Living With An Ostomy: Things To Know

You can live a healthy and active life with your ostomy. An ostomy indeed brings a significant change in lifestyle by necessitating a person to wear an ostomy bag the entire time, but learning how to manage this pouching system is just a matter of time. After that, ostomy management becomes just like second nature.

In this article, we will discuss how you can live with an ostomy.

Will people know about your ostomy?

Wearing an ostomy pouch causes a bulge that becomes noticeable sometimes, but choosing the right pouching system and clothes can help you conceal your ostomy pouching system well enough. Certain wraps and clothing options make the area look flat. You can talk about these options with your ostomy care nurse.

The best thing about a correctly placed pouching system is that it doesn’t let the stomal output, its gas, and odor to escape from the pouch. It means that you can walk around in the marketing and go into your social circle without worrying about your ostomy bag causing problems.

The fluid intake

Most people wonder about the amount of water they will need to drink to cope with the loss of body fluids with stool evacuations. The required amount of fluids will depend on the amount of bowel removed. If you still retain a part of the colon, you may not need to drink plenty of water to mitigate the risk of dehydration. With an ileostomy, on the other hand, you will need to drink plenty of water, because an ileostomy generally results in the more watery waste evacuation.

Food restrictions

An ostomy doesn’t necessitate any particular food restrictions. The diet plan you will need to follow after surgery will be to prevent any problem in a more vulnerable bowel. As soon as your bowel recovers, you can return to your old diet plan. If you had been following a specific diet plan before surgery due to a medical condition, you are going to have to keep following it after surgery.

Impact of an ostomy on physical activity

Having an ostomy doesn’t mean that you have to say goodbye to your physical activity regimen. You may have to avoid strenuous physical activities during the first few weeks after surgery, but you can return to the running track as soon as your bowel recovers.

Taking a bath while wearing a pouch

You can take a bath with or without the ostomy appliance on. The seal between the ostomy barrier and the peristomal skin is generally waterproof. After showering, you can clean your ostomy barrier. If you prefer taking a bath without wearing an ostomy pouch, you can do that without worrying about the water damaging your stoma.

Taking care of the skin around your stoma

If you have a stoma, you are going to have to take good care of the skin around it. Good health of the peristomal skin is mandatory for the skin barrier to make a tighter seal. Before applying the skin barrier, you will need to make sure that the peristomal skin is clean and dry. While applying the flange, make sure that you are leaving no space under the skin barrier that could result in a leakage. You can learn about how to apply an ostomy pouch from your ostomy care nurse.

Fishing Trip with an Ostomy

If there is one thing I really like doing it is being in the outdoors. Personally I am not too concerned with what I am doing as much as where I am doing it.  I love simply to be out and enjoying nature.  So when I thought that my ostomy surgery was going to prevent me from actually being able to go on extended fishing trips I was a big bummed.  But it turns out that thinking this was actually a problem was a mistake.  There really is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to live life almost exactly the same with an ostomy.  So I am indeed planning on a great fishing trip this fall and it will be excellent.  There are a few things that I will want to bring along and of course that is some extra ostomy supplies.  I have been in trips where everything has gotten wet before so bringing a second set of ostomy supplies and keeping them waterproof is indeed important.

So my plan is to go on a boundary waters trip this year with some friends.  It is going to be a wild adventure in the candaian boundary waters.  I have been to this location many times and found it to be some of the most wild and untouched wilderness in the world.  It is a seriosues of lakes that are untouched by motorized vehicles and in general not well traveled by people.  It is a place that is rather remote and many people simply find it too difficult to have fun in.  That is why it is the perfect place to go on a fishing trip. 

The water is generally untouched by humans and is so clear and clean.  You can catch and live on fish for weeks.  That is actually the plan and with a group of around 8 people we are taking four canoes into the wild for two weeks.  Last time I was up there a tornado ran through the entire location we were going through.  It left a ferocious amount of destruction and ended up taking lots of our supplies along with it. So being prepared and making sure to not leave to much gear in one place at one time is important.

You never know when a 150 mile an hour wind will take your tent and 300lbs of gear in it and fling it 400 yards through trees and into a lake.  Ya that happened and I hope it doesn happen again. 

House work with an Ostomy

Being stuck inside the house a little more than normal this year has led me to some interesting thoughts.  This year I have been told to work from home.  The pandemic has created a major change in life for me and in some ways it has been fantastic.  Being told to work from home has left me with hours more each day to be home.  I know that sounds strange but I don’t have to drive to work or get stuck in traffic anymore.  I am also not able to go to the gym so spending extra time working on the house has been a priority. 

Now working on the house with an ostomy is something that you have to get used to. The idea that your life has to change once you get an ostomy procedure and end up with a stoma is not necessarily true.  You just have an extra step or two to do each day and carry along some ostomy supplies and a bag with an attachment with you.  But I do try to be a little more careful when I am working on the house.

