Every year in the U.S., more than 100,000 people undergo ostomy surgery, including ileostomy procedures for bowel problems like colon cancer and Crohn’s disease. Some studies estimate between a half million and 750,000 people in the U.S. have some type of ostomy, including both temporary and permanent ileostomies.
While ileostomies aren’t uncommon, living with an ileostomy – whether it’s temporary or permanent – does require some adjustment, and most people who undergo the surgery have lots of questions. One of the most common questions concerns bowel movements – specifically, how food waste is evacuated from the body when the colon (or large intestine) and anus are no longer “in use.”
The answer to that question is yes – and no. In a normal bowel movement, food waste moves from the stomach through the small intestine, then into the large intestine (or colon) and rectum, finally exiting through the anus. In an ileostomy, that route is “short-circuited.” Instead of passing from the small intestine through the colon and anus, food waste exits through a small opening in your ileum – the last portion of your small intestine. During your ileostomy procedure, the end of the ileum is attached to the abdominal wall. The opening is made at this junction, and waste is excreted into a special bag that can be easily changed when it contains waste. In a traditional ileostomy, waste is excreted into an external bag which needs to be emptied and change regularly. The BCIR ileostomy enables stool to be held inside the body in an internal “pouch,” which can be emptied at more convenient times throughout the day. The internal pouch also eliminates worries about odors or leakage that can occur with an external bag.
The next question (for most people) is – what will the poop be like? In a normal bowel movement, most of the liquid content of waste is removed as the waste moves through the colon. Since the colon is bypassed in an ileostomy, the waste that’s collected in the bag or pouch tends to be more “liquid-like” and can range from very “soupy” to more paste-like in consistency. To some degree, the consistency can vary based on the foods you consume.
During the first month or so after your ileostomy, you’ll have to limit the amount of fiber-rich foods you eat to enable the area to heal more quickly. Over time, you’ll be able to incorporate many of the same foods you enjoyed before your surgery, adjusting your diet to avoid constipation or diarrhea. It’s also important to consume plenty of water throughout the day to keep your bowels moving.
As a top-ranked ileostomy surgeon in Los Angeles, Dr. Don Schiller is skilled in advanced ileostomy techniques, providing patients the the best options based on their health needs and lifestyles. To learn more about ileostomy surgery, including tips on how to enjoy a normal, healthy life following surgery, call Dr. Schiller at 323-472-9931 to schedule a consultation and evaluation today.