Upon reflection, most people view their ostomy as a relief from years or even a lifetime of suffering. Most view this new lifestyle as liberating and welcome the healthy changes it brings to their lives. However, this freedom and healthy change still has some drawbacks and pitfalls to watch for. Two of those pitfalls we are going to discuss today are blockages and hernias. Ostomy Blockages can cause severe problems if left untreated. It is best for you to discuss specifics of blockages with your Health Care Provider Team as many symptoms can be different based on the type of ostomy you have. As always, if you have questions or concerns, please call your Physician or ET Nurse. We hope that these tips below can help you to prevent ostomy blockages from occurring in the first place.
- Drink Plenty of Water: Everyone has heard the recommendation to drink eight glasses of water per day. However not everyone is the same size, height, weight, etc. Studies are now showing that an adult is to drink "half of your body weight in ounces of water per day". For example, a 200lb person should drink at least 100 ounces of water, or 12.5 glasses of water, per day. As an ostomate, you should likely drink one to two extra glasses of water in addition to that standard. Drinking water, non-caffeine herbal tea, and natural fruit juices all count towards your required amount of fluids. Drinks like coffee, caffeine drinks, alcohol, and soda / soft drinks, actually require you to drink MORE water to combat the effects of dehydration that these drinks bring on our bodies.
- Chew your food properly: When eating, always concentrate on chewing slowly and thoroughly. Take your time, enjoy your food, and make sure it is properly chewed before swallowing. Not chewing your food properly can leave large food pieces to travel through your GI Tract which can cause a food blockage. If a piece of meat seems too tough or grisly, pass on it. Do not take the chance that it will get lodged in your GI Tract or your stoma.
- Eat in moderation: It is better for people with ostomies to eat several smaller meals a day rather than one large meal. Not only is this better for your ostomy, it is also better for maintaining blood sugar levels throughout the day. When you try a new food, always try it in moderation first rather than eating a large helping of a new food without knowing how it may affect you.
- Avoid foods that cause you problems: If a particular food has caused you problems in the past, try to avoid it a much as possible until you feel you are ready to try it again. When you try to introduce a problematic food again, make sure you are chewing properly and drinking plenty of water with it. Most people find that with proper chewing and drinking enough water, that they are able to tolerate most foods.
Hernias can be a painful and traumatic experience, one that sometimes cannot be controlled by us! Any surgery or injury that severs, cuts, or tears the muscles in the abdominal cavity is known as a hernia. Since an ostomate had a surgical procedure to open a small hole in the abdominal wall for the ostomy, ostomates have all had at least one small hernia at one point. Since hernias can be caused by many factors, some out of our control even, here are some proactive steps we can all take to help out!
- Never lift anything too heavy: For some people, "too heavy" may be 10 lbs, for some it may be 50 lbs. Know your limits and do not force yourself to go beyond those limits. Sometimes something simple as picking up kids and rolling on the floor with them can cause a hernia. Be sure to know your limits and stick to them.
- Slow down and be intentional with your movements: Take your time, try to avoid quick spastic movements when possible. When stretching, go slow, do not bounce or jerk your body around.
- Try to exercise three to four times a week: Before beginning any workout routine or exercise plan, please speak to your Physician first. Your Health Care Provider Team will be able to recommend specific exercises and workout routines for you and your specific situations. Having said this, exercises can only benefit a healthy person! Building up your abdominal muscles will strengthen the core of your body which will in turn help to prevent hernia injuries.
- Do not push boxes with your feet: using your legs to push boxes along the ground uses your leg and back muscles. Overworking your back can lead to injury as well.
- Pick up heavy boxes with your legs, not your back: While this last tip is more related to back injuries than hernias, it fits too well with the previous tips to be left ignored. If you MUST lift a heavy object from the floor; remember to bend your legs and lift with your legs. Do not bend at the back and lift with your back muscles. That is a sure way to injure your back muscles.
Above all, use common sense! We were given the ability to reason and use common sense as a tool in our daily lives. Use it! It is always better to be safe, than sorry when it comes to preventing injuries. We would love to hear more tips from our readers. Please feel free to comment with your tips for safely exercising, avoiding hernias, and preventing blockages!