Irrigating is a technique available for people colostomies; ostomies with output which is thicker and released at intervals (versus consistently through the day like with an ileostomy). Irrigation is an enema through your stoma that stretches the bowel walls resulting in waste being expelled. It is not a technique to use with ostomies that have loose output.

It is very important to speak with your doctor before attempting to irrigate your colostomy and get their blessing and instructions. If your doctor allows you to irrigate and you want some reminder instructions apart from what they taught you, check out page 8 in the UOAA Colostomy Guide.

Irrigation works best if you can do it at the same time every day. You’ll want to have time to yourself in the bathroom for this, as it takes about 45 minutes to pass a bowel movement with this technique, after you’ve inserted the water.

Make sure you have access to clean luke-warm water. If you’re traveling, do not use tap water, as it can make you sick if it touches your ostomy; bottled water warmed up is the way to go. The water temperature is important too, too cold can cause cramping and not be as effective. The UOAA suggests you start with 1000cc and adjust per your body.

People who irrigate can often use stoma caps instead of a full ostomy pouching system, once they’ve gotten into a routine and know their bodies bowel routine. Stoma caps are small, round stoma covers that have very little space to hold stool. They basically just protect your ostomy from the outside world.

If you find yourself with diarrhea, discontinue irrigating until the diarrhea passes. You’ll want to wear a regular ostomy pouch, instead of a stoma cap, while you have diarrhea so there’s room for the output to go.