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Questions About Living with a Colostomy

answers to your frequently asked questions about living with a colostomy

Are you living with a colostomy? Or have you been diagnosed with severe inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or bowel cancer? If your doctor has suggested colostomy surgery as a possible solution to your medical issues, you probably have some about colostomies, such as what it will be like to have a colostomy bag.

It’s natural to have some concerns. However, while colostomy surgery may seem intimidating, it can often dramatically improve the quality of life for many individuals with ostomies. Let’s go over some of the most common questions and concerns about life with a colostomy, including how to care for yourself after colostomy surgery and which colostomy products may be best for your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Living with a Colostomy

Here are five FAQs about colostomies.

1. First, what is a colostomy?

A colostomy is a surgery performed to remove all or a part of the colon (large intestine). Typically, an ostomy surgeon will make an opening from the large intestine to the outside of the abdomen. Next, they will create a new conduit from the bowels to the surface of the skin where waste can exit the body. This new opening is a stoma.

Why is a colostomy necessary? It’s typically a last resort for people who are dealing with severe Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or bowel cancer. Some people also require colostomy surgery after an injury to the bowels or certain congenital disorders.

Now you’re probably wondering, will you be able to control when your stoma releases stool? Unfortunately, no. Your new colostomy has no controlling muscles. Therefore, the body will release your stool as necessary.

Luckily, you have options for collecting your body waste, which will typically consist of either a one-piece colostomy pouch with a skin barrier attached or a two-piece colostomy pouching system. This will include a separate colostomy bag. Then you can choose which type of ostomy skin barrier (wafer) suits your skin and stoma best. Your new ostomy pouch will collect your waste as it exits the body. Then you’ll just empty your pouch as needed.

2. How do I care for my new colostomy after ostomy surgery?

After your ostomy surgery, your treating doctor or ostomy nurse will discuss your new stoma in detail with you. They’ll probably tell you how to care for your new stoma, including peristomal skincare. Plus, they’ll talk to you about how to pouch your new colostomy as well as how to change your colostomy bag.

However, the ostomy support doesn’t end there when you choose 180 Medical for your ostomy needs. Our caring team of Ostomy Specialists is ready to help you find the right ostomy products that will ultimately improve your quality of life. We can help troubleshoot any issues you’re experiencing with your current colostomy supplies. Plus, we can even provide you with access to a team of certified ostomy nurses if you have questions that require medical advice.

In addition, we offer free colostomy product samples so you can try and choose the right supplies for your unique needs. Just contact us to get started!

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3. What are some common colostomy problems I should watch for?

After your colostomy surgery, it may take some trial and error as you get used to your new pouching routine. People who are living with a colostomy sometimes encounter issues such as stool leakage under the skin barrier, skin irritation around the stoma, or pouch odors.

We encourage you to check out our Common Ostomy Issues article series, which goes over how to troubleshoot these colostomy problems in more detail. However, we can assure you that most of the common issues people experience with their colostomy are temporary.

The most important part of living with your new colostomy will be in taking care of yourself, such as eating an appropriately healthy diet, consuming enough water, and using the right ostomy products for your unique needs. With time and practice, you’ll learn how your new stoma works as well as how frequently you’ll need to change or empty your colostomy bag.

4. How will living with a colostomy affect my life?

Living with a colostomy may mean that you have to make a few changes to your life and daily routine. However, that’s not always the case. For example, many people fear they’ll have to give up their favorite foods, give up intimate relationships, or forego exercise and swimming. These are common ostomy myths. Let’s go over these a bit more in detail.

Will I have to change my diet after colostomy surgery?

Your doctor or ostomy nurse will let you know if you need to change your diet in any way. However, most people find they can eat just about anything as long as it doesn’t cause allergic reactions or blockages. Some people find it’s best to chew their food better after ostomy surgery.

Also, you may want to watch out for certain foods that are prone to causing gas or unpleasant smells, such as cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli) or sugary foods.

You may also want to monitor your medication since some over-the-counter and prescription drugs can cause constipation, diarrhea, or stomach upset.

Will I have to give up swimming or exercise with a colostomy?

No! Many of 180 Medical’s ostomy customers live very active lives. In fact, one of our customers has even gone sky-diving with their ostomy. You may have to make additional considerations such as using an ostomy belt or skin barriers or ostomy accessories that make pouching more waterproof or sweatproof before exercising or swimming with an ostomy.

Also, make sure you get your doctor’s okay before engaging in any physical activity after ostomy surgery.

Will I still be able to wear normal clothes with an ostomy?

Yes. Most people find that they can still wear all their old favorite clothes after their ostomy surgery, depending on the location of their stoma on their abdomen. However, you may want to avoid anything that fits too tightly over the pouch. For example, you may not want to wear tight jeans directly over your pouch.

Many people find it helpful to wear ostomy wraps or fitted tanks underneath their clothes, which can help conceal and secure their colostomy pouch.

Will I be able to have an intimate relationship or date with a colostomy?

Yes, absolutely. Having an ostomy doesn’t mean it’s the end of dating, relationships, or physical intimacy. You can learn more about this in our special guide to intimacy after ostomy surgery.

5. What colostomy supplies should I use?

At 180 Medical, we specialize in ostomy supplies along with intermittent catheters. Because we’re specialists at what we do, our staff truly understands the challenges that often come with living with a colostomy. That’s why we make sure to train our Ostomy Specialists on the high-quality colostomy supplies we offer as well as the conditions that often impact our customers’ lives. We offer a variety of high-quality colostomy skin barriers, colostomy pouches, and colostomy accessories. We’re ready to provide you with the caring customer support you need.

Ready to experience the 180 Medical difference? Contact us to learn more about your colostomy supply options.
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About the Author
Questions About Living with a Colostomy
Jessica is the Sr. Marketing Specialist at 180 Medical, and she has been with the company for over 14 years now. She loves getting to be creative in her role and hearing from customers about the positive impact we've made on their lives.

Outside of work, you can find her hanging out with her husband and their dogs or browsing garden centers (where she will almost certainly buy another houseplant she doesn't really need).