We wish the answer to this question was an unequivocal “no,” but that’s not always the case. Colostomy bags can have an unpleasant odor, causing embarrassment for patients who wear one.
There are ways to prevent smells from your colostomy bag. Here are four ways to avoid sharing odors with others.
Reducing the number of gas-inducing foods and drinks you consume can help prevent odors. Carbonated beverages like beer and soda cause gas to quickly build up in the colostomy bag. And unfortunately, some of the healthiest foods you eat sometimes cause your body to produce excess gas. Broccoli, cauliflower, beans and cabbage are frequent offenders. Plus, some foods just cause more pungent gas than others. These include asparagus, eggs, onion, fish and garlic.
Odor-reducing products can help avoid unpleasant smells from your colostomy bag. Put a few drops or sprays inside the bag before attaching it to the stoma. The product works to break down odor-causing elements instead of just masking it. You can purchase sprays for use after a bowel movement. These work similarly to an air freshener you might keep in the bathroom. Some people use creative methods, such as inserting a breath mint into the bag before use. The minty flavor masks foul odors.
Charcoal and carbon filters can mitigate odors coming from a colostomy bag. Some bags have a built-in filter while other filters attach to the bag manually. Your medical supply provider can help you find a filter that works for your bag.
Just because you’ve had a portion of your colon removed doesn’t mean you have to live with a colostomy bag. There are other ileostomy options. For example, the J Pouch creates a reservoir in your ileoanal area. One end connects to your intestine, the other to your anus. Solid waste is stored in the reservoir until you use a catheter or thin, plastic tube to remove it.
While effective, a J Pouch can fail. The ileostomy gold standard is the BCIR or Barnett Continent Intestinal Reservoir. With this option, a stoma is created on the lower part of your abdomen. A reservoir is created between the stoma and intestine. A valve prevents stool or gas from leaking through the stoma until you empty it using a catheter.
If you’re experiencing issues with odor from your colostomy bag, talk with your gastroenterologist for ways to manage the situation. Or make an appointment with Dr. Don Schiller, an expert in ileostomy surgery. Call 323-472-9931 or request an appointment online with our contact form.