Learn the signs of a possible bowel obstruction and what you can do to clear it away.
After an ileostomy, you can enjoy much of the same foods you did before your surgery. Yet you still have to monitor your diet to ensure you don’t experience a blockage. Eaten in large quantities, high-fiber foods like raw vegetables, unpeeled fresh fruits, popcorn, cabbage, corn, and nuts may clump together in the intestines and block stools from exiting the stoma.
Fortunately, food-related ileostomy blockages rarely happen. And if they do, you most likely won’t need to rush to your doctor’s office for medical treatment. You can typically eliminate an obstruction caused by undigested food by following some at-home self-care tips.
First, you need to know the signs of a possible blockage. Among the symptoms are: thin, watery output; belly pain and cramping; dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration); and swelling and bloating around the stoma. The stool becomes watery because the intestine is siphoning water from the rest of your body to remove the blockage. If you lose too much fluid you could become dehydrated, so it’s important to clear the blockage as soon as possible.
You can do that by taking these steps to encourage food to pass through the intestine:
– Massage the area around your stoma to break up the blockage.
– Take a hot bath or place a heating pad on your stomach to relax the abdominal muscles.
– Lie on your back, bend your knees to your chest and rock back and forth. Or lie on your stoma side with bent knees. Try both positions to dislodge the blockage.
– Enlarge the wafer opening of your pouch system to accommodate a swollen stoma.
– Walk around your home to stimulate your bowels.
If you think your ileostomy is obstructed, stop eating solid foods until the blockage passes. Drink juices, warm broth, or tea instead. Don’t take laxatives as they will dehydrate you at a time when you especially need fluids.
These self-care tips should move the blockage along. However, if you’re still experiencing a blockage after following these steps, you may need to call your doctor or stoma nurse. Severe pain, vomiting, or no output for two or more hours may require medical attention or a trip to the emergency room. In addition to possible impacted food clusters, the obstruction could be caused by scar tissue. A CAT scan or X-ray will determine the cause of the blockage.
An ileostomy blockage doesn’t happen often. But you can prevent an occasional obstruction by drinking eight to 10 glasses of fluids (water or juice) a day, consuming a limited amount of foods high in fiber or cellulose, and chewing your food thoroughly. Your doctor or stoma nurse can also provide you with more tips on managing your ileostomy to avoid any food-related blockages.
An ileostomy is a life-changing operation, but you can enjoy a great quality of life with the help of the experienced professionals at the Center for Ileostomy Surgery. Dr. Don Schiller and his team will work with you during your recovery to ensure you fully heal. Among our many services are dietary guidelines and other recommendations on living with your ileostomy. Contact us today for a consultation.