Curing My Colon

Last post was my personal gastrointestinal story.  Did you come back for more?  Really?  I know.  Forget Freud and his envy idea.  Freud had it all wrong.  I have the real psychological envy theory figured out.  What is it you ask?  Drumroll.  We all desire something actually within our reach.  More drumrolling.  Whether male or female.  Final drumroll.  Colon health.  Yep.  Forget those nether male parts.  I want none of that.  But colon health?  Sure.  A little bit of “colon envy?”  Probably so.

How did I achieve the object of my heart’s desire, colon health?  Let me tell you.  (But let me first remind you that this is a personal story.  It is not intended and should not be used as medical advice.  Eating real food could be dangerous for your health, and I must tell you so for your own good.)

1.  Massive nutritional intervention (aka dietary overhaul):

Did I say massive?  Oh, man.  Was it.  My nutrition has changed so much, I don’t even recognize food served at potlucks and ball parks anymore.  (Our soccer club is begging for parents to work in the concession stand.  Not this mama.  I’d lose sleep if I handed any of that stuff out.)  I started a diet called GAPS and followed it for 18 months before diversifying what I ate.  People really get hung up on names of diets, which I disagree with, but I certainly now know that a person has to have a blueprint to follow to start changing their diets.  I would have failed without a guide. What people eat has become so off base, so unnatural, that we CANNOT see it.  A real food-based diet was key.

So what do I eat?  The bottom line is I eat REAL, unprocessed food and I usually try to avoid grains.  My diet is rich in vegetables (all types but particularly greens), fats (plenty of it), fruits, and fresh meats.  You will find my diet devoid of processed foods, sugar, processed flours, low in grains, and devoid of processed oils like vegetable oil.  Did I mention that my diet was rich in vegetables?  Well, my diet is rich in vegetables.

But diet alone wouldn’t kick the colon and relieve my envious spirit.

2.  Identification of food intolerances:  

I was shocked, appalled, and disgusted when the GAPS introduction diet helped me identify food intolerances for two reasons.  One, I love to eat.  Two, food intolerances seemed so, oh, I don’t know, just so weak and finicky.  (I didn’t like the thought of being that dinner guest.)  For awhile, I told myself the intolerances were just in my head.  But careful exclusion and reintroduction revealed that I had sensitivities to dairy, nuts, coconut, chicken, eggs and certain fruits and vegetables.  I also knew that gluten was problematic too.  Definitely some of those foods slowed my gut down and I had to take them out.  Out.  Out. Out.  Dairy, nuts, gluten, and eggs were worst offenders for me.  (This will lead to my next saga of curing my leaky gut.  Leaky gut leads to food intolerances.)

But diet and removal of problematic foods were not Holy Grails in my colonic development.

3. Experimented with probiotics: 

I have used many types of probiotics and probiotic foods (and drinks).  I don’t always use the same kind.  My gut is moving now with one called Jarrow Ideal Bowel Support (lactobacillus plantarum).  But last fall before I got pregnant, it was moving with VSL #3.  (VSL#3 increases butyrate.)  There was a period where it moved with GI Pro Health’s lactobacillus  acidophilus.  But never could I deviate from my diet and  high dose magnesium.  Some people have success with S. boulardi and soil based organisms, but these didn’t help me when I tried them.  For me, it does seem valuable to drive up the dose to about 40 billion colony forming units daily.  That is usually much higher than the labeled dose.  Probiotics may help decrease inflammation, provide a better environment for the host’s normal bacteria, and may also make metabolites to feed other host bacteria.

Although much improved with diet, intolerance identification, and probiotics, my colon was still in Freudian-like angst.

4.  Removed Mirena IUD:  

I do not recommend this if you REALLY do not want an addition to your family.  (For us–Welcome Baby Girl Number Four!)     But progesterone is known to influence GI peristalsis, so to gain any edge I could, I had my Mirena IUD, which provides a little progesterone, removed.  Incredibly, for about two weeks after the Mirena was out, my gut moved well on its own, only to revert to its usual slow self.  Hormones definitely play a role in constipation.  I hope to have more posts on this later.

