Your Lifestyle

Diet & exercise

Learn to understand what foods are best for your stoma and enjoyable to eat.

Everyone reacts differently to certain foods, regardless of whether or not they have a stoma. For you, the best option is to have a varied diet where all food groups are eaten in moderation to aid recovery and good health. Following your surgery you will probably discover which foods may cause an upset or ‘windy’ stoma and when to avoid eating them.

Food management after surgery

After surgery, it is important to resume a healthy diet to promote healing and regain any weight that you may have lost. However, while recovering, you may not have a great appetite so the following tips may help:

  • Eat small, frequent meals (5-6 daily)
  • Chew food thoroughly to aid digestion
  • Reintroduce your favourite foods slowly
  • Meat and dairy products are rich in protein so are recommended for healing

Daily food management

After your initial recovery period you may have regained your appetite and be ready to eat a varied diet. These tips are good to keep in mind:

  • Eat 3-4 meals daily, at regular intervals
  • Eat a varied diet, spread across all food groups
  • Drink plenty of fluids. It is advisable to drink around 2 litres of fluid a day to keep hydrated
  • Try to avoid eating late at night as this can make your pouch fill up quickly and interrupt your sleep to empty it

Exercise

Following surgery the thought of exercise may be the last thing on your mind, however, exercise can aid recovery and help you feel better, quicker. It is important to start off slowly. Walking is an excellent gentle exercise that you can do daily with friends, family or alone. Gradually increase the distance and pace as you get stronger and fitter. Brisk walking is a great way to stay fit.

Abdominal support garments can give extra support to your muscle wall during exercise. These support garments reduce the risk of causing injury and a hernia developing. For lighter support try a Pelican Support Waistband. If you require a firmer support, take a look at Eakin Support Belts. HiLine also provide support wear garments and belts. Make sure you stay hydrated before, during and after exercise.

Always speak to your GP or stoma care nurse before you start more strenuous sporting activities. It is recommended that support garments are worn for the first three months following surgery.

Sex & relationships

When it comes to sex, it is important that you feel comfortable with your partner; communication and trust are key to establishing a sexual relationship after your surgery.

Don’t be afraid to open up and to acknowledge how you are feeling, discuss your thoughts with your partner. Recognising these feelings and sharing them will help in your recovery.

Allow enough time for healing before trying to regain your full sex life but do not forget about touching, kissing and sharing a bed as these can all help providing intimacy that you and your partner need.

Once you have gone through your initial recovery period and feel ready to start having sex again do not rush yourself, find what you are comfortable with and remember to communicate with your partner. You might find it useful to experiment with different positions to find one that you are both comfortable with. Many ostomates find that a side-by-side position works well as it allows the pouch to hang down to the side and not come between them and their partner.

It is advisable to empty or change your pouch before beginning sexual activity. It may even be possible for you to wear a smaller more discreet pouch such as a Pelican ModaVi with its discretion fold, or even a Pelican Select Minuet Stoma Cap or Minuet Plus. There is also specialist underwear available to help make you feel more comfortable and to improve your confidence in how you look.

Pelican offer Pelican Support Waistbands, these are perfect for a smoother body shape for those intimate moments.

Travel advice

Holidays are good for rest and relaxation and you can be confident of being able to enjoy one as soon as you feel ready.

Don’t be tempted to travel too far too soon. Give your body time to recover and give yourself time to find out the effect of different foods on your shortened digestive system.

Take a little time to plan ahead to ensure that your holiday will be as trouble free as possible.

The following information will help you:

Travel Insurance 

If you are holidaying in hot or humid conditions, you may wish to take a cool bag with you to protect your pouches. Alternatively, store your pouches in the coolest part of your holiday accommodation.

European/Global Health Insurance Card

If you are travelling to a country in the European Union (EU), make sure you obtain a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) in addition to your private health insurance. If travelling to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland you will need apply for the UK-issued European Health Insurance Card (UK EHIC). 

