Having a stoma at Christmas can feel like a journey to navigate, especially if you’re new to ostomy life. You might be just getting your head around changing your ostomy bag and all of a sudden, there are all the other things to think of that come with Christmas. Changes in routine, changes in diet, alcohol, more socialising, what to wear… You name it, these are just some of the things that I have worried about when it comes to ostomy life. So, if you’re nodding along too, you’re not alone! This post will hopefully give you some hints for getting through what can feel an overwhelming time.

What is self-care?

As mentioned in my November blog post, “self-care means different things to different people, but generally, it is looking after yourself so that you can go about your daily life without experiencing negative repercussions with your health. Of course, some of these things such as being ill are not within our control, but there are things we can do to bring ourselves comfort and get the rest that our bodies need.” It’s vital in this manic time of year to make time for self-care, before your body forces you to!

Changes in routine at Christmas

Routines change at Christmas meaning that your health can sometimes take the brunt and you may feel a little “off” and out of sync.

Your eating routine can definitely get thrown off during Christmas as you indulge in Christmas dinners, buffets & lots of rich foods. You may find in turn that this affects your output and how active your stoma is, especially on a night. Where possible, try to stick to similar meal times as you normally would. It can also help to stick to normal portion sizes, as inviting as it may seem at the time to overindulge! If you find you have problems, it may be a better idea to eat little and often as to not overwhelm your bowel. Hydration is also key.

Mentally, you may also feel a little all over the place when it comes to Christmas. The change in routine along with different eating times etc and giving into treats (a plenty) has definitely made me feel sluggish, sleepy and out of sorts with myself before. If you can, try and boost your mental state by having a walk/getting some exercise, staying hydrated, taking time out to rest and recoup and also having some time to “disconnect” and do something you enjoy.

Drinking alcohol with an ostomy

One thing I have learnt for sure in over twelve years of living with an ostomy is that everyone is different. Take drinking alcohol as an example, this is something every ostomate is different with. Some people have no problem whatsoever, whereas for others, it’s a complete no-go.

I used to be able to have a few drinks but could never mix or drink cocktails without feeling awful. Then, this year, I’ve barely been able to have a drink of alcohol without it impacting my hydration and me feeling or being sick the day after. That’s when I decided to leave alcohol for good. We broke up! And I’m not bothered one bit. I’d rather not have it and feel fresh and be okay the next morning than the opposite.

If you do drink alcohol with an ostomy, definitely alternate between alcoholic drinks and drinks that will hydrate you, and always have some rehydration solution on hand too. Carbonated beverages such as beer or mixers with fizzy drinks can lead to more wind with an ostomy therefore lead to ballooning. Be aware of this, especially if you are going to bed after drinking gassy drinks all night. Expect to wake up more often to empty air or to wake up to a big balloon on your stomach in the morning!

Mentally, it’s also important to look after yourself when it comes to drinking alcohol. A lot of people love to let their hair down and have a drink but bear in mind that overindulgence can also impact your mental health.

Eating different foods with an ostomy  

Christmas is a wonderful time to enjoy a variety of food and make the most of what is on offer. However, at any time during your ostomy journey, it’s best to try new foods one at a time and in small amounts. This way, if something doesn’t agree with your stomach or ostomy, you have more of a chance of working out what the cause is.

It’s important to chew your food and chew, chew, chew again and make sure you have plenty of water. However, if you do experience a lot of air in your bag, drinking water after a meal instead of with it can sometimes help reduce this.

Keeping a food diary can be a great way to spot patterns and what food impacts your ostomy and ostomy output in what ways. However, sometimes, my stoma can just do what it wants and be unpredictable. Sometimes, that is just the way and you never find out what caused it!

Foods such as Christmas cake and mince pies can typically be known as “rich foods” and are best avoided or tried in small quantities, if in doubt. The same goes with other snacks such as fruit and nuts that you may come across more in the festive season. No two people are the same so there are no concrete rules in my experience, more just guidelines.

What to wear over Christmas with an ostomy

I always say to people to wear what they feel comfortable in. Here are some fashion tips for the holiday season:

  • Looser fit dresses and shirts/tops
  • Stoma support wear – This is my number one fashion tip for ostomy life. Support wear helps to flatten out any bulges in the bag and creases from the material edges all whilst allowing your ostomy to work. It’s a big reason I feel confident to wear the clothes I love. It also provides security to hold your bag in place and also acts as a barrier if you do get a leak, so that you have more time to get to the bathroom before it goes through to your clothes. I can count on one hand the number of leaks I’ve had at Christmas, thankfully.
  • Patterns/sequins/sparkles – A fab way to help detract any attention from your ostomy bag. But, remember, the person who knows your bag is there most and knows where to look is you. Nobody else is looking for it!
  • A festive jumper and high waisted jeans – I’m in love with the “mom” jeans at the moment. Guys, try a festive jumper with a stoma support vest underneath and normal jeans!

In my experience, and thankfully many others, there are so many ways out there to dress the way you want with an ostomy. I always have to be comfortable and that comes first, but I do love fashion and my clothes. I love experimenting with different outfits, so finding outfits that combine the two are where I feel my best and my most confident.

Feeling good in what you wear is so important. Even if you’re spending Christmas in your pyjamas, get some that you are super comfortable in and use comfort as a vital part of your self care. If you feel good in what you wear, you’ll feel better overall.

Respond’s useful advice and support

Respond have some festive blog posts from other ostomates on their website, full of useful advice and information to help you live life with an ostomy this holiday season.

These include:

A festive reminder

Self-care isn’t always easy. However, it is vital, especially during the festive season amongst anxieties and changes.. Listening to your body is so important and when you don’t, you learn, often the hard way! Remember that taking time for yourself is key, even if it’s an hour at the end of the day to get cosy and watch a feel-good, Christmas film. Self-care can even come in the form of more simple things that can make all the difference such as staying hydrated and listening to your bodily queues such as the signal your stomach sends to your brain when it is full.

I hope the festivities have good things in order for you and remember, it’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to say “no” and it’s self-care, not selfish to put your health first wherever possible.

“See” you in 2024 for more insights, education, tips and tricks from my ostomy life!

Thank you for reading!