What to do if you suspect a blockage (or any kind).

Jul 12, 2021

Whether you have an ileostomy or colostomy, if your symptoms aren’t too severe, you can try some of the following techniques at home before seeking medical treatment, or until you have a chance to see your doctor. Just don’t wait too long. If things don’t start moving soon, seek help.  

Stop eating solid foods. You want to break down the dam, not build it up.  

If it’s a partial blockage (only a little output, and nothing solid), drink more clear liquids. Hot drinks like tea or coffee are good. Many people find that a carbonated beverage like COKE® clears them out pretty quickly. Others swear by 100% pure red grape juice.  

If it’s a total blockage (no output of any kind) or if you’re vomiting, don’t eat or drink anything.  

If your stoma looks swollen, you may need to cut the hole in your baseplate a little larger so you won’t constrict it. 

Like with constipation, heat helps relax the stomach muscles. Have a warm bath or shower, or put a heating pad on your abdomen.  

Gently massage your abdomen and the area around your stoma.  

Walking can help. Also, stretching exercises - ex., lie on your back, knees bent, and rock your legs from side to side. Or stretch out your torso while standing (twist from the waist, bend over, or reach your arms up over your head). The idea is to encourage your intestines to move and hopefully dislodge a small blockage. 

Ileostomates need to be especially vigilant about blockages. You can get into trouble quickly. Waiting too long can have serious consequences.
If you’ve tried the above techniques and they haven’t worked, you should seek medical help immediately. 

All medical sources warn against taking laxatives or stool softeners (OTC or prescribed) if you suspect a blockage. They can do more harm than good, and are a bad idea at any time for someone with an ileostomy.  

After your blockage has been resolved, be extra careful about what you eat for a few days. Your intestines have been through the wringer and like you, they need a chance to recover. 

Courtesy Joan Scott, author of The Ostomy Raft