Out of the Bag: Passing gas with an ostomy

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I don’t fart. That’s actually one of the perks of having an ostomy is that you no longer have to deal with the embarrassment of accidentally letting one slip. However, like everyone else who still has a colon and a normal digestive tract, we still have to let out the gas at some point. And it’s a bit of a strange experience because you don’t feel it coming. You don’t know it’s there until it, well… until it comes out. And just like non-colonless people, it’s not always quiet.

So overall, when you’re dealing with gas in your ostomy, there are two main things you have to look out for:

stephanie hughes out of the bag colostomy ileostomy crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd ostomy blog stolen colon top 10 reasons to have an ostomy ileostomy colostomy urostomy out of the bag passing gas fartingLetting the bag get too full of air. This mostly occurs at night. For me, I usually wake up in the morning with a bag full of air (and other things…). On occasion, it could get to the point where it causes a problem, such as causing a leak or even pulling the bag off of you. This is why it’s important to watch what you eat prior to bed. So you should be cautious beans, broccoli, starchy breads and pastas, and especially soft drinks. All of these can cause gas buildup and could potentially cause an issue for you overnight. Also, I try to refrain from eating too close to bedtime. My deadline I give myself is 1 1/2 hours before bedtime, but really that’s still cutting it close. I truly prefer to be finished eating more like 2 1/2 hours before heading to bed, with perhaps a small snack shortly beforehand, because this can get your digestive tract moving and you can actually go ahead and get some of it emptied out before bed.

Most bags have a filter, which does help some with letting the gas out, but it’s pretty minimal help. One thing you can try to help with the gas buildup is “burping” the bag, or basically opening up the end of the bag and letting out some of the gas. However, you have to be very careful when doing this or you could wind up with a big mess on your hands. (Yes, unfortunately, I have dealt with this before.) Try to open only a corner and you don’t want to do this when the bag is full of lots of other stuff. Also, you won’t want to do this in any sort of public setting because you will be releasing a pretty potent cloud of gas that you can only blame on the dog so many times.

Your stoma making farting noises. I fully realize this is a major concern for people who have an ostomy or are considering getting one. But hopefully I can alleviate your fears by saying that, in my experience, nearly all of the time it is quiet. Most often the bag just silently fills up with air. You won’t feel it coming out, you’ll just notice the bag inflating. But there is that rare occasion where some noise will sneak out. The hardest part is that it completely sneaks up on you. You don’t have any warning or any chance to hold it in. It’s just suddenly there.

However, it doesn’t quite sound like a normal fart. It’s a very difficult noise to describe, but it’s not extremely loud usually. The times that is has happened, I just place my hand over my stoma, because sometimes it’ll continue to make noise, but the pressure from your will keep it quiet. If somebody hears, I usually just say something like, “Sorry, my stomach,” and nobody has every given it a second glance. And I will say that out of the 2 1/2 years that I’ve been living with an ostomy, this has only happened a handful of times, so don’t let it worry you too much.

There are, however, two instances (that I have found) where it does happen more frequently. The first was right after my surgery. For the first few weeks, as my body was adjusting to the new ostomy, I had a lot more gas then I have now. But even then, it was mostly just the bag filling up and not that it was making noise. I had to be careful overnight because it did cause a leak several times. If you are worried about it, it might be worthwhile to set an alarm for the middle of the night to check on it and empty the bag if needed. I never did that and was fine for the most part, but it is an option if this is something that really concerns you. And after a few weeks, your insides will settle down and it won’t happen as often.

The other instance was after my ileoscopy. In this procedure they pump in a lot of air, so there was a LOT of noise afterwards. I mean, it was pretty bad, so I would just be prepared for that to happen. (Read: Don’t bring anyone you’d be embarrassed for that to happen in front of with you.)

Basically, I think the best advice is just to have a sense of humor about it. I mean, let’s be honest, nobody wants to fart in public, but it happens. And you just have to learn to roll with it and to laugh it off, if need be. The plus side is that it will happen to you much less often than your colon-filled friends (especially in the bathroom).

Have you had any funny and/or embarrassing instances of passing gas? Any tips or tricks to dealing with the noise? What about dealing with a bag full of hot air?

Fighting against myself

I had a rough run this past week. It was a 10K here in Raleigh that I had signed up for a while ago. A man, was that a hard 6 miles.

It was my own fault; I fully admit that. I hadn’t trained well, I hadn’t been staying hydrated, I didn’t warm up a lot beforehand. I also spent the previous week at a trade show for work which meant three days of standing for eight hours straight in high heels. Not the ideal way to spend the week before a race. Plus, it was cold and rainy outside. Basically, it was the perfect storm of awfulness.

This was also my first 10K. Actually, it was my first race that was not a half-marathon. Half-marathons are all about pacing. 10Ks are a bit different. Too short to need to put as much focus on pace, but too long to just run all out. I had planned to try to focus on training on getting a little more speed. I was simply hoping to break the 1:00:00 mark. But a number of things going on in the past few weeks and months had gotten me out of the habit of running and training as I had planned.

