Common bowel problems - stoma odour, wind, diarrhoea and constipation

Constipation, loose stools, and diarrhoea are among the fairly common experiences after an ileostomy or colostomy surgery.

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It is fairly normal that you experience constipation, loose stools, or diarrhoea after undergoing ileostomy or colostomy surgery. If these symptoms persist for a longer period of time, however, you should speak to your nurse or doctor about it. Your bowel issues might be due to a different reason like a certain medication or illness that needs to be addressed.


Stoma Odour

After your stoma surgery, you might be worrying about odour coming from your stoma. If you find yourself doing that, it’s always helpful to remember that you’re probably a lot more conscious of this than anyone around you. As a matter of fact, most people don’t even know that you have a stoma!

If you do feel like odour might be a problem, however, try asking someone you trust about it – like a close family member or a friend. There are a few things you can try to reduce the odour coming from your stoma pouch. Avoiding particular foods, is a great example. Fish, eggs, asparagus, onions, green vegetables, cheese, baked, beans, and even cucumber are known to increase the odour coming from your pouch. So you might want to consider a trial and error period to see whether any foods are causing your odour problems. There are also ostomy deodorants in various different fragrances that can help you feel more confident.



Passing wind in certain situations can already be embarrassing on its own but, with a stoma, passing wind might make you feel even more self-conscious. This is especially true if you have a particularly active or vocal stoma. To reduce the amount of wind you pass, it is best to avoid certain foods. These include:

  • Beer & fizzy drinks
  • Beans, peas, onions, leeks, unripe bananas, cooked & cooled potatoes, sweetcorn, eggs, and nuts
  • Foods that are high in fibre or contain unmilled grans and seeds
  • Artificial sweeteners in drinks, on cereal, or as sweets or mints

If you are diabetic and have to take sweeteners but suffer with wind, please speak to your doctor or nurse about it. You might be referred to a dietitian that for advice. And if you really fancy a fizzy drink, it’s a good idea to shake it gently or to pour it and let it stand for 10 minutes before you drink it. This helps to reduce fizz and with it the wind!

Wind can also be caused by eating in a hurry and swallowing too much air, eating your meals at irregular times, and going for prolonged periods without food. So, if you suffer from wind, make sure to eat regularly, take your time, and reduce talking while eating to a minimum.



Suffering from diarrhoea is never pleasant, but it’s even more unpleasant with a stoma and you might be wondering where it came from. Watery and loose stools are often caused by certain foods and drinks such as beans, peas, chocolates, prunes, spinach, raw fruit, and pure fruit juice. Your diarrhoea might also be caused by eating spicy food. Ideally, it would be best to avoid these foods but if you just need your spice kick, eating them in small quantities with plenty of rice, pasta or potatoes can help. Loose stools can also be triggered by other factors, however. These include stress, strain, emotional upset, certain types of viruses and bacteria, or it can be a side-effect of certain types of medication.

If your diarrhoea is only temporary, your nurse or doctor might suggest treating it with motion management medicines to slow your bowels down and thicken the stool. If this doesn’t help and the problem persists without an obvious cause, however, speak to your doctor again. He or she will likely check for any underlying issues and make sure to avoid dehydration.



Constipation is not just irritating; it can also be quite painful and cause great discomfort. If you’re suffering from constipation regularly, it might be worth considering some simple changes to your diet. Eating more fibre-containing foods can help to treat and prevent constipation. Foods that increase the amount of fibre in your diet are:

  • Porridge
  • Wholemeal bread or pasta
  • Whole grain cereal (e.g. Weetabix)
  • Fruit and vegetables

It’s not just foods that can cause your constipation, though! You might be constipated because you’re not drinking enough fluids (always aim for 6-8 glasses per day) not getting enough exercise, or it might be due to certain medicines like painkillers or antidepressants. If you think the latter might be the case, please do not stop taking your medicine without consulting with your nurse or doctor first!