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High output stoma management tips

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Stoma output does vary quite significantly from person to person, and what’s normal for one person, won’t be for another. The main thing to keep in mind is that after stoma surgery it can take a while for things to calm down, but once it does you will soon be able to see what is normal for you. 

As a general rule, if your output is over 1litre in 24 hours, then it is considered to be high. However, everyone is different and if you have any concerns you should contact your healthcare professional or stoma nurse. Additionally, if there is a sudden change in output compared to your normal routine, speak to your doctor or nurse who will be able to make sure everything is okay.

Managing a high output stoma

Many ileostomists do experience short bouts of increased output. This can occur short term due to:

  • The body adapting when the stoma is newly formed after surgery
  • Disease or damage to the small intestine
  • Certain medications

This should settle down over time, however, it can prevent large amounts of fluids and electrolytes from being absorbed into your body. This can make you feel thirsty, weak, dizzy, sick and may cause headaches.

Therefore, if you are experiencing a higher output than usual, it’s important to make sure you still get the nutrients you need through your food or drink.

What to drink

It’s recommended that you drink flat isotonic drinks which are high in salt and sugar. Isotonic drinks work well because the high levels of sodium (salt) and glucose encourage fluid to be absorbed into your gut, rather than just passing straight through into your stoma bag. Therefore, this enables you to still absorb nutrients despite a high output stoma. 

You can actually make your own drink if you don’t have any isotonic drinks available when you need them. This is called the Saint Marks Solution-

Recipe for St. Marks Solution

  1. 20g/six level 5ml spoonfuls glucose.
  2. 3.5g/one level 5ml spoonful salt.
  3. 2.5g/one heaped 2.5ml spoonful sodium bicarbonate.
  4. Dissolve in 1,000ml water.
  5. Keep chilled in the fridge.
  6. Flavour with a small amount of squash or cordial.

What to eat

During a period of high output, it can help to eat foods which ‘thicken’ your output. Bread, potatoes, rice and other high starch foods are all great options for this. Additionally, eating jelly sweets can help as the gelatine can help to thicken your output. 

It’s important to note that if your bag is filling up almost every hour, this isn’t common and you should contact your healthcare professional as soon as you can.

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