Life after an Ostomy
An ostomy can take a number of different forms including a Colostomy and Ileostomy, but in all cases it is a surgical procedure to create an opening in your abdomen, so that your body can continue to remove waste or urine from your body.
An ostomy is only undertaken when damage or disease means that your body is no longer able to complete the natural digestive process. An ostomy is often part of a greater surgical process, where part of the digestive system is removed. Although the thought of an ostomy may seem unpleasant, even terrifying, it is often a life saving process which offers you the best opportunity of resuming your former lifestyle.
As with any surgery, there is a period of recovery following an ostomy. During this time, you will need to allow your body time to repair and regain strength. This can mean significant changes to your lifestyle, but it also allows you time to process what has happened, learn about ostomy care and start the process of adapting to the new you.
Ostomy care is a priority for anyone wanting to lead a normal life. You will be shown how to keep the opening, known as a stoma, clean and protected from damage or infection. You will also be introduced to products such as ostomy bags and shown how to fit, empty and detach them. You should follow all care instructions to ensure that you remain in good health.
Initially you may feel quite restricted in what you can do; you will need time off work with minimal activity and a greater focus on your personal health. As you start to recover, you will gradually be able to introduce more normal activities into your daily routine.
Eating and Drinking
Your doctor will advise on diet and when you can resume eating and drinking as normal. As before, there will be certain foods that affect you in certain ways, so you may choose to make decisions on if, when and where you consume those items. For example, you may have always decided to avoid raw onions or coffee before a meeting. With greater awareness of the waste leaving your body, you may now decide to avoid things that lead to urine odour, such as asparagus or alcohol when you know you may be in close contact with others.
Drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy diet is important for everyone’s health, but for those recovering from an ostomy, it is even more vital. Over time you will learn which foods are best when, so you avoid any adverse effects. You can then focus on enjoying meals out with friends rather than your body.
Sports and Activity
If you enjoy high impact sports and heavy weight lifting, then you may need to make changes to your lifestyle following an ostomy, as these can increase the risk of injury. For most other sports, you will be able to get back involved as soon as you are recovered from surgery. Products such as special belts and binders can help to keep ostomy bags secure and in place, so you can confidently take part in a range of sports including running, swimming, tennis or a friendly rounder’s match.
You are likely to feel very conscious of your ostomy bag at first, but again you will get used to it, so you can simply enjoy the sport and competition again. More intimate activity including sex may also take some time to adapt to, but there is no reason why this can’t continue. At times when you are feeling awkward or uncomfortable in an intimate setting, it is important to remember that this is a life saving operation that gives you the best hope of a normal life.