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It takes time to adjust to an ostomy. But you will be able to
work, participate in sports and physical activities, be intimate with your
partner, and resume your social life after an ostomy.
Most medicine is absorbed in the small intestine. If you have an
ostomy, how well a medicine is absorbed depends on how much functioning
intestine you have and the form of the medicine. Coated pills and time-release
medicines may pass through the intestine too quickly to be absorbed. If
possible, use liquid medicines. Tell all your health professionals (doctors and
pharmacist) about the type of ostomy you have and the location of the stoma
(the exposed end of the intestine). Your doctor can help you
determine the best form of medicine for you and whether you need to vary the
If your rectum has been removed, carry a card with you that states
that you cannot be given rectal
suppositories or have your temperature taken
After surgery, your diet will gradually move from a largely liquid
diet to your previous diet. This transition generally takes about 6 weeks.
Foods that were not always fully digested before your surgery—such as corn—will
remain undigested, and you will notice them in your ostomy pouch. This is
If your colon (large intestine) was removed, you will lose more water, because the stool
no longer passes through the large intestine where water is
absorbed. Your doctor may recommend that you drink more fluids each day
and that you not restrict salt (sodium) in your diet. If a large part of your small intestine was removed (as well as your colon), you may need to pay
attention to your diet to make sure you get enough potassium, sodium, and other essential nutrients. Your
doctor may recommend a vitamin or mineral supplement.
Some foods may cause odor, gas, or diarrhea, and some may cause an
obstruction in an
You will probably be able to continue in your present job. The only
types of work that you may not be able to perform are those requiring heavy
lifting. Talk with your doctor to learn about
any occupational limitations you may need to consider.
You will probably be able to wear the same clothing. Tight clothes
will not hurt your stoma. If you have trouble hiding your ostomy pouch, or if
it shows through your clothing, your wound, ostomy, and continence nurse may
You can continue to travel. Empty or change your ostomy pouch before
beginning your trip. When traveling by plane, bring extra ostomy supplies in
carry-on baggage, not checked baggage. If traveling by car, store your supplies
in a cool place.
You will be able to have intimacy and sexual relations. An ostomy
does not affect sexual function. Sexual activity, hugging, and other forms of
affection will not hurt your stoma. You may want to consider getting a cover
for your ostomy pouch so that waste is not visible.
Many of the problems relating to intimacy may be more emotional than
physical. You may be concerned with ability, body image, and what others think.
See your doctor, counselor, or a therapist for help coping with
any problems concerning intimacy or your self-image.
Women with ostomies can become pregnant. But talk with your
doctor about how much time is needed after surgery before becoming
Immediately after the ostomy, your activities will be restricted to
ensure healing. Guidelines for this period include:
After this period you should be able to resume normal activities.
Noncontact activities, such as swimming, hiking, camping, and tennis, should be
no problem. If you had an exercise routine, talk to your doctor
about when you can restart it and whether it is possible to participate in
contact sports, such as football, karate, and basketball, which could result in
injury to the stoma.
October 8, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
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