Fluids and Electrolytes with an Ostomy

Electrolytes are ionic mineral solutions that transmit electricity. Electrolyte balance refers to the combined levels of the different electrolytes found in the blood. The balance of these ions in our body is key to regulate fluid amounts, blood acidity, muscle and nerve health, and all functions from oxygen distribution to fluid delivery to cells. Essentially, electrolytes are the chemicals needed to keep our bodies working.

Extraction of the large intestine impairs the body’s ability to assimilate electrolytes and nutrients. Therefore, people that have undergone ostomy diversion surgery including colostomy, ileostomy and urostomy are more inclined to suffer electrolyte deficiencies. Specially those with an ileostomy or an urostomy, need to watch for persistent diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, nausea and high fever. Ostomy patients’ diets must ensure proper intake of fluids and foods containing potassium and sodium. The latter ingredient is important, but it does not require major efforts to acquire as it is present in most foods. As a note of caution, if dizziness or signs of dehydration appear, immediately drink a sports drink or an electrolyte beverage. Use sports drinks only as a boost. Electrolyte drinks may be made at home with water, salt, salt substitute for potassium, and baking soda.

Ostomy Guide: Problems Related to Electrolyte Imbalances.

Problem Symptoms Treatment
Dehydration Extreme thirst, dry mouth, nausea, decreased urine, fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, dry eyes and abdominal cramping. Increase ingestion of fluids (water, sports drink (Gatorade), electrolyte solution (Pedialyte)). Drink throughout the day at least 8-10 glasses of 8 oz each. All liquid counts: milk, juices, and water. Abstain from sugary drinks. They may result in osmotic diarrhea and weight gain.
Sodium Depletion Nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, lethargy, fatigue, appetite loss, drowsiness, leg cramps, coldness of arms and legs, feelings of faintness. Increase foods and beverages high in sodium, such as soups, bouillon, sports drink (Gatorade), electrolyte solution (Pedialyte).
Potassium Depletion Muscle weakness, confusion, irritability, fatigue, gas, shortness of breath, chronic diarrhea. Increase foods and beverages high in potassium such oranges, orange juice, bananas, and sports drink (Gatorade), electrolyte solution (Pedialyte).

Ostomy Guide: Foods High in Potassium

Black-Eyed Peas






Pinto Beans


Tomato or Vegetable Soup




Ostomy Guide: Foods High in Sodium



Canned Soups

Canned Vegetables


Soy Sauce

Table Salt

Tomato Juice


Prepared Foods

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