“What do gelling agents do?”

(Last Updated On: 15/02/2021)

Disclaimer: The information in this post is based on product knowledge from product information direct from the manufacturer and also personal use of products within my own stoma care. All experiences given here are my own and should not be taken as medical advice. If you require advice or support about any aspect of your stoma care, please contact your SCN in the first instance or your GP.

Let me tell you about one of the frustrating things about living with a stoma:

Liquid stool.

Now, this is an ‘issue’ because, without a colon or arsehole, I see everything that comes out of my digestive system. Moreover, I feel everything too – meaning I can feel my stoma filling with contents when it is more on the liquid side.

Typically with an ileostomy, the output should be porridge consistency – a Type Six on the Bristol Stool Chart for reference – as there is no colon to absorb the water or nutrients from food. It also means that when you have something that aggravates the small intestines, it is ‘flushed’ out with more fluids, resulting in more liquid output.

There are many reasons why the small intestine can be aggravated, ranging from spicy food all the way to a gastro bug. But in any case, there can be a need to solidify the output so that it is primarily easier to empty the bag and secondary, reduces the amount of pull the weight has on the user’s skin.

Gelling agents or ‘stool solidifiers’ – lol at that wording! – can be a great help here!

They are a novel and incredibly inventive way to solve liquid stool. They are designed to gel the contents of an ostomy pouch without the need for any dietary changes to be made by the ostomate. Eric from VeganOstomy has a great article and video on the subject, which you can find here, at his website.

Are they really needed or are the a gimmick?

I often read and hear that gelling agents are really just another way for ostomy companies to make money, and take more money out of the NHS for more important things. Remember, this is just conjecture and is an opinion that is found in the healthcare world. It has some validity of course – these products can be costly to the NHS, depending on how many times an ostomate empties their bag when it has liquid stool.

GPs can be very hesitant to prescribe these in large quantities and go with the rulings of the CCG – Clinical Commissioning Groups which oversee local NHS spending for such things as prescriptions – rather than the needs of the patients. There is definitely room for improvement here; creating a dialogue between patient, SCN and GPs when prescribing stoma products; but that is another post for another day.

I, personally, have found them to be of great benefit when I have needed them. If I have struggled to manage or maintain my output to the right consistency for more than a day or two, or if my bag has filled quickly several times within a few hours; I use gelling agents. This helps me to control the ‘force’ in which my output comes out of my bag and how much pull I get on my abdomen from my bag.

This was particularly helpful when I had my parastomal hernia – I would experience frequent blockages which result in large rushes of output, usually watery, and the pull on my abdomen would cause a great deal of pain.

So here, it is about being flexible in requirements and in using the product – ie not overusing them, or becoming dependent on them. Of course, for some estimates, they become a regular part of life – for those on TPN will always have liquid output and patients with high output stomas due to multiple surgeries.

Handy tips:
  1. Keep these products away from moisture! If you store your supplies in your bathroom, make sure they are either in a sealed container or airtight Ziploc bag.
  2. Get samples before settling on one brand or type of gelling agent; some work better than others.

Products available in the UK

  • Morform Motion Management from CliniMed – this is my favourite go-to. Works really well, it’s clear so you don’t notice it dye your bag’s inside! Sample available here.
  • Pearls – Gelling and Odour Control Sachets – from Trio Healthcare. Another great product which I also use. Sample available here.
  • Diamonds – Gelling and Odour Control Sachets – from ConvaTec. Not one I have personally used but have great reviews. Sample available here.
  • Perform – Solidifying agent – from Eakin. This is a new one for me but has been around a while. Sample available here.

It’s always a good idea with any stoma product, to sample before you commit to a prescription worth of product.

Would you agree with any of this? Do you use gelling agents?

Until next time,

Do you have any questions or queries? Or just want to share your own experiences? You can leave me a reply here or leave comments via my social media accounts – on Twitter, find my blog page on Facebook and over on Instagram

If you enjoyed this post check out Ostomy Glossary and Ostomy Supporting Products – Information

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