There are a lot of misconceptions about ostomy surgery. Here we set the record straight.
According to the United Ostomy Associations of American (UOAA), between 725,000 and 1 million people in the U.S. live with an ostomy. This surgery frees them from the pain of debilitating conditions such as cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Yet misconceptions about colostomies and ileostomies may prevent some people from seeking this life-changing operation.
Rather than being swayed by ostomy falsehoods, learn what you can really expect after your surgery.
Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation surrounds ostomy surgery. Here’s why these common myths are false.
Other People Can See My Ostomy.
No one will know you have an ostomy unless you decide to tell them. Your ostomy pouch will be concealed under your clothing and not noticeable to anyone. Specially-designed accessories such as ostomy wraps and undergarments help keep your ostomy system in place and can be worn under tight-fitting clothing. Worried about odor? Find a product with a built-in charcoal air filter to mask smells.
I Won’t Be Able to Exercise.
Except for a few weeks immediately following your surgery, you can resume your prior workout routine once fully recovered. You can jog, bike, swim, and participate in all kinds of exercises with an ostomy. If you are into contact sports, put on a stoma guard to protect yourself from injury.
I’ll Have to Completely Change My Diet.
After your ostomy heals, you’ll find you can enjoy most of the same foods you loved before the surgery. Add different foods to your diet to see how your body reacts. In general, it’s recommended to limit high-fiber vegetables and fruits, or foods that cause gas (like cabbage or beans) to prevent blockages and odors. To aid your digestion, be sure to drink plenty of water.
I Can’t Bathe or Go Swimming With a Pouch.
You can safely bathe, shower, and swim with your pouch. You can leave the pouch uncovered, or wrap it in plastic to keep it dry. Pouches with filters come with covers to shield them from water. If you’d like, you can shower without a pouch — water and air will not harm the stoma. Just be sure to plan your shower for a time of day when the stoma is less active.
I Can No Longer Be Intimate With My Partner.
It’s normal to be anxious about resuming intimacy after ostomy surgery. Talk honestly to your partner about your concerns so you can overcome any hesitation. To make the experience more comfortable, empty the pouch before sex and wear a smaller pouch. Or, buy accessories designed to keep the pouch secure during intimacy.
I Won’t Be Able to Travel.
Ostomates can travel anywhere. Whether traveling close to home or abroad, take along enough supplies for the entire trip. If you’re traveling by plane, pack the supplies in a carry-on bag so you’ll have what you need if your luggage is lost. To pass through luggage inspection during international flights, get a note from your doctor or a UOAA Travel Communication Card stating you must bring along ostomy supplies.
An ostomy is a life-changing operation, but it can be a change for the better. Learn how it can enhance your life by talking to your healthcare provider.
Dr. Don Schiller of the BCIR and Kock Pouch Center of Los Angeles at Southern California Hospital in Culver City has performed ileostomies since 1989. He and staff have counseled thousands of patients on the surgery, beginning from the day of the operation to full recovery. Contact him today for a consultation.