Ostomy 101 – 5 Signs of Dehydration You Should Know

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If you are a fellow ostomate – particularly if you have an ileostomy – you will know the struggle of trying to stay hydrated. And if you don’t know – you should, so read on!

The Science Behind It

When you have an ileostomy, your stoma is formed from your small intestine. Some people have had their entire large bowel and rectum removed, in others it has just been ‘unconnected’.

Anterior abdomen showing end ileostomy. SOURCE: Original art, elements from ADig_20140317_v0_001. Used in 5A12105.

Most of the fluid we drink is absorbed through our large bowel and here lies the issue for those with ileostomies. Without this part of the body in action, it is very easy for a person to become dehydrated and this can happen very quickly.

Personally, I wasn’t told about this following surgery and learnt about this from other ostomates I have become friends with and from my own research. Three of my most popular posts are about dehydration and how to deal with it, so I know many are seeking this kind of information and hopefully this post will help you identify the symptoms of dehydration before it becomes an emergency requiring hospitalisation.

5 Symptoms of Dehydration

Firstly I want to reiterate, as I have in other posts, that I am not a medical professional and this information comes from my own research and experiences of this. If you are struggling with staying hydrated and experiencing troubling symptoms, please contact your GP or stoma nurse for advice. This list is by no means exhaustive but are some of the main symptoms you may notice when you start to become dehydrated.

  • Feeling thirsty, dry mouth, lips and eyes – seems obvious right, but many people don’t acknowledge their bodily cues for thirst and hunger well, or feel they are too busy to act on a cue when they first notice it. I have a large sports bottle full of diluted juice on the go all day, every day which is easy to grab and drink from even when I am in the middle of something
  • Dark yellow and strong smelling urine, going to the toilet for a wee less (fewer than 4 times a day) – this urine colour chart can help you identify what colour your urine should be and when it may start becoming a sign you are dehydrating
  • Headaches – many headaches we suffer with are due to being dehydrated. They can range from mild to severe, migraine type pains. Some people will get headaches when they are only slightly dehydrated and some will only experience a headache when they become severely dehydrated.
  • Tiredness, feeling faint or dizzy – this can be a sign of other problems too but could mean you need to take on more fluids
  • Tingling at the ends of your fingers – I was warned about this by my stoma nurse as a sign of low salt. But what does this have to do with hydration I hear you ask? Well, your bowel needs the correct levels of salt, sugar and electrolytes to be able to absorb fluids properly. I wasn’t sure what to expect until I actually experienced it following a particularly bad migraine which had led to vomiting episodes that caused severe dehydration – if you experience it you will know exactly what it is and you need to act fast!
What To Do About It

I have written three posts you might find helpful to read about things you can do to help stay hydrated or cope with dehydration. Rather than regurgitate all that information I will pop the links to them here so you can go have a read.

Top 5 Hydration Tips

Dehydration with an Ostomy

Coping with a Stomach Bug When You Have an Ileostomy

One important way to ensure you stay hydrated with an ileostomy is to drink an electrolyte drink daily.

For my UK readers, Diarolyte is readily available over the counter and I also use the Home Bargains version which has comparable ingredients but is a lot cheaper.

I have also been previously gifted but have since bought SOS Hydrate which was recommended to me by Sarah Russell at the Ileostomy & Internal Pouch Association Information Day 2019. They kindly gave me a discount code for my readers and you can get 20% off using natalie20

For my US readers I have been highly recommended the Liquid IV Hydration (particularly the lemon & lime and watermelon flavours) and you can use this link to find the cheapest deals around

I hope you have found this post helpful but if you are struggling please get in touch with your doctor or stoma nurse for advice as soon as possible. I will be filming a ‘What I Drink In A Day With An Ileostomy’ this week so keep an eye on my YouTube channel if you want to see how I manage my fluid intake. Take care and keep well everyone,

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