Slow Guts Need Care

“Colectomy rates for constipation are rising, are associated with significant morbidity and do not decrease resource utilisation, raising questions about the true benefit of surgery for slow transit constipation… (1)”

Whew!  From second chakras to acupuncture to triphala, I have been taking this alternative medicine front by storm to cure my slow gastrointestinal (GI) transit.  If all conventional medicine has to offer is a colectomy, then there is no shame in yoga and Squatty Potties.  Where do I stand?  Pretty good.  Pretty good.  Not yet cured.  Definitely have some ups and downs, but overall, my gut has totally reversed itself.  Knock on stinking wood.  Or incense sticks–or something–just so my gut doesn’t fall back again.  (Which those with this problem know is quite easily possible.)

Constipation isn’t talked about.  But it should be.  Colons are cut out because of it (seriously–see opening quote).  And people go to the ER for it (quite embarrassing, quite).  Not to mention hemorrhoids and anal fissures and horrible cramping (ouch).  Sometimes all it takes is simple diet maneuvers to get things back on track.  Other times, like in my case, it takes exploring your sanity and motivation.  (For the record, I am completely sane.  I ask my husband and friends every day.  Although I question some of my friends–so maybe you ought to wonder about me…Which brings me to the necessary disclaimer that this is only my story.  It is not medical advice.  You should absolutely discuss anything you try for your health with your doctor.  I am not your doctor.  I quit that jazz for Oz and its Munchkins.)

My History

I’m going to take a few posts to lay out what I do or have tried for my slow transit.  Let me briefly get you up to speed on my gut history.  I’ve had constipation all of my life.  As long as I can remember.  It worsened, just like the medical texts said it would, every decade of my life.  Until I was pooping once a month WITH Miralax, fiber, and a probiotic.  (Magnesium simply did not work at all.)  This was about age 35, and I had to start cranking on the stimulant medicines (which until this point I had only used as needed for the most part).  Not only was this ineffective, the high doses led to ouchy cramping.  I knew something else had to be done, so I turned to the halls of the internet clinic (because my doctors didn’t have any good answers for me–I mean, how could they?  I didn’t have any for myself!) after I quit working to homeschool my kids and I had “time.”

Now I must say, there have been three times, each lasting a mere few months, in my life where I have had what I feel are completely normal people bowel movements with little to no use of supplemental pills or powders. Once in my twenties after being treated for ulcer type symptoms with a PrevPac (involves amoxicillin and clarithromycin). Second time was two years ago just before getting pregnant.  Pregnancy and lactation proceeded to undo the hard-earned success I had achieved using diet, lifestyle changes, and focused supplementation. Finally, the third time I feel my gut has been reliable has been the last few months.  So, here I am with about daily Bristol 4 stools.  I’ll admit, I’m nervous going to bed each night, wondering, “Will I go tomorrow?”  Thinking the next day will be the beginning of the end of my GI success.  Unless you have a very bad problem with constipation, you may simply just not get this.   But I’m hoping if that’s you, I lost you at the first paragraph.

Getting to the Details

I have tried A LOT of stuff.  Since pregnancy and nursing, it has been focused on things that are safe to my baby.  I am still nursing, so I am still careful about what I try.  Let’s get started with more of my story.  There is a lot to write, and I will break it up.  If you have severe constipation and you expect a quick-fix, you may need to reset your expectations.

I am going to start with the supplements I take or have taken.  Some I don’t even take for the constipation, but I have to wonder about the role they play in my gut progress.  I only have room to cover vitamin K2 in this post.  MUCH more to come.  And, please, supplements really need to pass the approval of your doctor.

Vitamin K2

Briefly about:  Vitamin K2 is a relatively recent health-related discovery. It helps shuttle calcium where it’s supposed to go, whether we’re talking about shuttling it TO the bones or shuttling OUT of the heart blood vessels where it doesn’t belong. Getting enough vitamin K2 in our modern diet is tough for anyone because our meat, egg and dairy sources are not eating what they would eat if turned out of the pen. Vitamin K2 is present in the egg yolks of birds who eat worms, seeds, and other things they peck at in nature; the fat of grass-grazing animals; liver; and the milk-fat products of grass-grazing animals (butter and full-fat milk). It is also formed by bacterial action on milk-fat when cheese is being made or by bacterial action when natto (from soybeans) is being made. One last rich source is fish eggs. Vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin, and therefore likes to be in fat and is best absorbed when eaten with fat.

