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

36 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

    • Ronald G. Trump
      Ronald G. Trump says:

      Reading all of these understandably desperate comments, it sounds like your simple suggestion is a good one perhaps with tea, try relax the muscle tension and definitely stop eating till it clears. The scary vomiting of faeces it can’t get out another way absolutely requires an emergency ambulance call without delay and hopefully some decent paramedics should arrive quickly and some competent doctors to care for you. Some people gently put a clean finger while in the shower in the hole and it can be a big help. Its a pity surgeons don’t tell their patients about these horrible complications beforehand with parastoma hernias as big as rockmellons not uncommon and the very high failure rate of so called ‘parastoma hernia repair’, the suffering has no words to describe it only GOD knows. Some say it is doing your purgatory on earth. Better days ahead for everyone here. GOD Bless Us All

  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 ?

  8. WoesRme
    WoesRme says:

    Has anyone felt as if pills or hard pieces of bm are just stuck there? Try to manually evacuate yourself?
    *** I realize one may freak out at the possibility of trying to get a stoma blockage out. I have a spinal cord injury though and that is how we have produce a bm, either by manual evacuation or digital stimulation. ***My colostomy tends to feel this way within the stoma itself and in the area around it. In the beginning it was working wonderfully and was the greatest gift! This started when I had a bm way too big to fit through, literally feeling as it was going to rip through. I have IBS with c and d. No matter how vigilant I am with eating and chewing probably, drinking about 2 gallons of water, taking Miralax faithfully, as many gas x I take etc, it’s just not enough! I also massage by belly daily and even my chest to encourage everything along from burps to releasing gas and onto a poop. I once had gastroparesis years before the colostomy, in which nothing moves. No gas, no burping and of course, no poop. I never want to get like that again! As expected, I do get panicked when gi related stuff needs help getting started.

  9. Vicky Holland
    Vicky Holland says:

    Hi my name is Vicky I had my op on 31st January, I had a stoma! To be honest I’ve felt so alone not knowing who to talk too other than Dr or stoma nurse, I was in hospital for 6 weeks with complications! Anyway after finally getting used to my stoma I’ve just experienced my first blockage my god what a terrible experience but again not knowing what to do! Stupidly I did get through it but now I’m having stomach ache a lot I will definitely go to the hospital next time!!

  10. Janice
    Janice says:

    I have had a blockage for the last two days with vomiting and all. I’m afraid to go to the hospital because they always want to use an NG tube and I have had really bad experiences with those.

  11. Veronica
    Veronica says:

    I’m suffering for 3 days now , my stoma output has got less over the last few weeks, first day vomiting unbearable pain but having had blockage before , I stuck it I don’t know how I did , day 2 sore so day 3 ate small amount of toast and now pain hasn’t left all day , thanks for your help,,

  12. Tim
    Tim says:

    Hi i had colostomy 3 yrs ago 1/2 colon out now unrestricted flow, had terrible cramps resulting in 9 days on drip and op on small bowel blockage in icu.This was extraction of 2ft of small bowel , in n the last week stoma has stopped working from 6 times a day to one or none then ev 3 days it works 3 bags full and then an explosion of vast proportions.Stomach cramps and loud noises for 18 hrs a day due possibly to now having crohnes now also/pressure on bladder and dull aching throb in groin also 3 hernias one at side of stoma feeling v tired after work symptoms alleviate for a day after eruption but this may be due to not eating much on day 3 but worried how has gone from 6 to one or none a day your thoughts please ty

  13. Mike S.
    Mike S. says:

    I have an end ileostomy since May of 2016 and things went well till March of 2017 when I developed a Parastomal hernia. I began getting blockages just under my stoma (right side of it). Many ER visits and the miserable NG tube followed by 3 days of hospitalization each time. Had surgery to fix the hernia with hernia sac removal and suturing closed only (no mesh because I’m eventually getting a reversal). This hernia is back for the 3rd time (afformentioned surgery finally coming soon!). I have to eat very lightly and only to keep up, not to get full. Many meats and other foods I liked, I go without now. When I feel my stoma getting sore, I know the pain is coming very soon. I lie back, and massage the area and hope for it to pass, which it usually does as long as I haven’t eaten too much earlier in the day.( If it gets bad, vomiting and nausea send me to the ER.) With this method I have reduced my blockages substantially, though I still get them at least once a week. Hopefully after my pull-through operation these will stop and I can eat halfway normally.

  14. Kat
    Kat says:

    Not sure if I have a blockage or not as I am stick getting regular stoma output with one or two liquid output in between. I have threw up on Friday night… and seemed better. Then on Sunday, I ate a tangerine and 6 hours later threw it up with lots of acids. Ate some chicken around noon and threw it up too.

    It’s Monday night now and I am still eating solid foods and drinking 32 ounces of fluid. I find it hard getting the full 64 ounces. Been having cramping a since Friday… not constantly, but off and on throughout the day and night.

  15. Tina
    Tina says:

    Hi all..4 days ago had a severe blockage in Tommy (my illeostomy) hot flushes vomiting the lot..done all the usual remedies and finally made a breakthrough with gentle constant massage around the stoma on my tummy..it took over 25 minutes to evacuate the crap (my case was chocolate peanuts eaten earlier that day ) itself and it hurt as came out..I have a fistula close to stoma base so 2 holes for it to come from so double trouble lol…now it’s 4 days later..all working well but iv got a awful pain which feels like it’s inside at the base where stoma protrudes from the tummy, area about half inch square above stoma (at base) not all round it..like a localised pain in one area,.no swelling no discolouration,no split skin, it just hurts and my bag feels like it’s dragging my stoma down like it’s strangling it, but the bag isn’t. .iv even widened the bag hole so more room for stoma to breathe.. any ideas what this annoying pain could be

      • Tina
        Tina says:

        Hi Sam..I should have rang a stoma nurse but yesterday the pain went away so wonder if the blockage had put a strain internally ..now got awful tummy bug but least no pain and no blockages ..just a lot of bag emptying lol ..but thankyou .. Tina

  16. Debra
    Debra says:

    my mother had surgery just a month ago and is now learning to live with a colostomy bag. All that is coming into the bag is liquid. I’ve seen the consistency of loose milkshake like consistency only a couple of times since she came home a little over a week ago. She is finally eating a lot better then she was. Shouldn’t her BM be a little more solid?

  17. Cathie
    Cathie says:

    I don’t have an opinion regarding stoma blockage but I am thankful to have found others to chat with! I’m going on my 13th yr of having a coloscopy & this is the 1st time hearing anyone mention a stoma nurse, I was just told to call dr. If having any problems, I’m a hard head & felt Drs office was tired of me calling ,i just got through any way I could baths always fell good & lemon tea tastes good , I would of sought Drs if I had gotten any worse .what I’m trying to say is I’m glad I’ve found somewhere & some people I can bounce ideas or what not with , Thanks for putting it out there?

  18. Helen charters
    Helen charters says:

    12 years with illeostomy + no problems except for occasional skin ulcers. Appointment with Chiroprator 2 days ago left me with sore tummy. was vomitting last night + pain is worse, though no longer constant, just when I move. Thanks for all the wonderful tips. Running hot bath + sipping water. Will go to hospital for check up after this. I am beyond grateful as it’s a Sunday so Stoma nurse not on duty. Intend to take this seriously. Better safe than sorry.

  19. Paula Lee
    Paula Lee says:

    Several generous tablespoonfuls of coconut oil washed down with a hot drink have worked for me. Know we are all different but wanted to pass this simple to try solution.


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