Like I said in my last blog post, Christmas 2020 is definitely going to be one of a kind (not in the way we want for sure – but hopefully we can all stay safe!) I don’t know about you, but I’ll definitely be indulging in a glass of gin, wine, prosecco or two this Christmas.
Let’s start by saying that I am in no way a big drinker. I never have been and never will be. I do however enjoy a drink when my body allows it & I’m definitely partial to a glass of gin and lemonade. My current gin is Whitley Neil Blackberry & it is delicious. I never drink alcohol on an empty stomach and always make sure I have it with a meal or after a full meal so that something is there to help soak it up.
In this post, I’ll be telling you about my experiences living with my ileostomy when I refer to a stoma. I can’t speak for those who have had colostomy or urostomy surgery. If you are ever in doubt or have concerns, it’s always best to seek medical advice.
So, should I drink alcohol with a stoma?
Like a lot of things with chronic illness and surgery such as stoma surgery, you’ll often see me saying that it’s not a “one size fits all” thing. Remember, everyone is different. It’s definitely a good idea to follow medical advice when introducing alcohol into your diet after stoma surgery at a time frame that your medical team feels is good for you and of course, one that feels comfortable for you too. I can and do drink alcohol with my ileostomy.
It’s so important to give your body time to heal after surgery before you start drinking alcohol and it’s definitely something I would avoid when on painkillers etc or if you’re feeling poorly. I listened to my body to be honest, more than anything, and tried alcohol for the first time about 4 months after surgery in small amounts with non-alcoholic drinks & food at the same time.
What can I expect when drinking alcohol with a stoma?
Alcohol can cause dehydration, so it is important to ensure you are drinking other fluids (which don’t have the same effect) to hydrate you in between alcoholic beverages.
Beverages such as beer are known to speed ileostomy output up as they have the tendency to make it more liquid, meaning things “flush through” your system quicker. Especially in the relatively early months post-surgery, your bowel is probably trying to find a new routine to settle into, so you may find your output is more liquid any way until it settles down months down the line.
Even years after stoma surgery, I have days where my output becomes very liquid (and very suddenly) so it’s important to remember that it isn’t just alcohol that can cause this. Sometimes, I don’t know the reason but thankfully know most of the time how to combat it.
Carbonated beverages can give you increased wind so you may notice your bag fill up with air quicker and increased noise more frequently coming from the stoma as you pass wind. If I am having an alcoholic drink and mixer, such as gin and lemonade, I stir a fork rapidly in my drink when I first pour it as this helps get rid of some of the fizz. I find this helps and fizzy drinks actually make me feel extremely thirsty and dehydrated anyway if I don’t remove the fizz or have flat drinks in between.
What can I use to slow down my ileostomy output?
There have been times where I’ve been a glass of wine into an evening & my bowel has kicked into overdrive. There are a few things that are known to help slow ileostomy output down, which will in turn reduce the danger of dehydration. I find that sometimes my bowel takes longer to slow down than others when I intervene and I try one thing at a time and give it a while (e.g. half an hour – hour) to take effect before I try the next thing. The last thing I want to do is implement lots of things at once and not give it chance to work before it all catches up with me and actually causes me to go the other way and block up.
This is what I usually try:
- Take Immodium. I find the instant melts that work by melting on the tongue get into my system quicker & are usually faster acting than capsules. I take two, then wait and see at least half an hour before taking any more. I rarely have to take more than four at all before I notice my stoma slows down.
- Try foods that are known to slow it down & chew them thoroughly. Foods that help me are smooth peanut butter (literally no more than 1-2 teaspoons), marshmallows, jelly babies and potato.
- Stop drinking whilst you try to get it under control and proceed with caution if you do get your output to slow down.
Mixing alcoholic drinks with a stoma
I find that once I start on one particular alcoholic drink I have to stay with it. I tried mixing drinks such as cocktails about 5 months after stoma surgery and it made me very dehydrated, sick and poorly. It’s definitely not an experience I wish to repeat so I daren’t risk it now and attempt to mix again. Everyone is different with a stoma and some people are fine having different alcoholic beverages. That’s just what works for me.
Drinking in moderation with a stoma
It is genuinely advised that drinking in moderation is best, especially with a stoma. There is no rhyme or reason with me but I find that some times I can have one drink & be very happy & tipsy where as other times I can have a few drinks without being affected. You can feel the same effects as you would without having a stoma drinking alcohol after stoma surgery and it’s vital to remember that you are likely to dehydrate quicker so need to stay on top of hydration. Also, the last thing you want to be doing with a stoma is being beyond drunk and emptying your bag or having to deal with an emergency bag change.
You can still get hangovers with a stoma! Whether you have over indulged or not, I’d definitely recommend taking some form of rehydration solution at the end of the night and the morning after.
You can also make your own St Mark's electrolyte solution which I’ve never tried but I’ve been told it’s bearable if you add a little fruit squash to it rather than try it on its own.
Merry Christmas 2020!
I hope you manage to have a Happy Christmas & stay safe. Thank you Comfizz readers for wanting to be on my journey with me so far & I wish you all the best for 2021. Hopefully it’ll be a brighter year. Please take care & take some time to relax over the Christmas period. It’s definitely been a tough year & we all need to be gentle on ourselves!
Thank you to the lovely Comfizz team for working with me & their continued support in my ileostomy journey since very early days post stoma surgery in 2011.
Until next year…