NSWOC professional in or near your location please click on this link – https://memberscaet.ca/find.phtml.

There are many ostomy support groups and forums on social media (i.e. Facebook), that you can explore that provide you with peer support.

Right Ostomy Equipment

Wearing the right ostomy equipment for your individuality is very important. Finding the right product mix for you may be a bit of a challenge though. There are many ostomy products and accessories that are designed to ensure good skin health and help prevent leakage. Every stoma is unique, so you will need to determine what is best for you.

The many ostomy equipment manufacturers can assist you in finding the right product(s) for you. Contact the manufacturer of your current equipment to start with, by phone or email, most of the manufacturers have experts on call who will discuss your concerns, provide advise/solutions on their products that are available, and in most cases send you a free sample to try, and then will follow up with you for your feedback. Try a number of manufactures/products if you feel the need to. The various ostomy equipment manufacturers provide excellent products.

The NSWOC can also assist you in finding the best equipment to suit your uniqueness.

Healthy Diet

As you heal and get on with the quality of life, there is dietary information you will want to be aware of.

Healthy Eating With A Stoma

 The impact of food and drink on your stoma is hard to predict as diet is very individual. Various surveys suggest that foods can affect people in different ways after stoma surgery. While many people find that they can eat just the same diet as before their surgery, some find there are things that can have an adverse effect on the activity of their stoma. They may then choose to avoid those foods, or include them in their diets and be prepared for the effects.

Many people report that a good way to ascertain which foods and drinks are suitable for them is to keep a food diary so that patterns between diet and stoma output can be identified. You can then base your diet on what you have observed to be agreeable in terms of stoma output. There may be a certain degree of trial and error, especially in the first few months after your stoma is formed when the bowel is swollen. This swelling (or edema) is the reason why a stoma may look puffy initially and can cause problems digesting food that would otherwise not occur, so it’s sometimes worth trying food again later on before deciding whether to eliminate from your diet completely.

Information about diet and healthy eating for the general public is often conflicting and difficult to interpret. Add to this a stoma and many people feel confused about what they should and shouldn’t be eating.

Most people with stomas do not need to change their diets and should follow a normal healthy eating pattern like the rest of the population. If you have recently had your surgery or have been unwell, ensuring that you get all the essential nutrients from your diet is even more important, and putting unnecessary restrictions on your diet could slow down your recovery and healing.

The purpose of the following information is to offer general information, for further information about diet, ask your physician to refer you to a dietician in order to explore any important factors to take into consideration regarding your individual stoma management and general wellbeing.

A balanced diet is made up of:

  • Starchy foods such as potatoes, rice & grains, bread, and pasta, for energy. Try different varieties, including wholemeal vs refined/white rice and pasta.
  • Fruit and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals and both soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre is found in the flesh of fruit & veg and can help lower cholesterol as well as make stool thicker, softer and easier to pass (helpful for those with a colostomy or ileostomy who wish to thicken their output). Insoluble fibre is found in the skins of fruit & veg and helps move waste through your bowel, so can help with constipation (helpful for those with a colostomy who experience pancaking and anyone who experiences constipation). If you have a colostomy or ileostomy, immediately after surgery foods containing insoluble fibre may make your stoma behave unpredictably, so you may wish to avoid or limit your intake of them. As your bowel adjusts you can re-introduce them and see how they affect you.
  • Protein-rich foods for growth and healing. Protein comes from meat, fish, eggs, soya and it is the substance we use to heal wounds and regain muscle.
  • To promote general wellbeing, fatty foods should be limited. However, if you are recovering from surgery or have a small appetite and need to gain weight, including more of these foods in the short term is a good idea.

Individual Differences

The vast majority of people with a urostomy (a stoma that passes urine) find that their food intake is unaffected by having a stoma, however, some food and medications can make urine discoloured or smelly (e.g. beetroot can make your urine pink and antibiotics and asparagus can make it smell strange).

Importance of chewing

It sounds very obvious, but it is vitally important to chewing food thoroughly when eating. Chewing is the first stage of digestion and in doing this we make more nutrients available from our food. Foods that contain cellulose such as nuts, grain, fruit & vegetables (particularly the skins) cannot be completely broken down in the digestive system. So, you may notice these coming through your stoma looking the way they did when you ate them. Immediately after bowel surgery, your bowel is swollen and this narrows the passageway for food to pass along.

Fluid Intake

It is essential for everyone to drink enough to keep their kidneys healthy and flush out the chemicals that build up in the blood. You should aim to drink enough throughout the day that your urine is a light straw colour. The following information is for the specific stoma types but does not take into account other medical conditions. If you have been given different information from your healthcare professionals please check with them before making any changes.

People with urostomies enjoy a few glasses of water a day. This will help to prevent infections.

If you have a colostomy, your fluid intake can remain as normal unless you are experiencing constipation or pancaking. If you have this problem, increasing your fluid intake can be really helpful.

People with ileostomies, particularly if the stoma is formed higher up in the bowel, can have more difficulties with their fluid intake. This is because it is the role of the large bowel to absorb water (and salt), and for people with ileostomies this is no longer being used. The small bowel will, with time, adapt to absorb more water and more salt, however careful attention should be paid to ensure that you are drinking an adequate, varied fluid intake to maintain kidney health. Remember, you are aiming for light straw coloured urine.

For those who are more active, it is even more important to pay attention to your fluid intake. Fluids are lost through sweating that contains electrolytes.

Everyone should bear in mind that alcohol is a dehydrating fluid and caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee cause you to lose more fluid in your urine. The majority of your fluid intake should, therefore, be from fluids such as water and fruit/vegetable drinks.

A little of what you fancy…

Of course, every now and again you will want to enjoy a treat like cake or ice cream and there is no reason why you can’t indulge once in a while! Healthy eating is about moderation and after stoma surgery, it is also about trial and error. Take your time to explore how different foods affect your stoma, chew your meals, maintain varied fluid intake and, most importantly, enjoy your food!

Some foods affect output. The effects may vary.

Basic Food Reference Chart

Stoma ObstructiveGas Producing
Apple peelsBeans
Cabbage rawSoy
Corn, whole kernelCabbage
CoconutCarbonated beverage
Dried fruitCauliflower
MushroomsCucumbers
PineappleDairy products
PopcornNuts
SeedsOnions
Radishes
Odour ProducingColour Changes
AsparagusAsparagus
Baked beansBeets
BroccoliFood colour
Cod liver oilIron pulls
EggsStrawberries
FishTomato sauces
GarlicCoffee
OnionsCooked fruits
Peanut butter
Strong cheese
Odour ControlIncreased Stool
ButtermilkWhole grains
Cranberry juiceBran cereals
Tomato juiceFresh fruits
YogurtGreen, leafy
Milk
Prunes
Raw vegetables
Diarrhea Control
Applesauce
Bananas
Peanut butter
Tapioca
Basic Food Reference Chart for people living with an ostomy
J. Tremblay

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay
THE OSTOMY FACTOR Blog-joannltremblay.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK – Author Jo-Ann L. Tremblay
TWITTER @joanntremblay
Author of “The Self-Coaching Toolbox”, “Better With A Bag Than In A Bag”

Our friends over at Nurses Specialized In Wound, Ostomy And Continence Canada [NSWOCC] (formerly called The Canadian Association for Enterostomal Therapy (CAET)) have renamed their handy look-up page on their website. It was formerly called “Find An ET Nurse” and is now called “Find a NSWOC“. Click on the image to the left or link here to go to their site.

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