Your digestive system

The Digestive System

Your digestive system, also known as the gastrointestinal system, is part of your body that absorbs and digests food, as well as eliminating the body’s waste. Anything you eat or drink is chewed in your mouth before travelling down your oesophagus into your stomach where the food is further broken down by gastric juices. This will then be pushed along your digestive system into the small bowel, where the digestion and absorption process continues and your body obtains the necessary nutrients it needs. The waste from this process along with any fluid moves into the large bowel. This is then absorbed, turning the waste material into a solid stool. The solid stool is then stored within your rectum and then excreted via the anus when appropriate.

The digestive system:

  •   Stomach
  •   Small bowel (ileum)
  •   Large bowel (colon)
  •   Rectum
  •   Anus

What is a Stoma?

Stoma is a Greek word meaning ‘opening’ or ‘mouth’. There are generally three types of stomas:

  • Colostomy: from the large bowel
  • Ileostomy: from the small bowel
  • Urostomy: urinary stoma

A stoma can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the reason for its formation.

What is a colostomy?


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What is an ileostomy?


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What is an urostomy?


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Why am I having surgery?

There are many different reasons you may need to have a colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy. It could be due to a pre-existing condition, an accident, illness or even cancer. Read more about some of the most common reasons for each type of surgery here.

Why am I having a colostomy?


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Why am I having an ileostomy?


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Why am I having a urostomy?


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Before Surgery

You will have the opportunity to meet with the Colorectal Surgeon and Specialist Nurse on one or two occasions before your surgery. This is usually in clinic or at your pre-operative assessment appointment where you will be told about all aspects of your surgery, given written information and most likely be shown stoma products for you to consider. You will be able to take samples home, so that you can familiarise yourself with items you may be using. During your preoperative appointments you should have time to ask questions and discuss any aspect of your care. You might want to start making a list of things to discuss prior to your appointments to take with you so that you do not forget to ask anything.

It is a good idea to take a member of your family or carer with you to your preoperative appointments, as there is a lot of information to take in.

The stoma care nursing team will be key throughout your journey and will be available to advise and support both you and your family/carers. Where possible, your Stoma Care Nurse will involve you in marking the ideal site for your stoma as a guide to the surgeon, taking into consideration your individual needs. However, at the time of surgery, it may not always be possible to put the stoma in the exact position your Stoma Care Nurse has marked.

What will my stoma look and feel like?

Before you have your surgery, it’s good to get a clear idea of what to expect. Many factors can affect what your stoma will look and feel like, including your type of surgery, the way it is performed and even your body shape. Select your stoma type to find out what applies to you.

What will my colostomy look and feel like?


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What will my ileostomy look and feel like?


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What will my urostomy look and feel like?


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