My story:  I started taking vitamin K2 because I realized with my dairy and egg intolerance, I was not getting any K2 to support my bones, blood vessels, and gums/teeth. (Vitamin K2 plays a large role in the structure and health of the oral region.) (Aside:  Vitamin K2 is supplemented in conventional chickens and so it is a source of vitamin K2; I strangely can’t eat chicken either.) I don’t know if vitamin K2 has helped my STC or not as an individual agent. However, it is a supplement I have taken daily for the last four months or so.

Is there research that may lend itself to the idea that vitamin K2 may be helping my gut move forward? I found an abstract in which bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2) helped improve slow transit constipation. Vitamin K2 does impact BMP 2:

Mol Med Rep. 2015 Nov;12(5):6547-54. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2015.4297. Epub 2015 Sep 7. Bone morphogenetic protein 2 regulates the differentiation of nitrergic enteric neurons by modulating Smad1 signaling in slow transit constipation. Liu X1, Liu S2, Xu Y3, Liu X4, Sun D1.

 

And then here is a connection linking vitamin K2’s effect on BMP 2, a vitamin K dependent protein:

Oman Med J. 2014 May; 29(3): 172–177. doi: 10.5001/omj.2014.44PMCID: PMC4052396. Vitamin K Dependent Proteins and the Role of Vitamin K2 in the Modulation of Vascular Calcification: A Review. Margueritta S. El Asmar,1 Joseph J. Naoum,2 and Elias J. Arbid2,*

Bottom line for me: Vitamin K2 modulates BMP2. BMP2 may help slow transit constipation. MAYBE my vitamin K2 supplement is helping my slow transit. (Big question mark.)

Closing

Next post will have lots more.  It’s a long, long story.  Eat right.  Sleep right.  Look up the second chakra.  Love your gut.  Question your sanity.  Keep going.  🙂

Terri

 

 

  1.  Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2015 Dec;42(11-12):1281-93. doi: 10.1111/apt.13415. Epub 2015 Oct 1. Colectomy for constipation: time trends and impact based on the US Nationwide Inpatient Sample, 1998-2011. Dudekula A1, Huftless S2, Bielefeldt K1,3.

35 thoughts on “Slow Guts Need Care

  1. Kathy

    Oh how I love your updates! And I love your face – so lovely and such warm, kind eyes! Anyway, have been taking potato starch w/o much success – at a point where even senna doesn’t seem to be working – well, many other things I’m using, too. I was relieved when you said magnesium doesn’t do a thing because the same is true for me. Oh well. I’m going to investigate your acupuncture a bit more. Didn’t want to go the Miralax route, but I’m getting desperate. Thank you for imparting your wisdom! Kind regards, always!

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thank you, Kathy! Thank you! Don’t worry. I’ve got a whole slew of things I’ve tried for you to ponder about! You’ll be bored before I’ve had my say here. 🙂 I did get magnesium to work again, but I’ll write more on that in the next post or two. Senna always gives me bad cramps, especially at the doses I need (needed). It has been an uphill journey. Kind of a mountain scaling, if you will… but I know I’m pert-near close. Hang in there. Crazy some of us have to work so hard.—Until next time, Terri

      Reply
    2. Anonymous

      Hi! I have suffered with colonic inertia for most of my life. I had a colectomy two years ago. It saved my life! Although it did not solve all my problems, it has greatly improved my quality of life. I would love to communicate with you and others who understand how difficult this condition is. Hoping you find things that help!! I stay informed about intestinal health and want to do everything possible to stay strong and healthy! Looking forward to hearing from you.

