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. Most modern appliances are made from odor-proof materials and – unless there’s a leak – you should only notice smells when changing and emptying your bag.
Living with an ostomy can present challenges, but knowing what to expect and being prepared can help you adjust more easily. If you find yourself worrying about your pouch emitting gas or odors, here are five simple ways to deal with your concerns.
1. Empty Your Ostomy Pouch More Often
As a good rule of thumb, you should empty your ostomy bag when it gets about ⅓ to ½ full. If your ostomy 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.
Limit Odor and Gas-Causing Food
If you have a colostomy or ileostomy, 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:
- Apricots (fresh and dried)
- Beans (e.g. black, butter, cannellini, kidney)
- Brussel sprouts
- Dairy products (e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Soda (regular and diet)
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:
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. 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. Common causes of swallowed air include:
- Chewing gum
- Drinking through straws
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Eating and drinking too quickly
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 these ConvaTec ActiveLife pouches). 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.
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.
Ileostomates might benefit from OstoGel Ileostomy Pouch Gel Packets, which turn liquid stoma output into a gel to reduce pouch noise and odor.
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.
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.
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.
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!