To be honest I am not sure if this even entered my mind pre-op but post-op after that first bag empty it sure did and I despondently concluded that I was going to smell like the Labyrinth’s bog of eternal stench for the rest of my life. This was not helped by the fact that my senses were on high alert and I had a flat stoma and skin issues that had resulted in a number of leaks. This combination had me convinced that every offending odour I smelt radiating from my ostomy bag, even though this is improbable if not impossible. In all seriousness though, what person with an ileostomy wouldn’t come to the same conclusion this after the myriad of smells that areis experienced while visiting the throne room. Some could no joke kill the best Strongman while others smell like they just came out of the oven or off the stove. However, my paranoia of the smell along with the itch of burning skin led me to develop an unnerving habit of continually checking and adjusting my ostomy appliances to see if they had sprung a leak. Sadly, what happens when you fidget with something you draw attention to it, which in turn triggered my anxiety and the cycle would start again.
When you’re not fidgeting you’re very beautiful. and very tall. Pretty Woman
This luckily didn’t last for ever, I found products that worked for me which in turn stopped the leaks and over time reduced the paranoia. Now to find out all things smell and the bigger question of solutions the best source of information I found was talking to other like-minded people that have been through it all before. So here is what I have compiled over my ostomy life. First off there are food products that are going to affect the output smell more than others, please note that this list is not exhaustive and every ostomate is different and therefore products will affect you differently so it’s a trial and error process. I kept a food diary for about 3-6 months after I first became an ostomate, to monitor the effects foods were having on my output.
However, here are some well-documented odour offenders:
- Asparagus: Stinky but oh so tasty grilled with balsamic vinegar.
- Baked Beans: More worried about ballooning, so don’t eat often enough to register the smell in my memory bank.
- Broccoli: I have no issues with this that I remember.
- Cabbage: I have no issues with this that I remember, can’t say I eat a lot.
- Cod liver oil: Not something I have tried, so can’t comment personally.
- Eggs: I eat eggs often, I may have made myself immune to the smell as I don’t’ seem to remember having any overwhelming issues.
- Fish: The worst for me, I’m not a huge fish fan luckily so it doesn’t worry me too much but it’s not something I will ever eat while out at a restaurant, it is something I may consider for punishment in the future, haha!
- Garlic: Yum, but yes it can be potent.
- Onions: Same as Garlic, an essential for my food preferences.
- Peanut butter: I think I’m going to have to pay more attention next time I eat peanut butter as again I can’t remember any offending odours after having peanut butter toast, but Satay that is another ball game.
- Some vitamins: I have come across this but I would be more worried about them coming out my bag whole than I would about the smell they create these days.
- Strong cheese: It’s in the name “Strong” but too tasty to miss out on, it’s all about balance and compromise!
Now for some that can aid in putting the nasty smells to bed.
- Cranberry juice: Tasty, great for UTI’s too.
- Orange juice: Also delicious, I will have to put this to the test and update this later, maybe a fish and OJ combo? do be wary through that the citric acid in orange juice can upset some peoples stomas and surrounding skin, especially if consumed in large quantities.
- Parsley: I can see how this could work.
- Tomato juice: Bloody Mary anyone?
- Yoghurt: Something I eat all the time, I add protein powders to add extra nutrients and protein to my daily diet.
Now for some solutions:
First, the D-I-Y ones as these are relatively universal regardless of where in the world you are located.
- Mouth Wash/Spray: Not thought of trying this before but it makes perfect sense. You would need to dilute the mouth wash in a spray bottle and a squirt or two in the bag, stink trumped, A portable option could be a pocket breath-freshening spray.
- 2% hydrogen peroxide: No more than a cap full and make sure it is the diluted version. Works by oxidising hydrogen sulphide, I have heard it has a tendency to fizz up, so could freak some people out, I will have to try this out.
- Essential oil drops: In particular peppermint, no more than a two to three drops.
- Peppermint Tic Tacs: Personally my fav DIY by far and I only found out about it recently thanks to Stoma in a tea cup! Straight after she told me I thought it couldn’t really be that easy and went out to purchase some, I haven’t tested them out on any heavy duty fish, but I had a Chicken Kiev tonight for dinner and it seems to be holding its own as the odour appears to have been neutralised.
- Baking powder: I know this is used in some nappy disposal units to neutralise odour and so I could see how it could possibly work but would expect it to make the bag super gluggy. Side note check out my other blog on the convenience of nappy disposal units for easy ostomy product disposal.
- Strike a match: Not an in bag solution but a pretty cheap cool post change/empty solution. Did you ever go into someone’s toilet and see a packet of matches, it used to make me wonder, just cause I’m nosy like that so I asked my adopted grandmother neighbour why and was informed it had something to do with the sulphur dioxide. Upon further investigation, I found that the smell receptors are extremely sensitive to it and it had the ability to numb the senses. MythBusters also confirmed that it masks the gases found in poop!)
Secondly, there are ostomy deodorants that are made specifically to absorb odour in ostomy appliances. These deodorants are made to be used before and/or after emptying your bag. They vary widely country to country and are too many to list here, so I suggest you get into contact with your nearest medical supplier or association to find out whats available to you. I have tried many and tend to lean towards ones that have a combo application, like odour and thickening gel etc.
Lastly, ostomies get a bad name when it comes to smell and truth be told they could be listed as one of the top ten deadliest surprises to anyone not ready for it. But when fitted with the correct products there is no smell. The smell is limited to inside the bag and the bathroom and there are solutions to cut this impact on our daily lives.
Like I said earlier this is not a comprehensive list and if you have any good links to accompanying blogs about smell or solutions please don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section below.