Those of us living with an ileostomy are at high risk for dehydration.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of dehydration as well as preventative measures.  These symptoms can include thirst, dry tenting skin, abdominal cramps, rapid heart rate, confusion and low blood pressure.

Dehydration can occur after ileostomy surgery as the purpose of the large intestine is to absorb water from the indigestible waste and then expel the waste material from the body through bowel movements.

During ileostomy surgery, a part or all of the large intestines is removed, which prevents the body from absorbing water from the waste before it is excreted from the body. Dehydration can occur when the person does not drink enough fluids to replace the fluids lost as the waste moves through the stoma and into the attached bag.

Your Daily intake of fluids should be 8-10 (8 oz.) glasses per day and can be of any liquid containing water (soda, milk, juice, etc.) to help meet your daily requirement.

Dehydration can also upset your electrolyte balance (especially potassium and sodium) When the colon (large intestine) is removed, there is a  greater risk for electrolyte imbalance, Diarrhoea, excessive perspiration and vomiting can also increase this risk.

You should be aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance is more common with an ileostomy as opposed to a colostomy.

Increased thirst, dry mouth, dry skin, decreased urine output, fatigue, shortness of breath, stomach cramps.

Sodium Loss
Loss of appetite, drowsiness and leg cramping may indicate sodium depletion.

Potassium Loss
Fatigue, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, decreased sensation in arms and legs, and a gassy bloated feeling may indicate potassium depletion.

Your diet should include fluids and foods rich in sodium and potassium.

For Sodium Loss high sources of salt include:

  • Canned food
  • Celery
  • Cheese
  • Fish
  • Fruits
  • Milk

For Potassium Loss high sources of potassium include:

  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower

Sports drinks are a good source of minerals to combat these signs in an emergency.

The ideal sports drink should be non-caffeinated and contain some carbohydrates, sodium, and potassium, a sports drink helps replace carbohydrates and electrolytes and is better at minimizing the possibility of dehydration than water alone.

You should be more vigilant when the weather is warm, on holiday in a warm climate or have been drinking alcohol.

If the symptoms continue you should contact your GP or Stoma Nurse for further advice.