      Reply
      1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        So glad to hear that the colectomy helped! I’m glad that I’ve averted that option, I believe, but hearing from someone who says that it went okay for them is good. Because you know you only hear the bad stories. Would like very much to hear your story–things like age, diet, supplements tried, chakra balanced (joke 🙂 )! I guess the way that Kathy or I would communicate with you would be via comments, as there’s no e-mail listed. Best wishes to you.–Terri

  2. Lesq

    THANK YOU so much for putting yourself out and going through this in detail. I have suffered my entire adulthood and lead to toxin build up. I am holistic and eat an extremely healthy diet. I relate to your feelings when going to bed and what will happen the next morning. I live and breath that mentality. I have the greatest life–fabulous husband who is my BFF and my daughter who is my BFF as well and a great son. I do two hours of yoga every morning. I wish I could lick this. I take magnesium and this special fermented product at this time. Cant wait to here the rest of your story

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi, Lesq! There’s more to the story coming. 🙂 Thanks for the comment. It is a little daunting to put it out there for any future employer to read. 🙂 But, like you, my husband and children–and my friends for that matter!–are absolutely the tops so they accommodate my quirky bowel conversations. Have a good weekend!—Terri

      Reply
  3. myjourneythrume

    Firstly congratulations! Is it wrong to congratulate someone on 4 months of good bowel movements? As someone who definitely gets the ‘will I go tomorrow’ nightly thoughts I think we need to celebrate when things are working! I’m reading this post in paradise in Aus and can’t wait for the next instalment, haven’t tried K2 but am starting to think about what I will do when we, God willing, conceive as I’m not sure my soluble fibre supplement would be foetus and baby safe so this series comes at the perfect time! And with a dairy free diet K2 is worth me checking out Interesting and very encouraging that you think your bowel issues have reversed, I worry that I’m making mine lazy / under active by supplementing, by doing the work for it so to speak. What do you think? Jess 😊

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      I tried a fiber supplement (will elaborate later), but I didn’t notice any GI motility increase, even after about 6 weeks of use. If it had worked, I would have seen if I could recreate what was in it with my diet. But that’s just me, your fellow foodie. If I can eat it, I will! 🙂 As far as K2, don’t know if it’s adding an edge to my gut or not–but, I know it’s worth exploring your diet to see if you get any because it is important in the development of baby’s jaw bones which will later allow for room for the teeth. (Don’t take my word for it, though. Google it if you get a chance.) Theoretically our gut bacteria should make it for us, but you and I both know that modern man’s (and woman’s) gut bacteria is marginal.

      Fiber should not make your gut underactive, as it’s simply feeding the bacteria. And then the bacteria help promote the motility. And then it draws some fluid into the colon, as well.

      Enjoy Australia. Aaaah. Man. Totally relax. You are so lucky! I am trying to picture it. Can’t believe you clicked on “read” on your break!—Terri

      Reply
  4. agmorze

    Hi Terri!! Sooooo nice to have you back!! I really need this right now and have completely overlooked Vitamin K2 so will be checking this out and making sure I check with my Dr. before I start 🙂 I’m so glad you are on the good end of things…not so much here as far as my slow transit. I’ve kind of fallen off the food bandwagon…well maybe just a couple of limbs and need to get back on. I’m also excited about the recipe e-book and am going to be looking into that more! I am having my surgery a week from today and I know the stress of that coming up has not helped but am looking forward to starting fresh and reading your posts and figuring out what else I can try to get things moving. I do think pregnancy threw me off and I am still nursing as well so that definitely plays a factor, too. I tried acupuncture before and the suction cup belly massage helped the most I remember 🙂 Any particular brand of K2 you prefer? As I’m looking there’s quite a few to choose from with different forms of K2. I’m just so ecstatic about this post 😀 Many blessings to you and your family! Warmly, Nishka

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      “I’m so glad you are on the good end of things.” Me too! So glad my gut decided to cooperate so nicely the last few months! Not exactly sure which thing it is, and I think it’s probably a culmination, so I’m just going to lay out all the things I’ve been doing/tried the next few posts.

      “I’ve kind of fallen off the food bandwagon…well maybe just a couple of limbs…” LOL! Watch that right arm. You need it! I’ll elaborate on my diet in one post. I keep it pretty tight, but my gut seems to do okay with some things I wouldn’t expect (nuts, for example)–but my stupid headaches don’t. 😦

      “…recipe e-book…” It’s a compilation of different types of GF/DF, mostly whole foods cooking. I think it would keep most people on track, even unsuspecting kids and husbands. But ask me any questions you want about any of the recipes if you want to before deciding to download it (pay for it).

      “…surgery…” Oh, dear. That will not help the constipation. I have been thinking of you and remembering to pray when I do.

