The Gassy Pouch

Colostomy patients often worry about or have problems with excessive gas that ends up collecting in their colostomy pouch. Gas production is a normal byproduct of the digestive process, but there are a few steps and precautions that can be made to try and reduce the amount of gas and odor that a colostomy patient has to deal with. As well looking at a patient’s diet and eating and drinking habits, there are special colostomy bags and filters that may address gas and odor once it has made it through your system. If a patient is having problems with a gassy pouch then there are means and products available that may be able to help alleviate some of the worry and possible embarrassment associated with this nuisance.

Dietary Causes

The first logical place to start is to examine which kind of foods are being consumed and determine which foods should be avoided when needed. A balanced diet is important, so one should not completely cut off problem foods, unless they do more harm than good. Of course everyone’s digestive system is different, so some trial and error may be needed to find out which foods produce excessive gas or potent odors.

Vegetables and legumes are a likely culprits for a lot of patients with gas problems. A list of the usual suspects that may cause odor and excessive gas include:

  • Beans
  • Green leafy vegetables such as cabbage and spinach
  • Cauliflower and broccoli
  • Cucumbers
  • Onions
  • Sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Turnips
  • Radishes
  • Eggs
  • Spicy foods
  • Corn
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Prunes
  • Nuts
  • Strong cheeses (odor)
  • Certain dairy products

To counter-balance the consumption of odor causing foods some suggest drinking juices such as orange, tomato and cranberry juice. For those who know which foods tend to pose problems with gas but still want to continue to consume them may try some of the more popular over-the-counter anti-acids or products designed to reduce gas.

Eating and drinking habits may also play a role in how much air is taken in. Activities such as chewing gum, gulping down liquids while drinking and not chewing enough or eating fast may cause larger amounts of air to be swallowed. This may lead to either excessive burping or it may make it through the digestive system and come out the only other outlet…your colostomy pouch.

Managing Gas in the Pouch

Handling gas that has made its way into your colostomy bag may be achieved in several ways. If constant gas and odor problems are persistent then colostomy pouches that have built in charcoal filters may be an option for certain patients. Patients have varying degrees of success with these but they are not for everyone. Those whose stool is generally loose or watery (ileostomy or ascending colostomy) may have problems with waste material clogging the filter or even leaking is some instances, so they are usually recommended for those who expel firmer stools. These type of bags need a little pressure to be applied to the bag in order to push the gas through the filter. The charcoal traps and reduces the odor of the gas as it passes out of the pouch. It is not a fast process so excessive gas build up may take a little time to alleviate in this manner. Any type of moisture or contact with water can cause these type of filters to clog or not work properly, so it is advisable to cover them with adhesive tape when there is a chance of them getting wet such as bathing or swimming.

Another accessory that can be purchased for colostomy bags is a venting device. They can attach to any type of pouch and create a hole in the bag with a venting seal that can conveniently be opened or shut when needed. There is no filter so it does not have any benefits for odor but getting gas out of the pouch takes less time.

Another way to remove gas from a colostomy bag is to “burp” the pouch. For a two-piece system this involves partially removing the pouch from the flange so that gas can escape the bag. For a one-piece system, removing the clip provides the same function. There is an increased chance of leaks when trying to burp your appliance so extra care must be taken to avoid a mess.

For odor reduction after cleaning out an ostomy bag (for those that have reusable bags) scented oils are a great way to freshen up. Applying a small amount of mint or eucalyptus oil can help reduce and cover any lingering smells. Special ostomy pouch deodorizers can also be purchased that can achieve the same result and can be found online wherever ostomy supplies are sold.

Dealing with gas and odor is never fun, but there are steps that can be taken to help reduce this nuisance for colostomy patients. It may take a little time and trial and error, but with some patience getting control of this potentially potent situation can be achieved.