Jo: Changing your diet & exercise as an ostomate

Plenty of people have been trying to make some lifestyle changes this January, but for ostomates thoose changes can be even more challenging. If you've been trying to change your diet or get active you might be facing some worries. We've asked Jo to share her experiences with you - perhaps you can pick up a few tips or just feel reassured that she knows exactly what you're going through.

Online Doctor Banner Image

We’re almost at the end of January – a month that’s gotten quite the reputation for changes when it comes to diet and exercise. January? Veganuary? New you’ary? Or just another month’ary?

No doubt most of us will have overindulged over the festive period, after all, it is only once a year! However, for us Ostomates, it can have far more lasting complications and can, therefore, leave us with a multitude of issues from sore skin to that excess weight we find so hard to move.

Whilst most people will have been starting the latest craze diet and joining the gym we can feel really isolated not knowing what foods we can eat that won’t upset our tummies and what exercises are safest to avoid hernias and other relatable injuries.


Food & diet changes

I think over the last 30+ years I must have read just about everything there is to know about which food groups are considered ‘stoma-friendly’ and those that, most definitely, aren’t! And, without the fear of sounding predictably boring, a food diary really is your best friend in these circumstances.  Because of the difference in length of available large intestine, what you’d be able to comfortably eat with a Colostomy might not necessarily be the same for those with an Ileostomy who tend to have less available large intestine so foods can differ from person to person.

I’ve been able to eat onions and mushrooms for years now, but I can remember, as a teenager, they were my arch nemesis and avoidable at all costs, so, things can change and can sometimes vary depending on something as simple as how they are cooked.  A Dietician once told me that sugars can behave differently in an cooked apple to that of an uncooked one and some people can cope better with stewed fruits as opposed to fresh and vice versa. So I would strongly recommend getting yourself a notepad and write down what you’ve eaten each day and then record the stoma output (poo) accordingly. You’ll see where the correlations are and you might just be surprised, after all, we all lead busy lives and sometimes it takes seeing something written down in black and white for the penny to drop!


Getting active with exercise

The issue of exercise is a far trickier prospect because we’re all individuals and what’s right for one won’t necessarily be right for the other and so I can only really discuss what I do.

I love to swim and find it both therapeutic as well as a healthy form of exercise. I have a hernia behind my stoma which I developed whilst I was pregnant with my Daughter, who is a teenager now, and from reading posts from my fellow Ostomates, it appears a lot of us do too! If you’re worried about what exercise you can safely do with a hernia then getting into the pool, to me, is the perfect solution, although some may need to check their situation with their GP or Stoma Nurse. I know a lot of Ostomates are wary of being in water whether that’s worrying about which swimsuit you can wear, whether your bag will withstand the water to how you can get the bag off afterwards, these are all issues I’ve overcome at different points in my life.

I’ve always worn a swimsuit that has a skirt element to it (also great at hiding my thighs!) I find that the bag is completely unidentifiable whilst using this style so if this is something that bothers you then I’d get searching for a swim-dress, however, for men, and women, who don’t fancy wearing a swim-dress there are specialist swimwear supplies online too.  For the other issues, I personally, have never had an issue with a bag coming off or filling whilst swimming and I’ve spent many an hour in the pool. That said if you are concerned then I would suggest contacting your Stoma bag manufacturer or supplier and asking them for any special instructions for use whilst in water. Sometimes they suggest using the sticky tabs that are supplied in the boxes but if there are other things then they will update you accordingly. It’s never been my experience and I’ve swam in a multitude of bag types (please note that I have colostomy as oppose to a Ileostomy.) And lastly, an adhesive remover, whether it be a spray or wipes, is an essential item in your swim bag! A lot of my appliances have needed to be ‘sprayed off’ because the water and heat have formed a formidable seal!


But don't worry if you're not

Of course, you don’t have to think about any lifestyle change just because it’s January. It's just another month afterall. Don't feel the pressure to make any changes, unless you want to but if that’s where you are right now then I hope sharing some of my experiences will help give you that helping hand or confidence boost to go get your dreams.

Wishing you all great health and much happiness.

Best wishes, Jo x