Your Digestive System: Colostomy and Ileostomy

Whether you have had colostomy or ileostomy surgery, or will have one of these procedures soon, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of digestion.


Learn about your digestive system.

If you already have or will be getting a colostomy or ileostomy, a basic understanding of how digestion works in your body may help you understand your stoma surgery better.

Digestive system basics

The digestive system is also known as the gastrointestinal tract. It’s the part of the body that digests food and produces body waste. The different parts of this system are the mouth, the oesophagus, the stomach, the small and large intestine, and, finally, the rectum. Along the way, other organs like the gallbladder, pancreas, and liver aid the digestion and absorption processes.

Steps in digestion

The digestive system is vital in maintaining health. There’s a natural process to digestion that helps achieve this goal:

  • Food swallowed through the mouth goes down the oesophagus and enters the stomach, where it is churned and mixed with gastric juices
  • Food is then pushed into the small bowel (ileum) where your body begins to digest and absorb the nutrients it needs
  • The waste from this process moves forward into the large bowel where moisture is absorbed, turning your body waste into solid stool that you pass from your rectum

Colostomy and ileostomy output

What does all of this mean for your stoma output? An ileostomy is a stoma formed from the small bowel and has fluid output because the output has not yet been through the colon (large bowel) where moisture absorption occurs. A colostomy is formed from the large bowel and passes more solid stool.