One of the first things I was told as a new ostomate was the importance of staying hydrated. Hydration impacts so many aspects of our body and health including skin, mental state, digestion, even blood pressure, kidneys, muscles and joints.
Hydration is important for everyone, but even more so for ostomates. This is especially the case if you have an ileostomy, as a major function of the now removed or bypassed colon is to absorb fluids and electrolytes. Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for hospital readmissions for new ileostomy patients, and this is usually avoidable!
Immediately following surgery, my nurses helped measure my ostomy output, and taught me how to monitor liquid in versus liquid out to ensure I was managing this properly, and that I was not losing more fluid than I was taking in. Keeping a diary for the first few months was very useful, and made me more conscious about it too.
I for one have always struggled getting down the recommended fluids every day. Not to mention, the more you drink, the more you need to pee!
Knowing the consequences of letting myself get dehydrated, I now have a few things I do to keep up my liquid intake and make sure I always have a drink in my hand!
- I always have a bottle of water sitting on my desk at work. If I take a sip or two every so often, I am surprised how quickly I get through a few bottles by the end of each day!
- With a bottle, it’s easy to keep track of exactly how much you’re taking in (I usually drink 3 x 600 ml bottles a day at work – that’s almost 2 litres already!)
- I always carry a bottle of water around in my hand bag. This is especially handy if it’s a hot or humid day, plus I like to walk everywhere!
- I always have a big glass of water at dinner time. Some people advise not to eat and drink together as it can cause more gas, but if I take small sips, I’ve never had any issues with this.
- I find staying hydrated easier on week days when I am at work than on weekends when I am out and about, so I am more conscious on weekends and try to take a water bottle everywhere and stop for regular drink breaks.
- Sometimes water gets boring and tasteless, but you don’t want anything too sugary or carbonated. I treat myself to a sports drink or fruit juice every now and then, or add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to water for a bit of extra freshness and zing.
- Tea (especially green or herbal tea) is nice if you feel like something hot. I still have my morning macchiato or piccolo latte too!
What about alcohol?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like an alcoholic beverage every now and then! At the risk of sounding stereotypical, I am an Aussie! I love a cold beer on a hot day and a glass or two of wine with dinner, and I admit that I have overindulged even since having a stoma. Of course this is not recommended, but alcohol is fine for ostomates, and like for everyone, should be consumed in moderation. I do find that beer makes me quite gassy and I’ve ended up with a balloon bag after a few beers or ciders. Wine, especially white wine, goes straight through me and often comes out exactly as it goes in and fast! Just be warned!!! It’s best not to drink on an empty stomach and I like to have a snack or meal to absorb some of the alcohol, and alternate with water (or non-alcoholic beverages) as alcohol is a diuretic so can dehydrate you even more.
Key signs of dehydration
Signs that may indicate dehydration include dry mouth, thirst, darker coloured urine, light headed or dizziness, reduced frequency of urination, cramping, headache and fatigue.
Obviously everyone is different and it’s important to find out what is right for you. The correct intake depends on your body weight, as well as your output and other factors like climate, physical activity (sweat) and diet. Speak to your doctor or stoma nurse if you are concerned or to find out more.
So cheers, drink up and keep up those fluids!