Colon health still evaded my pursuits…

5.    Working on GI colon barrier:

The integrity of the GI tract, its bacterial flora, and its mucous layer is important.  If I can help these to be restored, I can decrease chronic inflammation in the gut which could irritate and exacerbate my bowel troubles.  To work on my GI colon barrier I incorporate homemade broths and gelatin into my diet.  I remove known inflammatory foods and foods that I am intolerant to, which would increase inflammation.  I use the probioitics.  Butyrate is known to be anti-inflammatory in the gut, and I started taking that.

Yee-haw.  That just about takes care of it!

6.  Butyrate:

For me, this supplement called butyrate (butyric acid) finally allowed me to stop taking anything for constipation.  Now I have to get off of the butyrate again (like last fall)!  I have loads of posts on butyrate, and although it seems very safe, I still don’t like supplements.  Assuming you have the appropriate bacteria in your colon, you can eat particular foods to increase butyrate production.  After having a baby recently, I have once again resumed butyrate and will try to transition to butyrate-producing foods once again to see if I can be supplement-free for my GI tract like I was briefly last fall!

Colon envy averted.

7.  Other implemented changes that don’t work in isolation but help in a minor way:  

  • Find quiet time to sit without interruptions:  Not an easy task to accomplish but it seems to help.  No TV.  No cleaning.  Just sitting and reading. The gastro-colic reflex is great in the morning, and so getting up early before everybody else and before the stress of the day helps capitalize on this natural reflex.  If I miss this window, I may skip that day.
  • A warm drink in the morning:  It seems to offer a slight nudge.  Caff, decaf, or tea.
  • Feet on a stool to help anatomical alignment:  I used my kids’ little step-stool for a long time.  Then I bought a Squatty Potty, but my step stool was just as good.  Let me tell you, a Squatty Potty or step stool is NOT going to get your bowel MOVING again if you don’t even have urges.  But it may provide better anatomical alignment so that if you have stool in your rectal vault and an urge, it is easier to pass.
  • Large meals rather than grazing:  A large meal stimulates the gastro-colic reflex more than a small snack.  The term gastro-colic reflex refers to the movement of the colon in response to a meal.
  • Cherries:  I hate to mention one food which helps.  For so many years I had to listen to people tell me to just eat prunes, sauerkraut, pickles, or watermelon.  “If that doesn’t do it–you’ve got problems.”  Well, yes I did.  No food ever, ever helped me.  If it had, I would have been content to stop right there.  But this past summer, I found that those large, red cherries actually did help peristalsis.  Of course, bowls of them.  So I tried some dried cherries.  Worked, too.
  • Bowl retraining:  As the rectum and colon are under chronic distention from chronic constipation and stool in the rectal vault, they will “reset” themselves to accommodate more stool.  Thus, it will take even more distention and pressure to make it push stool out the vault.  If you’ve had constipation long enough, you may need to have some bowel retraining, which you can ask your doctor about.  It may require biofeedback exercises and enemas.  Enemas are not good to use routinely.

 

Closing:

Despite my attempts at humor, if constipation is your problem, so much so that you’re considering a colectomy, then I strongly encourage you to ask your doctor if it’s okay to try the things I talk about above.  I know some of you are just about unresponsive to anything.  You may not achieve complete success, but maybe if you can get some of the simple over-the-counter meds working for you again, you might be able to avert a huge surgery.  When I started this journey, I had to take high dose over the counter meds to get my GI tract to move three days later.  Slowly, with these changes, magnesium started working again.  And now, I’m actually confident I’ll be med-free for constipation in the near future.  And along the way, I’ve shed headaches, fatigue, and allergy prescriptions.  I’ve left some things out that I’ve tried since they didn’t seem to contribute greatly, but maybe they did more than I know.  I don’t mind questions.  Good luck.  The best to you.

Remember, this is my story.  Please seek the advice and treatment of a real, live doctor you trust.

Terri

24 thoughts on “Curing My Colon

  1. mommytrainingwheels

    I’m glad you found a way to cure you colon (among other things) by changing your diet. Though I’m not against medication and supplements, I figure it’s better to treat something by finding the cause than by just medicating. For instance, I figured out quite a few years back that my headaches are caused by fatigue and dehydration. When I get one, I know I just have to up my water intake and get down for a nap (or an early bedtime) as soon as I can. Problem solved, no Tylenol needed.

