A stoma bag ballooning can be a real nuisance.
We all experience wind – which is perfectly normal – but for some ostomates, it can really cause havoc when the wind is either excessive or cannot escape via the filter on your stoma bag. This results in the stoma bag becoming inflated and pulling away from the body. It’s known as ballooning.
Learning about what causes ballooning and how to deal with it can really help with your confidence. Read on to find out more and follow our tips to prevent any further issues.
What causes stoma bag ballooning?
Stoma bag ballooning occurs when your stoma bag blows up with gas/wind. It is usually caused by the filter on your stoma bag becoming wet or blocked from stoma output which then stops it from working effectively. This can lead to the stoma bag to come away from your body.
Ostomates tend to experience ballooning with their colostomy pouch. On occasions it may occur for those with an ileostomy and rarely for those with a urostomy.
Tips on how to stop a stoma bag ballooning
Take a look at your diet
First things first, it’s a good idea to look at your diet and what you are eating.
There are certain foods which can cause wind more than others. Whilst these foods don’t need to be removed from your diet, it is good to simply be aware of them and make a food diary if you are having issues. We are all different and one food may affect a person more than the next.
Foods & drinks to be aware of:
- Beans: tinned beans, dried beans, green beans
- Some vegetables from the cabbage family, such as broccoli, cauliflower, onions, sprouts, spinach & corn
- High fibre fruits like apples & pears
- Grains & nuts
- Chewing gum
- Fizzy drinks, sparkling water and beer
- Drinking through a straw
Try eating slowly
The speed at which you eat can really impact on the amount of air we swallow. Eating slowly can benefit those with a stoma and can prevent us from swallowing less air, resulting in less bloating and less ballooning of your stoma bag.
Eating slowly also has other health benefits, such as allowing the brain to tell our bodies that we are full. If we eat too quickly, we may overindulge before we have had the chance to experience the sensation of being full.
What is important is the simple fact that when you eat quickly you swallow more air. The air that is swallowed goes into your digestive tract and causes bloating – and as a result comes out as extra gas, causing stoma bag ballooning.
Stoma bag filters
Most stoma bags now have filters, which are designed to help remove the wind silently from the stoma bag.
Large volumes of gas may take time to pass through the filter. It’s important you check your stoma bag for a filter, especially if you are experiencing wind with your colostomy. Filters can work well for patients with colostomies and who have formed stool.
The filters also tend to clog or fail with looser stool, causing some odour breakthrough or some tiny leaks of stool through the filter itself. As a result, filtered pouches are usually not always recommended for people with ileostomies.
These filters also have a charcoal element which helps to eliminate the gas and deodorise any odours, so no one will smell anything. It is important to look after this filter as it can become wet by the showering or swimming or blocked by your stoma output.
If you are about to shower or swim you can pop the small sticker which is found in the box your products arrived in, or use some tape, which will protect the filter for short periods of time.
If the filter becomes clogged with output, it may be worth looking at another type of stoma bag where the filter may be in a different position or try the additional filters for your stoma bag.
Burping your stoma bag to stop stoma bag ballooning
“Burping” your bag can help let the gas out.
This allows the gas smell to escape the bag and is best done in the bathroom. If you use a two-piece system, this can easily be done by gently lifting the edge of your pouch away the flange which can help let the gas escape.
When using a two-piece system, the air can be emptied from the drain end of the bag – complete removal of the pouch is not required. It may also be helpful to use a pouch deodoriser/lubricator if you tend to burp your stoma bag a lot.
Snoring and shortness of breath
If you are experiencing overnight stoma bag ballooning, it might be worth asking your partner if you snore.
Snoring can often be the reason for overnight wind. Snoring and shortness of breath can increase the amount of air swallowed, leading to increased air in your stoma bag. To tackle this, try home remedies to stop snoring, such as: sleeping on your side, nasal strips, losing weight, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking.