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5 Ways To Avoid & Eliminate Ostomy Bag Odor

how to eliminate colostomy bag smell
Updated December 20, 2023

Passing gas or emitting odors in public are some of the most common concerns among ostomates. You may fear that they’ll interfere with your intimate and social life, causing unnecessary stress and anxiety.  It's reassuring to know that the majority of modern ostomy products are crafted using odor-proof materials. Typically, unless an unfortunate leakage occurs, any noticeable odors should primarily be experienced during the process of changing and emptying your colostomy bag.

Transitioning to life after ostomy surgery can indeed present its set of challenges. However, by gaining insight into what to expect and adequately preparing for ostomy care, you can facilitate a smoother adjustment to your new ostomy reality. If you find yourself preoccupied with concerns about your pouch emitting gas or odors, there are five straightforward strategies you can employ to address these issues effectively.

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1. Empty Your Ostomy Pouch More Often

As a good rule of thumb, you should empty your ostomy appliance when it gets about  ⅓ to ½ full. If your stoma bag gets too full, the weight can put extra pressure on the stoma and surrounding skin. This can effectively loosen the seal on your appliance, causing leakage of odor and bodily waste.

Your ET nurse will assist you in learning how to change and empty your pouching system.  In general, how often you need to empty your ostomy bag depends on the type and location of the stoma.

Typically, most “colostomates” empty their bags around 1-3 times per day. Ileostomates tend to empty their bags  4-10 times a day (depending on the consistency of the output). For people with a urostomy, urine volume depends on the fluid intake of the individual.

2. Avoid Certain Foods and Beverages

The odor of your output can also be affected by your diet. Different kinds of food are digested differently, so it’s important to keep track of what you consume.

Foods to Avoid Odor with Colostomy

If you have an ileostomy bag or colostomy, certain foods and beverages may cause gas to build up more quickly in your ostomy bag. Such foods often contain soluble fiber and/or sugars (e.g. fructose, sorbitol, lactose, raffinose), including:

  • Apples

  • Apricots (fresh and dried)

  • Asparagus

  • Beans (e.g. black, butter, cannellini, kidney)

  • Beer

  • Broccoli

  • Brussel sprouts

  • Cabbage

  • Dairy products (e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt)

  • Mangoes

  • Nuts

  • Onions

  • Peaches

  • Pears

  • Raisins

  • Soda (regular and diet)

Foods to Avoid with Urostomy

If you have a urostomy, you might be worried about urine odor. Some foods cause stronger odors, however, this can be minimized by drinking more fluids (such as water and cranberry juice). Foods that can intensify urine odor include:

  • Asparagus

  • Fish

  • Garlic

  • Onions

Even though these foods may contribute to odor and gas production, most are still very healthy for you, so don’t eliminate them entirely from your diet. Before changing your diet or taking any supplements, consult with your healthcare professional. You can choose to limit their intake on social occasions or make use of odor-eliminating products.

Avoid Swallowing Air

Swallowed air often results in increased gas production, so it might be sensible to avoid taking extra air into your digestive system whenever possible. This can also lead to your ostomy bag ballooning. Common causes of swallowed air include:

  • Chewing gum

  • Drinking through straws

  • Drinking carbonated beverages

  • Eating and drinking too quickly

  • Smoking

3. Use a Filter in/on Your Ostomy Pouch

Odorous gas can make its way into your ostomy bag and fill it with air. If that air is not released, the pressure can cause the pouch to inflate, increasing the risk of leaks. Using an odor-reduction filter helps to release this gas in a safe and convenient way.

Many pouches today are designed with an integrated filter (like this Coloplast SenSura Mio Ostomy Bag). For those that don’t have a filter, you can easily apply one prior to wearing your pouch. Most filters can be applied to any ostomy bag, and work best with a more formed output (but can also be used with other discharge consistencies).

4. Use Odor Eliminators

There are also products that eliminate odors without needing to make drastic dietary changes. Odor eliminators are a great option, available in the form of drops, sprays, and tablets.

Ostomy Bag Deodorizers

Appliance deodorizers are either liquids or gels that are placed in your ostomy bag each time you empty or change your appliance. They are discreet and convenient to use. While some in-pouch deodorizers are scented, others are designed to eliminate odor-causing bacteria.

There are many options when it comes to appliance deodorizers, like the Hollister m9 Odor Eliminator Drops and Genairex Securi-T Ostomy Deodorant.

Ileostomates might benefit from OstoGel Ileostomy Pouch Gel Packets, which turn liquid stoma output into a gel to reduce pouch noise and odor.

Room Deodorizers

Whether you are in public or at home, it is handy to have an air deodorizer that will quickly eliminate airborne odors. Express Medical Supply carries a range of room deodorizers that will eliminate the smell and not just mask it.

One of the most popular room deodorants is the Hollister m9 Odor Eliminator Spray. It comes in unscented or a green apple fragrance.

Internal Deodorants

Another product that may help you restrict odors is Devrom, a chewable odor eliminator that contains bismuth subgallate. These FDA-approved tablets work to neutralize odors from both stool and flatulence.

Lubricating Deodorant

Lubricating deodorants are a great addition to your ostomy supplies that can help to eliminate odor. This product is typically sprayed inside the ostomy bag to help prevent the bag from sticking together and allowing poop and other waste to easily settle at the bottom of the bag. They are often scented as well, which can help to cover any escaping ostomy odor. The product ConvaTec ESENTA Lubricating Deodorant is made with natural eucalyptus, lavender, pine oils, and other natural ingredients.

5. Find the Right Ostomy Bag for You

Ostomy bags come in various shapes and sizes, from small stoma caps to large, overnight bags. Generally speaking, the smaller the ostomy pouch, the more often you will need to empty it. Ostomy pouches are also available in different styles (e.g. 1-piece, 2-piece, disposable, drainable).

When searching for an ostomy bag, make sure you choose a pouch that fits your stoma and typical bowel movement. For instance, if you need to empty your pouch multiple times a day, a small (or even medium-sized) bag might not be large enough.

Products such as wafers, barrier rings and seals, adhesives, and powders are all specially designed to work together with the ostomy bag to prevent leaks and keep the skin around the stoma healthy.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I smell my colostomy bag when I wear it?

You may notice odor from your colostomy bag due to the natural release of gasses and the presence of fecal matter. Modern colostomy bags are designed to minimize odor, but sometimes a slight smell can still occur during use.

Why do colostomy bags smell so bad?

Colostomy bags can emit unpleasant odors because they hold waste material. While manufacturers strive to create odor-resistant bags, the smell can become noticeable when changing or emptying the bag. Proper hygiene and deodorizing products can help manage this.

Can I put baking soda in my colostomy bag?

While some people use baking soda as a homemade deodorizer, it's essential to consult with your healthcare provider before adding anything to your colostomy bag. They can provide guidance on safe and effective odor control methods.

Can I put Tic Tacs in my colostomy bag?

Tic Tacs are not recommended for use in a colostomy bag. Their intended purpose is for freshening breath, and they may not effectively control odor in the bag. Consult your healthcare professional for more suitable odor management options, such as deodorizing drops or pouch liners.

Stay Healthy and Informed

For many ostomates, smells and noises can seem like huge, embarrassing problems. By limiting odor-causing foods – and using the right stoma care products – odors can be successfully managed.

Discover tips and resources to help manage your ostomy and maintain a healthy, active life!

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