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I’ll bet you were so relieved to find something you could address yourself for your headaches! That is a neat success story! I’m happy to be in control of symptoms that I just thought I had to deal with, even if it means eating a certain way. ~~Terri

      Reply
  2. Always Learning

    Hi! How much Butyrate do you take and how often? With or without food? I really appreciate your posts on this topic. I have eliminated gluten and dairy and take high dose probiotics, but it hasn’t been been enough to help me. I hope that Butyrate will be the missing link. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi! I take 2 capsules three times a day, rarely four times a day. Sometimes I take it with meals. And sometimes I decide to take some doses on an empty stomach, particularly right before bedtime and/or first thing in the morning. The bottle says with meals. I can’t say definitely which way is best, but I’m kind of leaning toward maybe empty stomach. I take this one:

      http://www.amazon.com/BodyBio-E-Lyte-Butyrate-600-caps/dp/B0016NHCGA/ref=pd_sim_hpc_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=10PFKKWCJ1BS806XSV0A

      I chose it for the magnesium component, although the magnesium in it is not even near what I would take daily. The label shows that when 6 capsules are taken, the person will receive:

      calcium 480 mg
      magnesium 240 mg
      butyric acid 3.6 g
      and the label also shows medium chain triglycerides (MCT)

      Again, this is for the total of 6 capsules–not per capsule.

      I wish you success in your aims. I don’t know if butyrate will be your piece of the puzzle, but whatever things are missing, I sure do hope you get them figured out! Wouldn’t mind hearing when you do eventually get it figured out! ~~Terri

      Reply
  3. lakenormanprep

    I love the comment that you don’t even know the items served at a covered dish or soccer game anymore. We are the same way. Makes me laugh. You are a terrific resource for digestive health. 🙂

    Reply
  4. andthreetogo

    I love the fact that squat toilets are readily available here. I use them often and feel better (and they are so much cleaner!) after the fact. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this, although I do not suffer from chronic constipation, I enjoy learning about what our diet can do for us.

    Reply
  5. saltygirlswell

    I’m so glad I found your website! I’m debating between trying the butyrate with cal/mag and sodium butytrate. I take Oxy-klenz at night (aka Mag07) and its a miracle worker. I also supplement with cal/mag citrate with meals because i have problems with oxalate sensitivity and it binds with the oxalates to help make sure they don’t leave the digestive track. I’m wondering if it would be overkill on cal/mag to take both cal/mag citrate and cal/mag butyrate? I’m guess the answer lies in that I’m just going to have to get out there and experiment. Its exhausting! Thank you for your website its really great. P.s. I just had 10 days of a fecal microbiota transplant that seems to be a big piece of my puzzle- something you might consider.

    Reply
  6. saltygirlswell

    Thank you so much for your website! Im debating between trying cal/mag butytrate and sodium butyrate. Any thoughts on efficacy? I already take cal/mag citrate with meals because i have oxalate sensitivity and its supposed to help make sure oxalates dont leave my digestive track- not sure if its working. I also take Mag 07 at night (MIRACLE worker if you haven’t tried it). I’m worried about going overkill on all the calcium and magnesium. Any thoughts?

    Also- I just got through 10 days of fecal microbiota transplant- seems to be a big piece of my puzzle so far.

    Thanks again for your great thoughts!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi! I think most studies on IBD and butyrate use the sodium butyrate. The efficacy overall seems equivocal across the IBD studies, which is why I think maybe it helps some (like me, although not for IBD but for constipation) and maybe not others (?). Many choose the sodium butyrate since that’s what is used most in studies. I opted for the Na/Mg since the magnesium component would be more beneficial for constipation than the sodium. I have not tried the sodium. Maybe as a self-experiment I should. Fascinating about the Ca/Mag for oxalates binding within the GI tract. I hadn’t heard of that. I do worry about calcium/magnesium excess and the proportion with which they should be taken together. I’d love to hear a composite of how the people doing fecal microbiota transplants outside of what they do medically. I’ve heard good things. I’m wondering if it works for the people who tried it at home for constipation and how long it lasts for them if it works. Thanks for sharing your experiences and what works. Knock on wood my peristalsis seems great!

      Reply
      1. saltygirlswell

        Yes, it is actually the citrate component that the oxalates bind to- if my understanding is correct.

