Slow and Steady Constipation Improvement

You know all these GAPS, Paleo, Primal, SCD, Whole 30 diets?  Well, they’re all the same bag with some different bows.  And let me tell you.  They suck.  Can’t stand ’em.

I lived in Candyland in my former life.  Now I’m walking through vegetable forest. Why me?  My neighbors don’t eat this way.  I’ve been doing GAPS since June 22, 2012, and all I want to do is eat a fresh-baked loaf of bread from the Wal-Mart bakery and slather some good Land-O-Lakes butter on it.

I tell my husband I want to quit.  Too much cooking.  Too much work.  Not worth it to fix our non-life-threatening ailments.  He used to encourage me and cheer me up.  Now he just ignores me and lays the vegetables he wants for supper on the kitchen counter for me to chop into thousands of little pieces.

“Don’t cut your finger off.  I’m on call today.”  What a guy.

Has GAPS helped my chronic constipation?


Has it been easy?


Have I strictly adhered to GAPS?

I’ve done alright.  Since last June, there have been about 10 days where I knowingly made a choice to eat “bad” food–Christmas Eve, Christmas, a couple of days on each vacation we took, and a couple of cake pieces for a couple of birthdays.  There have been inadvertent failures where I didn’t catch an ingredient.  Some occasional infringements with dark chocolate with known sugar.  But mostly, I’ve worked hard to stay true.

How are your bowel movements?

Lately, for about the last 6 weeks, I’ve been pooping mostly every morning (pretty super for somebody who used to poop about every 14 days).  The exciting kind of poops:  strong urge, easy passage, formed yet soft, long and abundant poop.  After the poop is evacuated, the urge is gone.  No feeling like I need to pass more even though there’s nothing coming.  When my bowels skip a day or two, I get panic-y that my severe constipation is coming back.  You know, the kind that fails Miralax, probiotics, milk of magnesia, docusate, fiber, Activia, suppositories, and enemas.  The kind where even Ex-Lax and magnesium citrate require double dosages and still don’t produce a bowel movement until 2-3 days later.

The road to this destination has been filled with all kinds of variances, changes, and tweaks.

I’ve identified problem foods.  If I eat them or I eat too many of them, my bowels skip some days until I go back to strict veggie and meat GAPS.  My problem foods are common GAPS/Paleo/Primal/Whole 30/SCD problem foods.

  • Dairy I can’t touch.  After initial diarrhea, I won’t poop for weeks.
  • Eggs make me skip days.
  • Nuts make the poop hard and slows down the system.
  • Too much sweet stops things for a few days untill I get strict again.

There are these startlingly bizarre times when I actually have diarrhea all day, causing me to RUN to the bathroom.  Let me tell you.  I’ve NEVER had this EVER before in my life.  I think this is caused by a food trigger, but it takes forever to sort out which foods cause which reactions.  Since this phenomenon is unusual for me, I haven’t been able to pinpoint the culprit.  And since I’ve always had constipation, diarrhea is a welcome problem to have.  Crazy.  It seems that GAPS has allowed my chronic constipation to move into the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, which I prefer to my former problem.

Besides food changes, what do you do?

Before I discovered intensive nutritional rehabilitation for my gut, I used to just long for that one food or supplement that could make my bowels move.  For Mom it was sauerkraut.  For Dad it was pickles.  For my husband it was fruit.  Food never, ever worked for me.  I tried aloe vera, milk thistle, and other expensive things from the store that smells like incense.  No good.

So now I’m left with this exceptionally challenging nutritional intervention that is working quite well after ten months.  I’ve been through GAPS/SCD legal recommended supplements:  probiotics, digestive enzymes, betaine HCL, fermented cod liver oil, fish oil, magnesium, coffee enemas, and probably a few others I’m forgetting.  Oh, yeah.  I also tried early on doing the rifaximin/neomycin treatment for SIBO while simultaneously doing GAPS intro.  Maybe all of it together got me where I am now.  Maybe none of it did.  God only knows.

However, for the last six weeks, I am only taking lactobacillus probiotic from GI Pro Health ( 20 billion CFU) and Magnesium Natural Calm (2 tablespoonsful), both right before bedtime.  And it’s working.  Please note, I have tried other magnesium preps with varying degrees of success.  I finally settled on this one because my incense smelling store keeps it much more readily in stock than other formulations that also worked.  Plus, I like the way it bubbles and brews.  Goes along with my thoughts that I’m practicing “voodoo” medicine on myself, rather than my comfort zone of traditional Western medicine.

My goal is to get down to taking NO supplements.  At times, I have been able to wean the magnesium down to 1 tablespoonful, but it won’t last.  At other times, I’ve been able to skip magnesium for two days and still have the same morning bowel movement, although not as large.  So that tells me it’s not solely the osmotic load of magnesium each night that produces my bowel movement each morning.  But I just can’t buy that I’m that deficient in magnesium.  Regardless, the goal is NO magnesium and to get probiotics from my food.

That’s It

That’s it in a nutshell.  That’s what I’ve done and where I’m at.  The biggest key to my success, I believe, was removing problem foods.  The second key, I believe, was putting in nutrient dense foods.  The third key has to be the magnesium and probiotics.

Unfortunately, the threads that tie it all together, without which nothing would have been achieved, have to be patience, persistence, diligence, and manipulation of all the variables.  There are LOTS of variables ((hundreds of food items, supplements, stress, illness, travel–just to name a few) that must be played with .  And that’s why modern medicine may never come to accept nutrition’s role in disease.  Because there are just too many variables to contain in order to conduct a scientific study.

Wishing you only the best.  Good luck.

