FAQs from the IA website forum

What should my stoma look like?

At first, a pinkish red blob protruding a few centimeters from the abdomen, which after 1-2 months should shrink to about the size of a 50p piece or smaller. It may not be exactly round, it will always be moist, and it may occasionally bleed slightly if touched.

Will it smell?

Having a stoma does not increase odour. Modern stoma bags are odour-proof. You can gain extra confidence and reassurance if you wish by using one of the deodorizing products available nowadays. You can also take care with what you eat as some foods cause more odour than others – eg. eggs and fish.

What can I eat and drink?

Try to keep to a regular well-balanced diet. It is important to take plenty of fluid in order to prevent dehydration. Some extra salt should be taken as more salt is lost through a stoma than usual. You can help prevent wind by chewing food well (thus taking less air into the digestive system) and by taking care which foods you eat as some create extra wind in the gut (eg. beans, cabbage). Alcoholic drinks (wine and spirit) can be taken in moderation, as can beer and lager, however the latter may produce extra wind. In the early days with your stoma, it is best to eat small, appetizing meals.

Will I get food blockages?

Blockages can sometimes be caused by eating certain high-fibre or less digestible foods such as nuts, sweet corn, celery, or mushrooms. You will know if you have a blockage by experiencing colicky pain, and stoma output will either cease or become watery. If a blockage occurs, stop taking solid food but try to continue taking fluids. If the problem persists more than a few hours, contact your doctor or nurse specialist.

How should I empty my drainable ileostomy bag?

Whilst a few people prefer to stand or kneel in front of the toilet bowl, the majority of men and women sit just down in the usual way. There are no rights or wrongs – do what you are most comfortable with.

How should I dispose of my used stoma bags?

Drainable ileostomy bags should first be emptied in the usual way, and then after removal from the abdomen wrapped in a paper or plastic bag and placed in the household waste. Do NOT attempt to flush used bags down the toilet as this will probably cause plumbing problems.

Can I go back to work?

In the vast majority of cases, yes. However do not try to do too much too quickly – although stoma surgery is more routine nowadays in many hospitals, the formation of an ileostomy or internal pouch still represents major surgery, and you should pace yourself in your recovery accordingly. Your specialist nurse will advise. It will vary from person to person as to the length of time he or she feels fit enough to return to work, the average probably being 2-3 months. If possible, return on a part-time basis, or with lighter than usual duties, as this will help the recovery process. The same rule of thumb applies to performing housework, sports, or hobbies.

Can I go on holiday?

A. Most certainly. However do allow a reasonable period of time for recovery, and consider taking short trips to begin with in order to regain confidence in the management of your stoma away from the familiar surroundings of your home. If you travel abroad, details of obtaining travel insurance may be found elsewhere in this website, or from IA National Office.

Why do I still sometimes experience rectal pain, or discharge from the rectum?

Following ileostomy surgery, a condition known as “phantom rectum” is not uncommon, even if the rectum has been completely removed. The situation normally resolves itself after the wound has fully healed, but it can last several months. If the rectum has not been removed, a feeling of wanting to open the bowels may occur, and sometimes the normal bowel secretion of mucus may be passed. If either situation becomes troublesome, you should contact your nurse specialist.