Even if it’s only temporary, having an ostomy can be a big adjustment. There are so many things to learn — stoma care, how to change your ostomy pouch, and more. You can do a few simple things to make a living with a colostomy bag a lot easier.
1. Wear What Works for You
Don’t be self-conscious about your ostomy bag. Modern pouches have a low-profile silhouette, fit close to your body, and are designed to be discreet. That means you can wear whatever is comfortable for you.
If you’re worried that your pouch is noticeable, ask a trusted friend or family member for an honest and unbiased opinion — you’ll find that the vast majority of the time, your pouch is invisible.
Even swimsuits aren’t off-limits; if you’re not comfortable wearing a standard swimsuit, look into specialty ostomy swimsuits or swim trunks. If you feel you need some extra stability or support, an ostomy belt or wrap may be helpful.
2. Get Comfortable with Your Pouch
The idea of emptying or changing your pouch while out in public can be nerve-wracking if you’re new to it, though the processes will eventually become routine. Practicing at home where you’re comfortable can be helpful.
If possible, do your pouch changes first thing in the morning, while any output from your stoma is slight, so all you have to worry about in public is emptying your pouch.
3. Experiment with Your Diet
There’s no special diet for people with an ostomy; you can eat whatever you like, just as you did before you had the surgery. However, foods will still affect you like they did before you had the surgery.
That means that “gassy” foods will still cause gas-only now that gas will exit into your ostomy bag, which will eventually need to be burped. There are ostomy deodorant products that can help, but you will want to manage your intake of gassy foods.
Foods likely to cause diarrhea or constipation will still do so. It may be good to experiment with different foods and see how they affect you before eating them in public.
4. Keep Doing What You Love
Living with an ostomy shouldn’t keep you from doing the activities you love, whether that means playing sports, traveling, or even having sex. You may need to make minor adjustments — supportive garments in the bedroom or on the playing field, for example, and some extra planning when traveling — but few activities are off-limits.
5. Have the Right Products on Hand
You can certainly live with a colostomy bag, but you will need to keep the right products around to do it well. For example, ostomy barrier paste can help prevent leakage from the bag. You may want extra flanges around, too. The more extras you keep on hand, the better prepared you will be if you need something.