Ostomy surgery is often a life-saving procedure; however, the aftermath can also be life-changing. Learning to adapt to your normal life with an ostomy bag can be challenging at times. You will not be the last person on Earth to find living with an ostomy bag difficult, nor will you be the first to let it defeat you. All you must keep in mind is that practice makes perfect. In this article, we will teach you not only how to adapt to life with an ostomy, but how to thrive whilst doing so.
First, let’s uncover some of the reasons why people undergo ostomy surgery. This type of surgery affects the human digestive system and is conducted due to cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, birth defects, diverticulitis, or an array of other medical conditions. This operation involves surgically creating a stoma on the abdomen that will allow bodily waste to pass through and enter a prosthetic more commonly known as an ‘ostomy bag’ or ‘pouch’.
Once doctors have informed you that you can go back to your normal eating habits, there are some recommendations that you should follow to make the transition to an ostomy pouch all the easier. In the initial days try to stick to clear liquids, like broth, and easy to digest solids, like toast or oatmeal. You can eventually go back to your normal diet, however, to make ostomy bag easier to manage, it is recommended that you avoid certain foods that can cause odor or gas.
More specifically, try to avoid foods like raw vegetables, dairy products, beans, legumes, corn, brown rice, alcohol, carbonated beverages, garlic, high-fat foods, and sugary treats like cake. Instead, try to indulge in foods that will minimize odors and thicken the stool. This includes items like white toast, sticky white rice, creamy peanut butter, applesauce, bananas, cranberry juice, and active yogurt. Doctors also recommend that you chew your food thoroughly and that you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Different foods will have different effects on people; therefore, you can see how certain foods will affect you at home before you eat them in public.
Cleaning your stoma is an essential part of learning to adapt to life with an ostomy. Don’t be afraid to get to grips with your new body part. Although the stoma is typically dark pink or reddish in color, you may find a little blood near the surface which is completely normal. To clean your stoma, simply use tap water and cotton wool, or medical wipes. Refrain from using any soap or baby wipes as this could irritate the tissue.
A common problem that patients find is that the skin surrounding the stoma is often red, broken, and irritated. This becomes an even greater issue as irritated skin can negatively affect how your bag sticks onto the skin, which in turn, can cause issues like leaks and further irritated skin. Therefore it is crucial that you keep your peristomal skin healthy with an ostomy powder, cream, or barrier ring. These are all great ways to care for your skin and relieve irritation. Keep in mind that your stoma may fluctuate in size and make sure to account for these changes.
Understandably, living with a stoma is a big lifestyle change to get used to, so don’t be shy if you wish to seek out emotional support. You must remember that you are not the only one in this situation. You can find support groups online, exchange tips, and connect with other individuals who are in the exact same position as you. Adversely, you could seek out professional help from a therapist who can guide you through what you are feeling and help you manage your emotions. In general, your ostomy shouldn’t inhibit you from having fun, being confident, and leading a totally normal life.
As long as you are in good health, the world is your oyster. Living with an ostomy pouch may take a while to adjust to, however, by no means should this keep you from socializing, working, eating, traveling, or even playing sports. If anything, this procedure should grant you a better quality of life, providing that you take care of your ostomy correctly. If you are struggling, make sure to reach out to a qualified therapist or even find yourself a group of people who are experiencing the same issues. Just remember, you can get through this and live your life to the fullest – no matter what!