Life with an Ostomy: Hacks to Living with Your New Stoma
Written By: Lauren Beach
I can’t believe it’s almost been ten years since I woke up in a hospital bed with an ileostomy bag – a day I will never forget. After battling Crohn’s Disease for nearly half of my life, the ostomy bag initially came with a major shock-factor, (this was done via emergency surgery), but with a few years’ experience, some trial and error, and the freedom the bag gave me to start living my life, I began to love my new body. I’ve rounded up a few of my most helpful tips and learnings from life with an ostomy, to help new ostomates adjust to their bags.
- I used to think I’d never be able to wear jeans, a bathing suit, or tight-fitting clothing ever again. Boy, was I wrong. At the time, it felt as if the changes in fashion timed up perfectly with my new life with a bag. Nowadays, there are SO many high-waisted styles such as “mom jeans”, full coverage leggings, and one-piece or high-brief bikinis that offer the support and comfort when looking for stylish options to camouflage your bag. In addition, I’ve found a few helpful undergarment sites with things like ostomy wraps or Spanx-like undies to help keep your bag concealed when opting for a tighter-fitting dress or top.
- Hydration, hydration, hydration. Looking back to my life pre-ostomy, I found it extremely difficult to keep up with my water-intake. I often felt nauseous due to my Crohn’s and sometimes, even felt like drinking water would add to my seemingly never-ending trips to the bathroom. Flash forward to life without a colon, and water has turned into one of my best friends. I like to always keep an extra-large water bottle with me that is easy to re-fill and helps me stay on track. Your new colon-less body will absorb less fluid, and if you’re like me, you may lose electrolytes through watery output. I also like to mix in an electrolyte supplement once or twice a day to boost hydration and replenish my body.
- Chew Your Food. Did you know the digestion process starts the second a piece of food enters your mouth? While having an ostomy has allowed me to eat a wider variety of foods than I could prior to my ostomy, as I am no longer running to the bathroom, it’s also given me a set of watchouts. Without a colon, my body must work a bit harder to digest foods, so it’s important to chew anything a little extra that may be considered more difficult to break down such as raw fruits and veggies. Slow and steady wins the race. I even like to add a few supplements to help balance out the foods I cannot eat in their raw form. That’s where IBD Assist comes in for me.
- Time Your Bag Changes. Speaking of food, I’ve also learned to schedule my eating around the time I need to change my ostomy appliance. The same goes for sleeping. I find that if I change my bag first thing in the morning (before I’ve eaten anything), my stoma is less active, thus, less chance for an accident. I also like to make sure I stop eating a few hours before bed and make sure to empty right before I intend to sleep so I do not have to get up in the night.
- Always carry extra supplies. I can’t stress this one enough. While having an ostomy has given me my life back (I am no longer worried about not finding a bathroom), I won’t lie and say everything is always glittery with the ostomy all the time. The truth is, leaks can happen. And for me, they usually happen when I least expect it (during the night, when I’m out at a restaurant, or in the middle of the workday). It’s important to always have extra bags and barriers in case you need to change your appliance in a pinch. I like to carry a cute cosmetic case to carry my supplies and always make room for it in my purse. You can never be too prepared!