Disclaimer: This information is based on my own personal experiences since my ostomy surgery in August 2016. If you are seeking dietary advice regarding your stoma, please contact your stoma nurse, dietician or medical team for further assistance.
Christmas 2017 marks my second festive period with my stoma. Last year, I was just four months into my journey of being ostomate and it felt too soon to give any tips. I was seeing how I coped; seen as it was a new year and not only did I have my stoma to consider but also my IBD. This year, I have much more going on, but I’ve prepared myself. So here are my hints and tips to get through the festive period without major incident:
- Carry extra supplies and medication. I carry two complete sets of spare ostomy supplies and a few extras bits to keep small issues at bay. I also carry some Imodium, painkillers and some anti sickness because it seems these days that’s what my body needs in an emergency. And I always believe in having something and not needing it, instead of needing it and not having it. These things don’t take up too much extra room in my usual bag and its more for peace of mind than actually needing them.
- Be mindful of when you eat. Eating too late can mean possible bag explosions during the night, gut ache and acid reflux. I have to remind myself at this time of year, that I am not like everyone else and need to remember my digestive system works differently. And this means taking care of myself and not conforming to everyone else’s routine. This is especially hard, having to say no to one more snack late at night because it always happens.. but it’s worth it in the end.
- Don’t rush or push yourself too hard. You don’t have to go at the same speed as everyone else. You don’t have to eat when they do and you don’t have to go out when they do either. I find rushing myself always makes me feel more anxious and it also has an effect on my output too.
- Chew your food and chew it well! This goes hand in hand with the two above. Rushing and not really thinking about chew can have a bad effect on not only your stoma but your digestive system too. By doing some mindful eating, you’ll think more about chewing your food. This will help you feel relaxed; you’ll fill up without over indulging and you’ll hopefully avoid blockages, bloating and gut ache which can really dampen your festivities.
- Take gut rest days. Having a day or a couple of meals when you are free from the heavy and rich food of Christmas can be good. It gives the gut a chance to recover and refresh itself. We tend to have the main meal in the mid to late afternoon; giving me the chance to have a lighter, normal breakfast and the same for supper. But I don’t restrict myself on the festive foods; I enjoy them when I can.
- Allow yourself extra time. This could be getting ready, travelling, eating or just feeling awake. At this time of the year, the house seems overcrowded with family and the routine changes alot, practically over night. I try to keep things as normal as possible but give myself more time with everything. This time of year is about being with loved ones, family and friends and shouldn’t be stressful. Take time for yourself to feel ready for all of this. And you don’t have to compete either!
- Try to not feel embarrassed if you need to change your bag or use the bathroom. More food and drink means more trips to the bathroom. It can also mean more frequent bag changes too. Try not to feel embarrassed if you need to go; if you do it’s because your body is telling you that you need to! This is important when out and about with relatives or friends. I always pre cut a bag just in case the morning before and know where the bathrooms are. Over the years, my family and friends have gotten use to my IBD so they understand when I get up and disappear for a while. More recently it’s due to my ostomy bag being full and needing to empty it pronto. I won’t lie, feeling embarrassed isn’t something that just magically goes away, but it helps when you have informed people around you. They want you to enjoy yourself, at the end of the day.
- Hydrate! Can’t stress this enough. With the cold weather, house temperatures go up, along with the extra bodies. I always try to get in two litres of non-alcoholic and non caffeine fluids during the festive period. Not to say I don’t enjoy my G&T’s or my fizz during this time, I just ensure my body is hydrated. Having a headache is mood killer for me, let alone dealing with dehydration with my ileostomy. A good way to remember to drink is try to finish one glass per hour. Don’t try to get it all in once, try to keep it constant. Overdoing it can cause your digestive system be flushed of fluids, which is also dangerous. If needs be, keep some re hydration solution on hand, just in case.
- Relax. This time of year is about being around people you love. It’s also a time to be thankful and grateful without worrying about your health. I understand that sometimes this can feel impossible, but relaxing does have a positive effect on your health overall. Spend time with those who make you happy and enjoy your time with them. Don’t feel too pressured to be perfect or healthy, if you’re unwell, you’re unwell. Those who love you, will understand your limits.
- Enjoy! Most importantly, whatever you do during this period, enjoy yourself. Life is too short to worry about the perfect dinner and the most expensive gifts. Giving people your time, effort and attention is more important. Next year could be a different story. I spend some of my time reflecting on the good and bad the year has brought me. I try to plan for the year ahead but I know from past experience it is just a ball park, it never goes how you plan. Being grateful, I find, is what helps me enjoy what is in front of me, in the moment.