The Colour Poo

WARNING – This post will contain photos of stoma output for reference

“No Natalie, you are not haemorrhaging internally, dying or suffering from some sort of tropical disease – you ate beetroot didn’t you?”

Living with IBD you get used to inspecting your poo and it really doesn’t faze you to do it and then talk about it.    Do you remember that feeling as a new mum where you discuss everything your baby does with anyone who will listen?  Even going into excruciating detail about their toilet habits?  Yes, that’s pretty much daily life for me about my own!  Then you go and get a stoma and BAM!  It is even more just a regular part of your everyday life due to it being sat there in a bag on your belly and having to empty it umpteen times a day.  Then the day comes where something unexpected comes out your bag.  That is, a very different colour.  Red, green…blue?!  What is this all about?  Should I worry, panic, call my Mum, an ambulance?  Fear not…most of the time it is completely ‘normal’ but here is your guide to stoma output colour and when you should be worried and when you shouldn’t.

WHAT GOES IN, MUST COME OUT

It seems obvious but when you see something different and the panic sets in, obvious is not always the first place you go.  What you eat affects your output immensely, from volume to smell to consistency and colour.  Some of the biggest troublemakers for changing your output colour include:

BBETROOT – My stoma nurse discussed output colour with me prior to leaving the hospital.  She had had two patients come in through Accident & Emergency believing they were bleeding internally, only to find out they had eaten beetroot earlier in the day.

IRON SUPPLEMENTS – They warn you about the constipation but don’t always tell you that they also turn your poo/output black!

TOMATO SAUCE – I find that whenever I eat things in tomato based sauces (eg. bolognaise) I get very red output

Some of the other things that can change the colour of your output include liquorice, asparagus, food colourings, red jelly and strawberries

THE GREEN BILE

So your bag is producing green sludge?  Is it some kind of weird tropical disease?  No!  More often, this is bile from your stomach and can be coming out your stoma due to a stomach bug, after a blockage clears or because you haven’t eaten.

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Eating smaller but more frequently with an ostomy is ideal.  This ensures a constant supply of ‘stuff’ for your stomach and remaining bowel to be processing and will help prevent you from flushing and possibly encountering the dreaded dehydration.

green poo

Stomach bugs when you have an ileostomy are no fun, and you can read more about my advice on what to do when you have one here

I’M FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES

Similarly, not eating can often result in foamy output.  It can be quite alarming to see bubbles coming out of your stoma (like you have been swallowing Fairy liquid) but it is just due, again, to your digestive system being empty.

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED

Bile output is usually dark green in colour, but if you have bright green ‘ Ghostbuster slime’ coloured output, you need to see a doctor straight away.  This can indicate the presence of C-Diff infection and can make you extremely poorly, so time is of the essence.

Thanks to my lovely friend Rachel over at Rocking2Stomas, I learnt this important information and what to watch out for.  Rachel will be writing a more detailed post about this soon and I will pop a link here when it is live.

You can also get blood in your bag, indicating a possible flare.  If you know you haven’t eaten any of the red coloured foods that can alter the colour of your output, make sure you speak to your doctor as soon as possible so they can get you checked over.

WHEN I GROW UP I WANT TO BE A UNICORN

 

Is glitter poop really a thing?  I have heard that glitter shots and glitter jelly can result in glitter output.  In the interests of science I have purchased some glitter jelly to test this theory and once I have carried out my (very important, scientific, ground breaking) experiment I will update you all!  Make sure you are following me on social media, especially Instagram for those all important live updates!

pink poo

So there is a round up of what your stoma output colour can mean.  Obviously I am not a medical professional and please, please, please always consult your stoma nurse or doctor if you are worried or are having unusual symptoms.  Please let me know in the comments below about any other stoma related posts you would like me to write about and enjoy the rest of your Wednesday.

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Stinky Stanley – Coping With Smelly Output

It’s probably one of the biggest fears for new (and old) ostomates and people prior to having ostomy surgery – the smell factor.  The fact is, we all poo and it all smells, but ostomy output can smell pretty strongly and as we have to empty them more frequently there is more chance you will have to do it in a public toilet or at someone else’s house.

Firstly, the bag itself does not smell.  You can not smell anything, so you are not going to put people off you just by sitting next to them.  The bags work well and everything is enclosed so it just doesn’t happen.

WHAT YOU EAT

Onto the output.  One way of controlling smells is by watching what you eat.  This sheet gives you an idea of things that can be odour producing.  Fish is by far the worst for me, I love it but only eat it sporadically when I know I can deal with the output I am going to get.  You may find other things that cause unpleasant smalls but this is a great base to start from.  Keeping a food diary if you are worried about the smell is a great way to see which, if any of these cause you a particular problem.  Remember, what works for one doesn’t work for all but I haven’t found another ostomate so far who doesn’t suffer from fish!

