Getting rid of stoma ballooning and pancaking

Ballooning happens your stoma bag decides to play the role of an inflatable balloon! Air gets trapped inside, causing it to puff up, which can be as uncomfortable as it sounds. If left unchecked, this unwanted air can cause the bag to detach from your skin, leading to embarrassing and inconvenient leaks. On the flip side, pancaking is when your stoma output refuses to cooperate by sticking around the stoma site and the top of the bag rather than sliding down to the bottom. This sticky situation can lead to blockages, discomfort, and more leaks. Ballooning and pancaking are totally normal in anyone’s stoma journey and luckily, there are few easy fixes and products that can ease discomfort, solve the issue, and prevent future bouts from happening too.

It’s always a good idea to chat with your stoma care nurse about any ballooning or pancaking issues you’re having as they may want to switch up your stoma appliances. But, in the meantime, here are few ways you can fix the problem youself.

Releasing excess wind from your stoma bag

Stoma ballooning will happen when wind or gas builds up in your bag, causing it to bulge. To fix the problem, the wind needs to be released. Here’s how:

  • If you’re using a 1-piece closed bag, you’ll need to change it
  • If you’re using a drainable bag, you’ll need to empty it
  • If you are using a 2-piece system, lift a section of your bag away from the baseplate to release the wind, then stick or clip the two pieces back together again.

If you usually wear a 1-piece bag, but you feel like ballooning is becoming a constant problem, you might want to speak with your stoma care nurse about giving a 2-piece system a go.

Other ballooning solutions

Different stoma bags have different filters. It’s worth trying a few different stoma bags until you find one that works best for you, but you can always give the Osto-EZ-Vent® air release device a go on your current favourite pouch. The Osto-EZ-Vent® attaches to your stoma bag, allowing you to swiftly release trapped air and say goodbye to uncomfortable ballooning. Try not to let your bag filter get wet and if you are heading for a bath, shower, or swim, cover it with one of the filter stickers that come with your box of bags – just don’t forget to remove the sticker when you’re finished!

Some food and drinks are known for causing extra gas, which can lead to ballooning. It might be worth finding out which ones impact you and minimising or eliminating them from your diet. You can find out more about what these foods and drinks are in our nutrition advice booklets.

If you’ve got a colostomy, stoma irrigation (where you flush your bowel out with warm water) can help reduce the effects of ballooning. It’s effective, but it’s not suitable for everyone, so it should always be discussed with and taught by your stoma care nurse.

Other pancaking solutions

You might want to consider what kind of foods or drinks you are having if ballooning is becoming a more frequent problem. Your output may be too thick so it’s a good idea to incorporate foods that promote softer output, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid overly starchy foods that can thicken the output. You can find out more about what these foods and drinks are in our nutrition advice booklets.

Use a lubricating deodorant to help the stoma output slide to the bottom of the bag rather than sticking around the stoma.

Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to keep your output at an ideal consistency, helping it move more easily.

Products to help manage ballooning and pancaking