I am very fortunate that in my almost 4 years of having my ostomy, I am yet to have a blockage. That said, I’ve diligently read up on signs to watch out for and what to do just in case I do ever get one!
Causes of blockages
Obviously one of the main causes of blockages is food. For the first 6-8 weeks after surgery, I was super careful and avoided all those “problem” foods you’re warned about. I then gradually started introducing different things, and as long as I chew properly and with extra care, find I can now basically eat anything I like including dried fruit, leafy veg, and peas and corn (although these often come through whole which means I clearly haven’t chewed enough)!! I’ve even had the odd bag of popcorn at the movies and been a rebel and eaten an apple or potato with the skin on!! Warning: Do NOT do this immediately following surgery, and make sure you chew thoroughly!
Like many things ostomy, this is a very individual thing, and I know fellow ostomates who’ve had blockages thanks to fresh mango, asparagus, nuts, and even foods that aren’t generally known to cause problems. One girl I met had a blockage that ended up in hospital after eating a McDonalds sausage and egg mcmuffin, not once, not twice, but on 3 occasions!! Clearly, lesson not learnt in this case!!!
Tips and tricks
I’ve had several instances where my output has stopped for a longer than normal period, and I can sense things are starting to back up. If this happens I stop eating any solids, drink a lot (especially hot drinks or juice), lay down on my back drawing my knees to my chest rolling side to side, and gently massage around the stoma. This usually works pretty quickly and gets things flowing again for me.
A few other tricks I’ve come across include taking a hot bath or shower, keeping mobile, and if your stoma swells, trying to widen the opening around your ostomy bag if you can to give it some extra room. You should NOT take laxatives.
Warning signs and things to watch out for that may mean you are experiencing an obstruction include no stomal output (complete obstruction), minimal / very liquid and watery output (partial obstruction), cramping abdominal pain (sometimes constant / sometimes in waves), bloating of your tummy, loss of appetite, dehydration, swelling of the stoma, nausea and vomiting.
Most often, obstructions will resolve on their own. However, stoma blockages can be dangerous as they can potentially cause a rupture of the intestine, so if you are in a lot of pain, vomiting or the blockage persists after several hours, get in touch with your stoma nurse or go to the hospital.
The best way to avoid a blockage is prevention = chew, chew, chew, chew, chew!! Eat slowly and have smaller portions. After you’ve recovered from surgery, don’t be afraid to try foods that you like. Test foods by trying a little bit at a time first. And avoid those sausage and egg mcmuffins!!