Colorectal Cancer

Daily living with a stoma

People with colostomies or ileostomies can eat the same foods, wear the same clothes, travel, and participate in the same sports and physical activities as other people. Many people found they had to make minor adjustments to their lifestyles but were able to carry on as normal once they had.

Most people said that their diet was largely the same as it had been before their surgery and that they could eat most things. However, many people found that having had bowel surgery, certain foods now upset their digestion and caused a problem with their stoma. Some people had been advised to avoid things like nuts, sweet corn, and sultanas which digest slowly and might block the stoma. Others chose foods that would help them avoid diarrhoea or constipation which can be chronic problems for people who have had bowel cancer.

For many, discovering what foods they had to avoid was a matter of trial and error and these were different for each person. One man describes the foods he avoids and how you can improve your tolerance to things that upset you. Another explains how certain foods and fizzy drinks cause his stoma to balloon. 

Stoma bags are not visible through clothing and there is nothing unusual about how people with stomas dress. However, the stoma may cause discomfort if it is in an awkward position. One man describes the constant irritation he experiences because of where his stoma is positioned. He also stressed the importance of discussing the siting of your stoma (its position on the body) thoroughly with a stoma nurse before surgery.

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People with stomas travel just like anyone else. Some people worried about long journeys especially on airplanes but those who had done it found that it was not a problem. Several people pointed out that travelling with a stoma required some preparation. Careful eating for a few days before a journey and ensuring that stoma supplies are always at hand were the key. 

For people who were having difficulty managing their stomas, sports and physical activity could be a problem. One man, who had enjoyed country walks with his family before his operation, had to give them up while he had his ileostomy because he needed constant access to a toilet. The situation was made easier when he discovered the availability of universal radar keys that are available to anyone with a stoma and which open any disabled toilet in the UK.  

For those whose stomas cause no difficulty, sports and physical activity could be an enjoyable part of life. One man, who is a keen cyclist, was riding 25-30 miles a day with a temporary colostomy at the age of 65. A man with a permanent ileostomy who ski's, scuba dives, and is a master mariner, describes how important sport has been in his life.

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Last reviewed August 2016.


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