So when I am doing tasks like painting I am a bit more careful.  Our house has wooden siding instead of brick or aluminum siding so it requires a lair of paint to be put on every few years.  So the exterior of our house has some challenges and stretching constantly with a stoma is not the best idea because it causes more friction.  Well lots of things cause friction and that is why some of us prefer spending extra money on a good pair of underwear as well. 

So when painting I try not to stretch too much.  For obvious reasons I don’t want my abdomen getting rubbed in weird ways too often. So I like to take a few extra precautions.  This means if you are rolling paint and in my case I was rolling lots of paint. I got an extension for the roller.  I found that they were ranging from 6 dollars for a five foot extension to 30 plus dollars for one that went 10 to 20 feet.  I would have to say it is worth spending the extra money to get a longer extension device for painting.  When you are rolling you don’t want your ostomy supplies getting knocked around constantly. So by using that extra roller extension life gets a lot easier. Stay safe and enjoy working on your home!

Walking Dogs with an Ostomy

One thing I really wasn’t told was how to deal with pets when you get an ostomy.  I love my dogs and would never get rid of them and to be honest my ostomy nurse and surgeon were fantastic.  I just didn’t think to tell them I had dogs.  I have two little dogs but let me tell you they have some strength to them. One is a lovely Yorkshire Terrier and the other is a Scottish Terrier. Now the Yorki is a very hyper dog who is very one track minded.  The Scotty is on the opposite end of the spectrum.  He is very calm and concerned but also has the most killer instinct.  That goes along with his nature of being a true hunting animal.  The Scotty is also very loyal and to a fault he is a protector.  So how does it stand to go outside with my dogs and my ostomy supplies all at the same time?  It can be a bit difficult and there are a few things I should have done better.

First thing I needed to do was to train my dogs better from the start.  My wife and I see two different sides to walking dogs.  I have always had very well trained dogs that walk beside me and do not run off after anything.  My wife grew up with the idea that dogs are wild and should be free when they are on a leash.  I was used to using a 6 foot leash and even running with my dogs on a daily basis.

My wife always used a 30 foot retractable leash so they could run wild and be free.  Well lets face it our dogs we got together were not well trained 6 foot leash dogs.  They are basically wild pulling animals and my wife hates it when I attempt to keep them in line.  So they would always pull and yank and get involved with my ostomy supplies on me and it became a big problem. 

This does not mean you need to be mean and treat the dogs like they are doing wrong.  They were trained by us to be more wild and it is not their fault.  But what it meant was more training by us and using lots and lots of treats for them to change their ways.  I had to be able to walk them and take them out when needed so we took lots of time and my wife had to do a lot of it to start to train them to behave on a leash.  No more wild Yorki and Scotty for us. So train your dogs well and don’t let them pull you and injury you. Get them trained by a family member or even a professional trainer if you have to. Stay safe and ask you healthcare professional about your pet situation. 

Don’t let Your Stoma keep you home

I know that learning about having a surgery is tough.  In 2021 it can be the most lonely experience of your life and be really hard.  When you first find out that you are getting an ostomy lots of words are thrown out.  Phrases like bags, and poop everywhere, and so many other terms that you go nuts.  It really is a lot to learn and it is best to become a professional at it as fast as possible.  So yes, I feel like I am a dermatologist now because I deal with my stoma and keep my skin super healthy. But what I really think of when it comes to the phrase ostomy care is more like care for my own well-being.  When people get an ostomy some really don’t change their life that much and get back on to doing things normally.  But there are some people that make it really hard and get really afraid of situations.  No, it’s not just introverted. It hits extraverts really hard too because they think it will cut their personal ties with people or make things weird. So some people clam up and go inside and stop being as social. Really it’s not even the social aspect some just stop going outside and doing fun things they used to do.  There is real pain there and it is something not to be taken lightly.

There are a few different ways to look at it or aspects to take.  To me staying healthy is not just a mental situation but a physical one as well.  So if you have a stoma just know that you can be basically just as active as you used to be.  It just takes time to build back up to where you were. You just had surgery and your abdominal muscles are not as strong.  This does make you more prone to a hernia than normal. So if you used to run 5k’s don’t jump directly back in.  You need to be wise and calm.  This means you have to start off at a slower rate.

It should not take a genius to know that you need to gradually get back into it.   If you have ever had an injury before, like spraining an ankle or pulling a hamstring. You know that it takes time to get back into your old routine. Even getting really sick throws your whole game off.  For me, it takes weeks to get my cardio back up to where it was before I got a winter cold or even the flu.  So what makes you think an ostomy is any different? Really that is how you want to think about it.

So if you ran 5k’s now walk around your neighborhood first.  Make sure your new ostomy bag is working properly and then walk more the next week.  Then maybe jog to the end of the block and see how it goes.  If it goes really well don’t overdo it.  Start at a quarter of a mile.  Ya, it seems like you don’t need to take it that slow but just do yourself a favor and build back up slowly. No one likes an injury. So stay healthy mentally and physically.  There is a lot to being normal and having a normal life and being active is part of it.