7 Tips for Living With a Colostomy

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Catherine Spader on September 6, 2020
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    Living a Full, Active Life With a Colostomy
    It will take time to adjust and learn to manage the changes a colostomy brings to your life. Most people with a colostomy can enjoy many of their favorite foods and activities, including outdoor activities, swimming, travel, social gatherings, sex, and work. Here are seven tips to help you lead a full and active life with a colostomy.
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    1. Tap into Support and Resources
    A specially trained ostomy nurse will help you manage your colostomy. Your nurse will teach you how to care for your colostomy and help you transition back into an active life. Ostomy nurses are also valuable resources who provide referrals to supportive services, such as support groups, discussion boards, and colostomy suppliers. Another good resource is the United Ostomy Associations of America ( www.ostomy.org).
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    2. Give Yourself Time to Heal and Adjust
    It takes practice and patience to learn to care for a colostomy. This can be quite a challenge, especially in the first 4 to 6 weeks after surgery when you are recovering. Many people have difficulty with their body image and feelings of loss or sadness. You may also be anxious about how your colostomy may affect your relationships. Try to communicate openly with your friends and family about what it’s like to have a colostomy. Talk with your doctor or ostomy nurse about your concerns. With their guidance, your anxiety will resolve over time.
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    3. Adapt to New Bowel Habits
    Colostomy stool is often softer than stool passed through the rectum. You may also pass more gas and have more frequent bowel movements than you did before surgery. Constipation can also occur. These changes will become more predictable as you heal and learn to manage your colostomy.
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    4. Adjust Your Diet
    You may need to alter your diet as your body heals after surgery. Small, low-fiber meals work best in the beginning. Gradually, you’ll be able to increase the types and amounts of food you eat. Foods affect everyone differently. Your ostomy nurse will help you choose the foods that work best for you. Most people transition back to their normal diet over time.
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    5. Find a Colostomy System That Works for You
    There are several colostomy pouching systems. You will go home with a disposable system and other supplies. You’ll have a disposable collection pouch, which fits over the stoma and collects stool. After your colostomy heals, you may want to choose another system that is better adapted to your lifestyle. Your ostomy nurse will help you choose the system that is right for you. Your ostomy nurse will also connect you with colostomy suppliers who accept your insurance.
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    6. Wear Versatile Clothing
    You will be able to dress as comfortably and stylishly as you did before surgery. Many modern pouching systems are unnoticeable under clothing, even form-fitting styles. You may need to make slight adjustments depending on the location of your colostomy. This may include choosing higher or lower waistbands and switching to a one-piece bathing suit.
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    7. Return to Your Favorite Activities and Exercise
    You may find it intimidating to get back to your regular routine after a colostomy. Your doctor and ostomy nurse will help you return to an active life after surgery. Most people resume their activities and exercise routines, including work, sexual activity, and sports, even swimming, running and skiing. You may have restrictions on lifting heavy weights or contact sports, such as hockey. However, there are special ostomy supplies that may still allow you to participate in some contact sports. Talk with your ostomy nurse for more information.
7 Tips for Living With a Colostomy

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 6
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.