If you have an accident or fall ill abroad, these cards will entitle you to free or reduced cost medical treatment in most European member states. Anyone over the age of 16 can apply for either a GHIC or UK EHIC card. For further information visit: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-uk-global-health-insurance-card-ghic/

Body Screening at Airports

Body scanners are designed to enable airport staff to detect explosives or other harmful items which maybe hidden on a traveller’s body. The scan does not show internal body parts but is likely to highlight the fact that you are wearing a stoma pouch. Security officers have received training to deal with this in an appropriate and sensitive manner, and no physical contact such as a hand search is necessary. It is recommended that you carry a travel certificate with you at all times. You can show this to the security staff to describe your condition, should it be required. It may also be useful to carry a letter from your GP. Travel certificates/cards can be obtained from your stoma care nurse, the Ileostomy Association (IA), Colostomy UK or Urostomy Association (UA). These are printed in several languages and briefly explain your condition and the equipment you are carrying.

Packing

If you are flying to your holiday destination, it is advised to pack half your stoma care equipment in your hand luggage. If you need a pouch change during flight or if your hold luggage is delayed or lost, you will have sufficient pouches to meet your immediate needs. It is a good idea to pre-cut your pouches before you travel. Remember…scissors and aerosols must be packed in your hold luggage.

Medicines 

If you need to take any prescription medicines on holiday, it is a good idea to find out whether there are any restrictions on taking them in and out of the country you will be visiting. Medicines which are readily available over the counter in the UK may be controlled drugs in other countries. Always carry your medicines in correctly labelled pharmacy issued containers. If you are taking strong pain relieving medicine, it is recommended to obtain a letter from your GP explaining why you need to carry this. Your GP may charge for this service.

Eating and Drinking

One of the great things about travelling to different countries is trying different cuisines. However, a few sensible precautions may help to prevent an upset tummy. In very hot countries avoid food that has been standing for long periods of time, in particular, shellfish. Wash salad and fruit before eating and drink only bottled water. If the local water upsets you then you should also use bottled water to clean around your stoma. Avoid ice cubes and drink only moderate amounts of alcohol. It is advisable to drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume as excessive amounts of alcohol will cause dehydration.

Dehydration

Dehydration does not only occur with tummy upsets and tummy bugs but also in hot and humid conditions. In these conditions we perspire much more so it is important to replace these lost body fluids by drinking more. Isotonic sports drinks are available at most supermarkets and pharmacies and are excellent in combatting dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration are headache, thirst, dizziness, small amounts of dark urine, feeling light headed or weak, or any combination of these symptoms. If dehydration persists seek medical help immediately.

Pouch Storage 

If you are holidaying in hot or humid conditions, you may wish to take a cool bag with you to protect your pouches. Alternatively, store your pouches in the coolest part of your holiday accommodation.

Returning to work

Depending on the type of operation you have had, you will probably be fit to return to work 8-12 weeks after surgery.

Before returning to work, it is recommended to discuss with your employer the possibility of a ‘return to work programme’. Your employer may be very accommodating and offer you a range of alternatives such as part-time hours or lighter duties. It is completely up to you if you choose to tell your colleagues about your stoma. Whatever you feel comfortable with. However, it is advisable to tell at least one person in your workplace so that you have someone who may assist you if you have any issues, problems or need someone to talk to.

Hints and Tips

Keep a supply of your stoma care equipment at work.

Have a few trial runs. Many people find their daily routine and preparation to leave the house can take them longer than they expected.

Think about clothing or your work uniform. If you have a uniform you may need a different size to the one that you wore before surgery.

Consider changing facilities. Have a think about what facilities are available in your workplace to make sure you are prepared. It is advisable to have a changing bag that you can take discreetly to the toilets.

If your job involves heavy lifting, consider wearing a support belt. This may help to prevent a hernia from developing around your stoma.

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