10k race run stephanie hughes out of the bag colostomy ileostomy crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd ostomy blog stolen colon top 10 reasons to have an ostomy ileostomy colostomy urostomyAnd the moment I started running this race, I could tell it was not going well. My legs felt heavy and I was immediately exhausted. I also did not run with my phone, which I usually do. I got the new iPhone and it doesn’t fit in the pocket very well, so I figured I would just go for it without timing myself and see what happens. (Yah, I know, I need a watch.) I also somehow ended up at the front of the pack when the race started. It was a small race, only like 115 people, but still, I am not a front of the pack kind of runner. So I immediately got myself over to the side so the other faster people could pass, but then I realized just how depressing it is to see dozens of people passing you along the way.

I kept telling myself to just keep moving. It was hard. The course was very hilly, especially at the Start/Finish line area. I felt like I was moving at a snail’s pace. I kept trying to figure out in my head how long it was going to take me, since I didn’t have my phone to help me pace. I felt for sure that I was doing like a 13:00 mile, which is slower than I’ve run for all three of my half-marathons.

Much to my surprise, however, I ended up running across the finish line at 1:02:54. I was both excited that I was not running nearly as slow as I thought (It was actually a 10:08 pace), and also frustrated that I was so close to my goal and didn’t quite make it. I knew that if I had trained just a little better or if I had been pacing myself during the race, I probably could have cut off those 3 minutes. But of course, I can’t go back.

I am not fast and let’s be honest, no matter how hard I train, I will never be a race winner. I am just not built for it and I am fine admitting that. But I do at least want to feel like I am a competitor. As I was running and watching so many people pass by me and feeling sorry for myself, I had to keep reminding myself that I was not there to race anybody. I was only racing against myself. I was only fighting my own body.

And you know… isn’t that what we have spent so many years doing? Pushing ourselves… Moving on in spite of the pain… Searching frantically for the finish line… And that’s part of what I love about running. It’s such a great metaphor for our life and our journey through it. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, and sometimes it just downright sucks. But if we keep going and keep pushing ourselves to take that next step, we can get to where we’re going. And no ostomy or Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can hold us back.

Post-Ostomy Day hangover

I’ve been spending the past few days in upstate New York. My husband’s family lives up this way, so we’ve been enjoying some time with them and celebrating at his cousin’s wedding. It has been a wonderful time, but unfortunately, it coincided with a very important day for me: World Ostomy Day.

World Ostomy Day is meant to be a specific day where ostomates around the world come together to spread awareness and to show that their ostomies are not slowing them down. As an ostomy blogger, I kind of feel that every day is “Ostomy Day,” but it is important to have some time set aside to talk about it as a larger group. And I am still reeling from all of the awesomeness I saw happening yesterday and the stories that were being shared.

World Ostomy Day WannaWearOne 5k stephanie hughes out of the bag colostomy ileostomy crohn's disease ulcerative colitis inflammatory bowel disease ibd ostomy blog stolen colon top 10 reasons to have an ostomy ileostomy colostomy urostomyWhile I’m so glad we got to be a part of this wedding and I wouldn’t have changed anything about this weekend, it does make me sad that I was not able to participate in the day as much as I would have liked. I am disappointed that I did not get to run in the first WannaWearOne Ostomy AWEARness 5K in person, even though I still ran a 5K yesterday morning as part of the virtual run.

And I did keep up with the things that were going on for Ostomy Day, even if just on my phone between the ceremony and reception. And as I sit here on the back porch in the crisp fall, New York air, looking over one of the most beautiful views, I think about how thankful I am. I think about how thankful I am that I am not alone in this. That there are others binghamton ny fallout there who have dealt with some of the same things I have in the past, who live with some of the same struggles I do now, and who have found a new life living with an ostomy. I feel like that’s the real point of World Ostomy Day: to show others that an ostomy is not a death sentence.

I am so proud to be a part of such a strong group of people who are living life despite being dealt a pretty crappy hand and who are making the best of a difficult situation and who are learning to not be ashamed of being different, but rather to embrace the freedom they now have. These are people who inspire me and continue to push me forward. They give me strength to sit here and write and to share my story and to never, ever apologize for who I am or whatever may be hanging off of my stomach.

And I pray that this continues long past World Ostomy Day. I pray that people continue to tell their stories and not let having an ostomy hold them back from anything in this life. I was talking with my friend Rebecca the other day and trying to brainstorm some good ostomy hashtags and she came up with one I love: #OstoMYstory. So I asked her if I could steal it!

This blog is where I tell my story, but I want to encourage you to not be afraid to tell yours, too. Be proud of what you have come through and the things you have fought against. Show the world that you can still live a fabulous, beautiful life with an ostomy! Happy Day-after World Ostomy Day!