Please make sure you get medical advice from a licensed, practicing healthcare professional.  Constipation can be a sign of a significant, serious underlying problem, which you don’t want missed!  Diets and treatments used to treat constipation can come with some serious “side effects.”  Nothing here should be construed as medical advice.  This is my story.  If you want to try out any of the things I tried, please talk with your practitioner about it first.


Other constipation posts:

Dairy Causes Constipation in (Some) Kids

Cow’s Milk and Refractory Constipation ((January 2, 2013)

A Doctor Visits the Doctor (December 5, 2012)

Whats’ Working (A Constipation Post) (November 3, 2012)

Is it Eggs (October 21, 2012)

Jordan and Steve (A Constipation Post) (October 17, 2012)

Bowels of Steel (October 8, 2012)

10 thoughts on “Slow and Steady Constipation Improvement

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      For sure! Thanks for not laughing (or at least not indicating you did)! Preferred eating my “crappy” food. Well, kind of. But for sure feel better all around when I stick to the “diets.”

  1. Jackie

    Eating the “crappy” food is so much easier and it is made to make us want to eat a ton of it. All it takes for me is one cheat day to remember why I find it worth it to make eating a labor intensive task. Are there any foods you eat on a cheat day and you are disappointed by the taste? I was pretty disappointed with some packaged chocolate chip cookies I had last time I cheated. At the same time, some things are ALWAYS as delicious as I remember such as cheese, butter, my cheap takeout Chinese food, and Cheetos.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hello! Oh, my. I hear you. All it takes is a cheat day to remind you why you don’t cheat! Furthers the determination. Yeah. I agree, though. Things don’t taste so great as they used to or as you think they’re going to, and I just keep eating it anyway until it’s all gone! An iced flour cake seems to taste as good and so do these wonderful frosted sugar cookies a friend makes. What I really wonder is–how would cream taste in my coffee? Do most POTS people undergo dietary modification do you think? Is it the POTS that gets affected or some other symptoms you try to control? Maybe you’ve posted on that on your blog but I don’t remember. Hope spring flowers are popping up wherever you are! Still with snow here.

  2. Pingback: Dairy Causes Some Kids to Have Constipation | The HSD

  3. Pingback: Cow’s Milk and Refractory Constipation | The HSD

  4. Mel T

    Just found your site after typing “dairy transit time” in my search bar. Even though I’ve struggled with chronic constipation for 6 or 7 years, I guess I’ve never used that magical combination of search terms. Anyway, your constipation trigger foods are the same as mine. I’m not on a GAPS or SCD or Paleo regimen, though I’ve tried Paleo in the recent past, but I’ve found that nuts, eggs and dairy make me constipated. Plus, I don’t care for veggies, but very much enjoy fruits and the culinary fruits such as tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. Except for iceberg lettuce, veggies make me bloated. Is it just me, or does it seem like the more foods I remove from my diet because of constipation, the more food triggers I seem to acquire. I’ll be following your blog closely to see how your self-experiments are going.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Glad you commented! Thank you! You been plagiarizing my food diary? LOL! I have those same issues! And, yes, it does seem that way regarding the more foods I remove…Good luck to both you and me! If anything seems to be a magic bullet, besides Magnesium “Natural Calm”, I’ll post it! Still, it’s better for me now than it EVER has been in my life. So what I’m doing is tolerable as far as slow GI tract! Again, thanks for stopping in.

  5. Sandra

    I have had problems with constipation my whole life; I am 54. Laxatives have almost quit working for me; enemas don’t work well anymore either. I am considering having colon surgery, but really, really don’t want to go that route. I have become almost hopeless that I can’t get better without the surgery. I am encouraged to find someone that has tried many of the things I have. Although I am very familiar with the GAPS diet, I have not fully tried it. I do take the fermented cod liver oil, probiotics, marshmallow, slippery elm, and glutamine. I have spent a fortune over the years trying anything that I thought would help. Please continue to report anything that works for you! I have tried the Natural Calm a few years ago, but I didn’t notice any difference. I have taken so many laxatives over the years, that I am afraid that I have permanently destroyed the functioning of my colon.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hello! Sorry for the delayed response. We’ve been on vacation visiting family. My husband always lectured me that it took nearly 40 years of gut damage, and to be as patient as I could in trying to reverse that! So I have been as patient as possible with the steps forward and steps back that have occurred over the last two years. GAPS (which ended up looking like autoimmune Paleo-GAPS by the time I sorted through unknown food sensitivities) helped immensely, although I still needed magnesium (which, like you, had never worked before). Also exploration of SIBO, FODMAPS helped. Potato starch (a resistant starch for butyrate production–I actually trialed butyrate supplements alone, which for some reason helped me but not some others) helped a lot. VSL#3 helped. Now, I’m at a stall due to pregnancy and just biding my time until I can see where things stand once the hormones get back to “normal.” Progesterone really slows things down for me, too. (So the pill, pregnancy, Mirena IUD, etc all mess with my GI badly.) I’m sorry about your GI tract, and I hope there is a way to avoid surgery. I’m currently reading about iodine, which some have anecdotally reported as helping their constipation. Not recommending it, just a lead you may want to read about. Someone recommended I read Healing Digestive Illness by Russell Mariani. I did, but lots of supplement recs, and I can’t do that right now. Plus, his diet included things I hadn’t reintroduced to my diet. Anyhow, those are a couple of things I hope to explore more in the future if after this pregnancy, I don’t miraculously emerge with a moving GI tract. (Laughing! Not a chance!) Best wishes to you! Come back and share if you find anything that ends up helping you! (And if you look on my About Me page, many slow transit GI comments got put on that page somehow. So check out those comments if you haven’t.)~~Terri


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