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PRODUCTS TO HELP

There are certain products available from your stoma product suppliers which may help.  I have been sampling a few to find out what I think are the best so I could share my views on them with you.  Everyone is different and some things can help some and not others but this will hopefully give you an idea of what is out there to try.

Ostomist Spray/Drops

These are available from Respond.  I had a sample of the drops not long after getting my ostomy and I must say, the tangerine ones are excellent.  I did find that I used them up quite quickly as I tended to put more than the suggested one or two drops in my bag but I was a newbie and worrying about smell so much at the time so I just wanted it to work.  I did like the spray but found it wasn’t quite as effective at neutralising the odour, however I have a friend who swears by it.  Many GP’s are trying to cut costs at the moment and products like this are often being cut from prescriptions.  You can talk to your GP or your stoma nurse if you believe it is a vital product for you to use, but they can also be bought from the website and aren’t overly expensive.

Both of these are available in a variety of fragrances and you can order samples to try, just click the links below

OstoMIST In Pouch  Odour Neutralising Drops

OstoMIST Odour Neutralising Spray

Na’Scent

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This is advertised as one of the best and many ostomates use it.  It worked alright for me but wasn’t as good as some of the other things I tried.  I also found it quite expensive so if you can’t get it on prescription that may be something to bear in mind.  This is another one where you put a drop or two in your pouch every time you empty.

Order a sample here

Buy Na’Scent here

Brava Lubricating Deodorant

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I found this to be a great lubricant and helped make sure when my output was thicker, it didn’t clog up around my stoma.  However, it made no difference to the smell unfortunately.  I would definitely recommend this if you are having issues with pancaking but not one I would use to help with small.

Order your sample/products here

Happy Flush

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This worked really well for me and I have continued to order since first receiving some samples.  You use the product by spraying it into the toilet before you empty your bag and it has definitely been one of the top performers for me.  It comes in a range of smells and I don’t dislike any of them but my favourites are the Rose Bloom and the citrus based ones.  They also have a range of sizes which is great as I use the small ones to take out and about in my bag and the larger ones in my bathrooms at home.  There are a couple of similar products out there now but this is a lovely, family based company who also put a lot of work into raising awareness of the conditions that people that use their product suffer with, so I think it is a great one to receive my custom.  The people that make the product have always been friendly and helpful when I have contacted them, and the oils they use are completely natural and not tested on animals.  Visit the site by clicking the link below

Happy Flush

‘Old Ostomates Tales’

Forget the old wives, there are also a number of ideas that are often talked about in the ostomy communities, that people have found work for them.

Tic-Tacs

Don’t shake your tic-tacs, put them in your bag instead.  The amount of people I have seen suggesting this and saying it works for them is unbelievable but… it does nothing for me!  I am not sure if a different flavour works better (I just used the mint ones) but found it made no difference whatsoever.

Peppermint Capsules

This isn’t one I have tried but my mum was recently put on them and she said it made her trumps and poo smell of mint (sorry Mum!). If it works for someone with all their bowel, it is surely going to work for me who has less than half a bowel connected to my bag!  Will definitely be trying them and I will let you know!

Air Freshener

I generally use the Febreeze or Oust ones but they don’t really do a lot for the smell.  It lasts for about ten seconds and then you can smell it again or it just mingles in so you smell it all mixed together.

Flushing The Toilet

This was a tip I heard from Lauren (founder of Purple Wings) and it is one of the easiest and best ones you can do.  I tend to use the Happy Flush then empty my bag, flush, clean the end of my bag and flush again.  This has been the best combination I have tried.  Getting rid of the cause quickly is key!

Lighting A Match

I have heard this works but haven’t got round to trying it yet.  I am not so scientifically minded to be able to explain how, but I am inclined to believe it helps at least.  Has anyone tried this?  Let me know in the comments!

Summary

It has been fun testing out all the products, even if they haven’t worked.  My top three would have to be the Respond OstoMIST drops, Happy Flush and flushing quickly and I will continue to use all three.

Like I said at the start, everyone poos and nobody’s smells like roses so you shouldn’t feel awkward because of it.  I do tend to use a disabled toilet when out to empty my bag in a public bathroom, as I feel more comfortable than in a stall with someone else in the cubicle next to me.  I got my radar key with my first stoma supplies delivery but you can get them from charities like CCUK along with the Can’t Wait cards.  Please don’t allow the worry of smell to cause you to not enjoy your life getting out and about.  It can be nerve wracking at first, but finding something that works for you and with time and trying things being the best things for confidence, it will get easier.

I hope these ideas will have given you some tips and ideas to try, if I have missed anything from my list please let me know in the comments below, or let me know what works for you.

Rachel AKA Rocking 2 Stomas and a great friend of mine, also wrote a post about coping with the smell from a urostomy. Check it out by clicking here