What to do with a stoma blockage

If you follow me on Facebook and twitter, you may have seen that I have had a blockage in my stomach for the past couple of days.  It started with crampy stomach ache and a realisation that my ileostomy bag had not been filling as it usually does, it was very empty and the stuff coming out was watery and dark.  I was sweating and nauseous and feeling terrible.

I have had this before and recognised the symptoms of a blockage (or bowel obstruction).  This is when something is preventing stool from passing through the intestine in the normal way.  IA Support uses an analogy of a garden hose to help explain what is happening when you have a bowel obstruction.

“If you stand on a garden hose, water cannot pass through it. The tap keeps pumping water into the hose but it cannot get past your shoe. Soon, as the pressure from the tap continues to pump the water, the portion of the hose above your shoe starts to expand and swell up with the backed up water. If you do not remove your shoe, the pressure inside the garden hose will cause it to break open and leak. The same principles apply to your intestine.”

stoma blockage how to relieve symptoms of bowel obstruction

Signs of a blockage can include

  • Swollen stoma
  • Distension of the abdomen
  • Minimal or no stoma output
  • Cramping and pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry mouth, decrease in urination

You can find out more on their site, I knew I didn’t have a full blockage as I was passing some stool but I mentioned it to my stoma nurse who reminded me of how to relieve symptoms at home and so I thought I would share them here. (Via IASupport)



  • Stop eating solid foods
  • Increase fluid intake (tea, cola)
  • If the stoma is swollen, remove thepouch and replace it with one with a larger stomal opening
  • Take a laxative or any other medication without consulting a doctor
  • Drink or eat anything if you are vomiting or not passing stool or both
  • Soak in a warm bath to relax the abdominal muscles
  • Massage your abdomen or try a knee-chest position
  • Call your doctor if the pain is severe, or you have symptoms of dehydration, even if the symptoms have not lasted 8 hours
  • Have someone drive you to the doctor or hospital
  • Insert anything inside the stoma unless you have been instructed to do so by your healthcare professional
  • Wait too long to call your doctor

A bowel obstruction or blockage is a serious condition and you should not ignore it as it can sometimes turn into an emergency situation.  Always get in touch with your stoma nurse if you can’t relieve the symptoms or if you are in a lot of pain, passing no stool at all and vomiting.

I am happy to say that my blockage passed at home with me using the above treatment, plenty of fluids, hot tea, heat pads, a bath and gentle tummy massage.  Though now I am left a bit exhausted and drained, I was wondering why but I think it may because I haven’t been absorbing all the vitamins and minerals over the past couple of days.

I know we all like to have a google but just remember that the internet is not the best place for medical advice, speak to your stoma nurse or doctor and listen to your body.

Sam xx

12 replies
  1. Diane Powell
    Diane Powell says:

    I always found hot water with lemon and honey helped, I stil have the occasional problem even though I no longer have my ileostomy, I have constriction and adhesions around the site ( 2 ileostomies in the same area). So similar problems even without the stoma

  2. Terri
    Terri says:

    I occasionally have this (without a stoma) and find just the bodies effort to sort itself out can lead me feeling exhausted.

  3. Jeanette
    Jeanette says:

    I’m so glad you got it sorted.
    I belong to an ostomy support group and hearing about the troubles those with ileos have makes me grateful for my fairly well behaved colostomy.

  4. Dave Pawson
    Dave Pawson says:

    Another key info point the H gave me Sam. If you start vomiting, go straight to emergency, that’s when it’s getting more serious.

  5. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Glad you feel better Sam….I haven’t experienced anything like this, fortunately, have had stoma nearly 16 years…great advice from you..x

  6. Laura
    Laura says:

    I just recently felt a blockage of my stoma coming on and tried several of the suggested techniques. Since I had 4 blockages in 12 months following my November 2016 ileostomy, I had become far too familiar with the symptoms, or at least how they felt in my own body. Clearly, what I had tried in the past didn’t work, and I wound up in the hospital for several days until flushing through a naso-gastric tube cleared things out each time.

    This time, I added some time on an exercise bike (zero or low tension); ate foods like chocolate and coffee, which tend to make my output more watery; and took some simethocone (anti-gas capsules, pills or chewables). I also did some light exercises with my legs, including pulling them up to my chest several times while lying on my back, swinging my knees out away from my body and back one at a time. After doing this for a while, I noticed that gas was coming through my stoma, and eventually, so did liquid. Only at that point did I add any thickening foods, and then only a little at a time to test it.

    Finally, for the first time, I was able to head off a blockage. I have an appointment with my surgeon on Wednesday to figure out whether my multiple blockages might be the result of a kink in my remaining intestine, which may call for additional surgery. If the cause is scar tissue, I guess I’m out of luck, as more surgery just means *more* scar tissue.. The doctors seem to agree that 4 blockages in 12 months is very unusual and that the problem is *not* food!

    Just something else to think about!

  7. James Broshears
    James Broshears says:

    My stoma has been blocked for 2 days. Only have use of one hand does anybody have suggestions how I can unblock it easily

    • Timm
      Timm says:

      Hi James is it totally blocked? If you aren’t passing anything and/or vomiting you should def speak to a dr.

      If it’s partial (still speak to nurse) but have you tried warm bath or heat compress, gentle massage, hot tea ?


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