The Unglorious Call to Action

IntestineThat is a personal problem.  Not a medical problem.

Here’s the poop.  No.  No.  I mean scoop.  My call to nutritional voodoo was, well, to say the least, not a glorious one.  Other nutritional blog hosts–oh such extraordinary, amazing recovery stories from horrible illnesses like multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis.  Motivating and inspiring us all to higher eating!  My issue–hmmm.  Right.  Not so inspiring.  Considered by the uninformed to be a personal problem, not a medical problem.  Ah, well.  Even if I arrived in Nutritional Nirvana via a clumsy fall on my derriere, I am here all the same.  My gut is working.  And the pursuit of that goal is pretty much what started this blog.

My History

I’m a 39 year-old female.  I have had chronic constipation all of my life.  Although not a common issue, I can remember twice in high school when I had horrible stomach cramps prompting me to head to the nurse’s office.  On the way, the visceral pain overcame me, and I passed out leaning against the lockers in the hall.  As a sixteen year-old girl I did not make the connection between constipation and these symptoms.  Neither did anyone else!  “You just need to eat more.”  Mmm-kay.  It never dawned on me that my gut was trying to move against a brick and it hurt!  I thought bricks were normal.  I mean, nobody talks about bowel movements at 16!  (I suppose I’m not supposed to talk about them ever.  But since I’m a medical doctor, no orifice or function makes me blush.)

Each decade, my GI function worsened, and I did finally realize in pharmacy school that my gut was abnormal.  The next ten years brought rounds of different fiber preparations (I can make darn tasty desserts with Metamucil wafers), docusate, milk of magnesia, magnesium supplements, suppositories, Miralax, yogurt, probiotics, prunes, shredded wheat (half a box a day), and finally, despite my attempts to only use them sparingly, daily stimulant laxative became required.  Mind you, even with those stimulant laxatives which were needed at doses which would kill a normal human being, my bowel movements still only occurred about every five to ten days and still were not easy to pass.  My gut was slowing down from slow to stop and becoming refractory to everything I knew to try.  I visited several doctors through the years and I always got the same answer:  more fiber and water.  Got a colonoscopy.  Pretty negative.  Got checked for low thyroid and celiac disease.  Negative.

I decided to think outside of the box and took to the wilderness of internet medicine.  Talk about crazy.  How do some of these people say these things without a license?  Guess I’m glad they can because it tipped me off in the right direction, and I embarked on the odd diet called GAPS (at least that founder has a medical license)–before I knew about Paleo which sounds way cooler than GAPS.  (Ha!  Ha!  I actually have landed on a diet which has no name but uses the templates of several diets.)  GAPS helped me identify food intolerances and taught me how to eat a nutrient dense diet.  It got my gut usually responding again to high dose magnesium (Natural Calm), but I don’t think high dose magnesium is good to take for the rest of my life.  So my endeavors persisted.  My goal is NO supplement for my constipation.  For myself, I try to use supplements as a bridge to achieve my health goals.  Once my health goal is achieved, I’d like to try to maintain it with food choices if I can.  However, I recognize there are conditions which will require lifelong dependence on medicines and/or supplements, not to mention declining content of certain nutrients in our food sources.

Achieving Success

This week I’ve lived large, taken a chance, and dropped the magnesium which sustained me through pregnancy.  My gut is working daily!  Back in November 2013, my gut was also working very well daily, and I was set to write this post back then.  I had started butyrate (butyric acid), and although it isn’t supposed to make it to the colon, it worked like a charm on my gut.  My GI tract moved daily and even my stupid food intolerances seemed diminished just in time for Thanksgiving.

But I hate supplements (please know that I do take some). I wanted to allow my body (I consider those bacteria in my gut to be part of my body.) to make its own butyrate, so  I tried to incorporate green bananas, green plantains, cold potatoes, occasional bites of raw potato and sweet potato, some legumes, and potato starch slurried up in water each night to get my own gut bacteria to make butyrate.  Things were going great.  Just great!  I was able to stop my butyrate and still have the same effects.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.

Then, we were blessed with pregnancy.  Let me rephrase that.  We were blessed with a baby.  Pregnancy is no sleigh ride with jingle bells. (Increased constipation has always been in an issue in pregnancy.  This time was much better.  There was a time at about 14 weeks along where my gut completely stopped and nothing I did made it move.  I got worried, but after a couple of weeks, that lifted and magnesium helped again.)  However, I worked through all the food and supplement aversions and stomached magnesium, which I needed again every single day in excessive doses.  I bid “good-bye” to butyrate and resistant starch foods, which sounded disgusting during this time.  I delivered in July a beautiful, healthy girl.

About two weeks ago, I decided it was again time to get rid of that excessive magnesium and all that it was probably doing to my calcium balance.  Besides that, the magnesium didn’t always work daily.  I decided to take butyrate again and started incorporating resistant starch foods into my diet.  Would the experiment work for me again?  I was nervous since I had proclaimed success with butyrate in fall of 2013.  What if it failed?  I would have reported it, you know.  But I would have felt very stupid because I never want to lead anyone astray.  The experiment for me has successfully repeated itself.  Now all that needs to happen is to continue the resistant starch foods and see if I can taper myself off of the butyrate supplement.