        The FMT was going super well for me in curing my chronic constipation but I seem to be going backwards a little bit the last week or so. I think it is because I switched my diet to really low oxalates and now I seem to really be dumping them out. (Warning TMI: I can literally see thousands of little rocks in my stool that look like sand and I started getting bladder/urethra pain that is not related to any infection- my obgyn tested me for everything under the sun twice- hence it is likely related to oxalates). SO I think I need to figure out the oxalate thing before my new bacteria can help heal my intestinal lining. I did the FMT at Taymount Clinic. They said it takes months for the microbes to colonize so i’m in a waiting pattern. I’ve hear anecdotally that you get a little more of an immediate reaction if you do FMT at home with fresh stool..

        Best of luck, I will be following your posts 🙂

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Sorry for keeping this in moderation. I wanted to look up the mechanism of action of calcium/magnesium citrate in oxalate treatment. Please pardon if I tell you things you know. It helps me to remember if I type it out, plus somebody reading comments may want to know. The calcium/magnesium citrate supplement will break apart (dissociate) in the “gut.” The calcium and magnesium (positive charges) will both be free then to bind oxalates (negative charge) from the diet, forming a salt. The salts are not easily absorbed from the gut, and thus sent on out in the bowel movements. Citrate may compete with oxalate also for absorption from the gut lumen and do some things in the kidney regarding calcium and oxalates.

        Interestingly, in my reading, I stumbled across how there is a bacteria in our guts which metabolizes oxalates for us–but it is often killed off by antibiotics. And I also saw that some feel oxalates are elevated secondary to yeast overgrowth in the gut. Anyhow, thanks for leading me down this oath a bit!

        Looking forward to learning more about the FMT and your experience with it. It takes me extra time nowadays to get things done, but I will check it out! Sorry that I made the assumption it was not at a clinic. –Terri

      3. Anonymous

        Thank you for your research into oxalates! Doctors usually only give blank stares if you bring it up 😉 When you say that elevated oxalate levels are found secondary to yeast infections do you mean they occur simultaneously?

        I have heard of the bacteria that metabolizes oxalates for us (oxalobacter). Apparently only about 22% of people have it anymore. Since the Taymount Clinic gives FMTs with multiple donors I’m figuring the odds are good its now in my colon. I am going to do a stool analysis in a few months once my FMT has had a chance to colonize to see. Genova Diagnostics’ new test looks for it!- http://www.gdx.net/core/sample-reports/GI-Effects-Microbial-SR.pdf

        The real key to lowering oxalate levels is to get my leaky guts to seal up I would guess. On that note- GAPS Intro is helping me immensely. It has taken years for me to admit but I think that coconut products add to my constipation issues as well :/

        My little blog is nothing too profound so don’t worry if you don’t have the time! Just wanted to share the experience for anyone thinking about FMT.

      4. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        I wish I had more to offer on that question, but as I read, in passing I saw some mention of different fungi making oxalates, such as Aspergillosis and possibly Candida. So if a person had gut dysbiosis with an overgrowth of fungus, perhaps that fungus could be making oxalates. But I didn’t see any links to follow easily on this so it was going to take some digging. I hope you did get the Oxalobacter! Hope I have it! Thanks for the FYI on Genova’s test. Good luck with GAPS and your GI health. Coconut is problematic for me, too. Hate that. I stuck with GAPS 18 months and did intro a couple of times in there. I learned a lot but “leaky gut” still lingers. Oh, no! I will read a reliable account of FMT. Been meaning to read up on it anyhow. –terri

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I do want to read it most definitely, and I have sent myself the link so that I will be sure to do so! Thank you! It may be addressed in the blog, but did you have any issues getting them to approve it for the conditions you state? (IBS-C, SIBO, etc?) Thank you for the link. I need to do a post on this topic so people know it’s out there. Most who read a lot do know. But not everybody can take the time or has the patience to wade through all the stuff on the internet. I’m going to restate your blog’s name and link it up here in case somebody reading this comment is interested.

      Journey with Intestinal Dysbiosis, Leaky Gut

      Reply
      1. saltygirlswell

        Agreed, it is incredibly time consuming to get educated about this stuff.

        Taymount Clinic was very clear that the FMT would not address SIBO. I was no longer dealing with SIBO when I had my initial consult with them so that was not an issue. They do have some success with IBS-C and that is what I was treated for.

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