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Constipation

Constipation is a common problem for people with a stoma, for many, it is a mild hindrance that happens once in a while, but there are a number of stoma patients who suffer from constipation on a more regular basis. Blockages on the stoma can quickly become uncomfortable and even painful, so it’s essential that you learn how to treat and prevent constipation should it happen to you.

 

What causes constipation?

There are a number of potential causes for constipation, not all of which are due to having a stoma. Knowing these causes may help you to become more effective at managing constipation. Common causes for constipation include:

  • Poor/unbalanced/unvaried diet, particularly a lack of fibre
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Lack of exercise
  • Some medications may list constipation as a side effect, including certain painkillers and antidepressants

How to treat constipation with a stoma?

If you are suffering from constipation, you will likely be searching for some kind of treatment to help alleviate the situation and aid you in passing stool effectively. The first port of call for any ostomate should be to increase their fluid intake and dietary fibre, eating foods such as wholemeal bread and pasta, as well as more fruit and vegetables.

If constipation persists despite the change in diet and increase in fluids, we would recommend that you speak to your stoma care nurse or a healthcare professional.

Can you use laxatives with a stoma?

People suffering from constipation will often wonder whether they can use laxatives with a stoma to help them pass stool. However, laxatives for an ostomate can be dangerous as they may cause a rapid loss of water and electrolytes. In particularly, laxatives are not recommended for those who have an ileostomy.

On occasion, and as a last resort, those with a colostomy and severe constipation may be recommended a mild laxative to be used in caution. However, before doing so we strongly urge you to consult with your stoma care nurse or a healthcare professional beforehand.

How to prevent constipation with a stoma?

As always, the best cure is prevention. Most often this comes down to diet and nutrition and often it can be a few simple tweaks that help to prevent regular constipation. Common advice includes:

  • Eat more fibre-rich foods, such as wholemeal pasta and bread, porridge
  • Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Drink plenty of fluids and ensure you maintain a constant level of hydration

If you are making larger changes to your diet, it may be important to do so gradually to avoid potential problems with wind as your stomach adjusts to the new diet. For more information on diet and nutrition for ostomates, click here.

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