So you see, mine is not the most glorious nutritional conversion story there is.  But it’s real.  It has convinced me that eating a nutrient dense diet, excluding inflammatory foods, and supporting the body’s bacterial flora is key to health and curing disease.  I am pretty much 100% convinced that this experiment would never have worked two and one-half years ago in the gut that I had then.  I’ve worked very hard and tried a lot of things to rehabilitate my broken colon.  In the next post, I am going to list what I feel has been most important for getting my gut peristalsis in working order.  I will report what worked for me.  Don’t assume that what works for me will work for you.  I want to make sure you seek the advice of your doctor; I don’t want you to overlook serious health conditions because you’ve given up on conventional medicine.  Don’t use my story as medical advice.  That it is not.  This is my story.

Photo credit:

Originally from en.wikipeida.  Author Dflock.  Now public domain.

9 thoughts on “The Unglorious Call to Action

  1. Debbie

    One more thought: I wonder why – or if – our bodies aren’t making tons of butyrate by now? I’m eating fermented vegetables and have been taking SBO probiotics for almost a year. I’m going to try taking actual butyrate as you did, and see what happens. But I wonder why the PS and SBO – including fermented vegetables twice a day – aren’t creating cities and cities of butyrate?

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Butyrate seems to be “my ticket” to my endpoint. But I don’t think, based on some correspondence I’ve had with people, that it helps everyone. Assumed to not make it to the colon where it works. So I’ve no clue why it helps me quite yet. Heisenbug’s blog, I’m on my phone and can’t link to it, has some posts that may help answer your question. I read them awhile back but need to refresh. But if you haven’t been over there yet–do check it out!

      1. Linda

        Hi Terri! Love the long detailed replies. I have never met anyone with this problem so it’s so great to know what your situation is and what you do to help it. I’m wondering if your headache feelings could be from slight dehydration from taking the pills? I’m thinking magnesium moves water out of the tissues and into the gut? Can’t remember if I mentioned it in my first post but a month ago I started doing probiotic enemas every 5 days but I believe it washed out a lot of good bacteria because week after week I stated getting super bad inflammation in my body. I stopped and now in the process of trying to rebuild some of that gut bacteria I lost. But I mentioned the enemas because they were making me dehydrated and I felt the same symptoms you described when you took the butyric. Regarding the supplement working then not working, etc, I know that when I take laxatives, they work best when I drink lots of water the day before, and all that day when I’m going to take them, then take them right before bed. I’m going to check locally to see if I can get a similar Butyrate like you take so I can start taking it today. I just PRAY it works for me without side affects. Things always affect my heartbeat ( I have a few stents) and am normal weight and always lived a healthy lifestyle but Im a juvenile diabetic for 40 years now, since I was 10.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Dear Linda, Just for my mental notes, how long have you had to suffer with the slow motility? Did it come on slowly, lifelong, or an abrupt change? And do you have any gastropareseis also from the DM?—I do try to be diligent with my hydration status. Thanks for the caution. It is a good reminder; the magnesium in the butyrate is far less than the amount I had to take to get my gut to move.—Being a diabetic with stents, you know this, but move slowly and cautiously, reading everything, everything you can, and find a trusted healthcare provider (hopefully you already have a great one). I want you, and anyone reading this, absolutely safe and taken care of. Butyrate itself is usually safe, but if it comes with sodium, magnesium, calcium, MCTs etc, then some people have contraindications (medical reasons they shouldn’t take these) to these other substances in the butyrate. Always caution.—Keep me posted. Don’t mean to “carry on,” but I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind people.—-Terri

  2. thepasturedchick

    i stumbled upon this article while researching butyrate products. I felt like I was reading my own story! Though my story only started about 2.5 years ago. Anyway, I would love to know your diet plan. Can you point me to a page where you outline what you eat?

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I have been suffering alone, figuring out things all by myself, and coming to the same conclusions (mega doses of Magnesium = not good). I am just embarking on the butyrate, but want to get off of that one day also. I have greatly reduced my iodine supplementation to just 300mgs per day.


    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Lisa: Thanks for reaching out! I have developed a “safe” diet by I guess what you’d call an elimination diet. I try to venture out from that safe diet in order to have better diet and family satisfaction, and sometimes it goes very well. Then, when something seems off (my GI slows, bloats very badly, my headaches come back, etc) then I run back to my safe diet. My safe diet mimics autoimmune paleo (not by choice, but by observation via the elimination diet), except I can eat potatoes and rice. My broader diet when things are going well includes a serving of nuts (usually on salads or a Brazil nut for selenium); some peanut butter; small amount of goat or sheep cheese (Manchego or chevré); small amount of corn products; and if I’m really lucky, a slice of GF bread or GF baked good. Eggs are very bad for me no matter what. My goal is to not have to worry about food but eat a real, whole food predominant diet with occasional mainstream celebration meals. I’m currently down to about 1 tablespoon of Magnesium Calm about every third night. Still on butyrate periodically—I get off then add it back when things seem to flare. My gut overall seems improving, improving. Slowly. I don’t think much about it anymore! Which is good! Good luck to you! Hope this helped. If not, try me again! 🙂



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