For those with painful gastrointestinal conditions, an ileostomy offers a way to return to a healthy and fulfilling life. An ileostomy is a significant operation that not only requires mental and physical preparation, but also necessitates a few lifestyle adjustments as well. These changes can include special diets and ensuring that you have easy access to a bathroom so you can change or empty your bag at any time of day.
People with an ileostomy also need to carefully monitor their fluid intake in order to avoid dehydration, which means that your body is losing more liquid than it’s taking in. One study found that 29 percent of ileostomy patients are readmitted after the procedure, with dehydration as the leading cause. This is because the colon, which is responsible for absorbing most of the liquid from our food, is further down the digestive tract than the ileum, which is where the stoma is located.
Fortunately, there are simple steps patients can take to ensure that they stay properly hydrated following their ileostomy procedure.
Monitoring your inputs and outputs — sometimes called the “I’s and O’s” — is the first and most important part of avoiding dehydration.
Generally speaking, if you’ve had an ileostomy, you should drink between 10 and 12 glasses of fluids each day, avoiding alcohol and caffeine if possible, as these both have dehydrating effects. You should also have between 500 and 1200 mL of ostomy output each day. It’s important to actually measure the volume — recording the number of times you empty your bag isn’t nearly as accurate or useful.
Regularly track both input and output measurements, and bring your notes to your post-surgery follow-up appointment.
A certain amount of water is required for the body to function properly, and electrolytes — which are minerals like sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium that are found in our blood, urine, and tissues — help to regulate the amount of water in the body.
You might be dehydrated if you’re experiencing the following symptoms:
If your output is high, you could run the risk of losing sodium and potassium, two important electrolytes. Signs of low sodium levels include cramps, drowsiness, feeling faint, feeling cold in the arms and legs, and a loss of appetite. Low potassium levels, on the other hand, can show up as fatigue, feeling gassy or bloated, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, or reduced sensation in the arms and legs.
The good news is that you can replenish your sodium and potassium levels by eating certain foods. Canned soups, broth, canned tuna and salmon, V8 juice, and low-sugar sports drinks are good ways to replenish your sodium levels. You can also up your potassium intake with bananas, avocados, orange juice, milk, and nut butters.
However, if you’re on a low-sodium diet because of other health conditions, consult your doctor before adding additional sodium into your regimen.
At the Center for Ileostomy Surgery, our experienced surgeons specialize in gastrointestinal surgeries like colostomies and ileostomies. We’re happy to answer any questions and address any concerns you might have about these procedures. Contact us today to schedule an appointment, and get back to living the life you want.