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What is a stoma?

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 The word ‘stoma’ comes from the Greek word meaning ‘mouth’ or ‘opening’. There are many kinds of stoma but the main ones described here are colostomyileostomy  and urostomy (also called an ‘ileal conduit’). 

Knowing how the digestive system functions will help you to understand how a stoma works.

Simplified diagram of the digestive system

Simplified diagram of the digestive system

Digestion starts as soon as you put food in your mouth and start chewing. Once you swallow your food, it moves down the oesophagus into your stomach.

The stomach acts like a liquidiser to break down the food until it is reasonably liquid. The food then moves to the ileum (part of the small intestine).

While it moves through the small intestine, most of the nutrients in the food are absorbed into the body. What is left behind is a fairly liquid mix of indigestible matter and water.

This liquid mix moves into the colon (also called the large intestine) - here, the water is absorbed from the liquid mix into the body. This leaves indigestible or waste matter (faeces) in a semi-solid form.

After the waste matter has moved to the end of the colon, it is stored in the rectum before being expelled through the anus.

For more information about specific types of stoma follow the links below:

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