Living With an Ileostomy: Does it Reduce Life Expectancy?

Luckily, an ileostomy won’t alter your life as much as you may think. There may be some changes that are required, though they aren’t anything too drastic. If you’ve recently had this procedure done, you may be concerned about how to go about living with an ileostomy.

An ileostomy is a procedure that may be required for those with a poorly-functioning colon. This could be due to Chrohn’s disease, ulcerated colitis, bowel cancer, or even an injury.

If you’re unsure what to expect when living with an ileostomy, here are the most common questions we’ve heard. Make sure that you talk to your doctor and always seek medical advice for things related to ileostomy as the information below is for education purposes only.

Nursing holding hands of an elderly woman living with an ileostomy

Living With an Ileostomy – Will It Shorten My Life?

The short answer is no, an ileostomy won’t shorten your life. In fact, it can reduce any uncomfortable or painful symptoms, making your life easier. Even if you have to live with an ileostomy permanently, you won’t have to worry about leaving your loved ones any sooner than expected.

Of course, there are always risks with any surgery. For an ileostomy, these can include internal bleeding, infections, intestinal blockage from scar tissue, or long healing times. Your doctor will monitor you closely and discuss any concerns or issues you may have.

There will be some recovery time needed after an ileostomy, though your hospital stay should only last a week or so. There are also some adjustments to your lifestyle that may be necessary, which we’ll discuss below.

How to adapt to it?

It may take some time to adapt to living with an ileostomy. There is some medical care and stoma care needed, including proper cleaning, and monitoring of the area for inflammation. You’ll also need to change the equipment regularly, which can take some practice.

You may need to alter your diet after an ileostomy and also colostomy. A low-fiber diet is a must for the first few weeks. This only lasts for 8 weeks, though, so you can resume your normal fiber intake after this time. Depending on your eating habits, you may also need to add healthier choices to your meals, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

It’s a good idea to limit new foods, introducing only 1 per meal to allow your digestive system to adapt to it. Keeping a food diary can help you keep track of this, as well as everything else you’re eating. If you have issues with particular foods, this helps determine which ones are causing them.

Other alterations may include alternative medications, drinking more water to combat dehydration, and increased flatulence. You may not be able to participate in rougher sporting activities, though the rest of your activities shouldn’t be affected.

How do you sleep with an ileostomy?

Sleeping with an ileostomy can be tricky at first, though not impossible with a few minor adjustments. First, you’ll need to empty your ostomy bag to avoid filling it overnight. A light, early dinner at least 2 hours before bed helps with this as well. You may still need to empty it during the night, so an alarm will ensure you wake in time for this.

Securing your bag with an ostomy belt keeps it snugly against you during the night. Loose-fitting pajamas prevent the restriction of flow in the night. Sleeping on your back or side is best, though you may need to rest the bag on a pillow to keep it in place as it fills during the night. A good night’s rest also speeds up healing, making it more comfortable to live with an ileostomy.

This article contains informational and educational materials and does not replace health or medical advice. For questions or concerns regarding your medical condition or health objectives, speak to a qualified physician or healthcare provider.