      “…pregnancy threw me off…” Oh, it did me a number. And even the nursing! I will write a post after I do good research on hormones and the gut. I always save the hard homework for last. I have the article still sitting in my in-box to remind me. Thank you.

      I will tell you which kind of K2 I use when I can go check. There are many to choose from. I’m not saying it’s the best or great or anything like that (and not even that it plays a huge role in my constipation—just that I’ve been taking it for about four months and my constipation the last 2-3 months has been null—but I’m doing lots of other stuff too!!!!!!), but it’s what I take.

      Many blessings to you and your family, too, Nishka. Be strong! I’ll be thinking of you.—Terri

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Thank you so much Terri, your prayers really do mean the world to me! I will be strong, that is a great reminder as well ❤ I just read your latest blog and your tenacity is contagious and I THANK you for that and being courageous enough to share your story because I know how much it has helped me keep moving forward. It has also helped me learn more about my own health as well as to keep investigating and trying new things (with the approval of my Dr. of course 😉 I will be looking forward to reading more!! As far as the recipes go…I will most likely just go ahead and buy the e-book because it is a time saver as I don't have a GF/DF recipe book to go by I'm always just doing a google search for recipes and that's time consuming! Have you tried them all? Are they pretty straight forward? Those would be my only questions 🙂 Thank you so much and wishing you and your family a wonderful day!!

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        I have tried every single recipe at least several times (some make regular appearances at our house), except the chicken wings recipe is from my sister—because I can’t eat chicken. So I only tried them once (and I was pleased). Some are straight-forward and others a little more in-depth. If you just leave a comment or shoot me an email as you’re trying the recipe, I will get back to you ASAP on any other pitfalls that I can think of. I check in usually a couple of times a day and can field cooking questions easily. I tried to think of any way a recipe could fail a person and explain those tough areas. But, one can never anticipate everything. Well, going to go tidy up the next post on slow guts. Terri

      3. agmorze

        Thank you so much Terri, your prayers really do mean the world to me! I will be strong, that is a great reminder as well ❤ I just read your latest blog and your tenacity is contagious and I THANK you for that and being courageous enough to share your story because I know how much it has helped me keep moving forward. It has also helped me learn more about my own health as well as to keep investigating and trying new things (with the approval of my Dr. of course 😉 I will be looking forward to reading more!! As far as the recipes go…I will most likely just go ahead and buy the e-book because it is a time saver as I don't have a GF/DF recipe book to go by I'm always just doing a google search for recipes and that's time consuming! Have you tried them all? Are they pretty straight forward? Those would be my only questions 🙂 Thank you so much and wishing you and your family a wonderful day!!

    2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      InnovixLabs MK-4 + MK-7 is what I use. It does use medium chain triglyceride oil for delivery–which I assume is from coconut (but I don’t know for sure) if anyone is sensitive to coconut. Also, it does use caramel color, which I’m not happy about. There may be better products, but this is what I found to use in the time I had to search for a decent one. I wanted one with both MK-4 and MK-7. They don’t really know much about all the forms. There are more than just even MK-4 and MK-7, which may be valuable too. Available in organ meats, particularly liver. So I do try to eat that when I can but since I’m the only one who eats much of it, it’s tough because it doesn’t come packaged small enough!

      Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thanks, Ms. Em! Could’ve been worse! Some people never do get it to move and end up in the hospital and, as a commenter mentioned– with that colectomy. And, hey, I’ve learned SO much because of it!

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Slow Guts Need Tenacity | The HSD

  6. andthreetogo

    Thank you for writing this post! I honestly have no problems with constipation, but I do feel worn-down and tired much of the time. I know that this is because of my diet. I AM going to work on it… soon. :-/

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      And I will get an appropriate post written to tell you how I started working on it. At least you have motivation. I never had motivation till I seriously thought that I’d eventually need a colectomy! (Stubborn cusses, aren’t we? 🙂 ) But, it still makes me a little sad that I can’t eat certain things (yet?) at restaurants.

      Reply
  7. Susan

    HI.I have been following your blog for a month now and you have my sympathy. But you don’t have to do this alone. Steven Wright and Jordan Reasoner of SCDLifestyle which is a misnomer, can put you in touch with the best digestion practitioners in the world. They are healing the gut of thousands of people in the world as I write this. They are not a gimmick and they are not fixated on one diet alone. They offer REAL FOOD advice for anyone. I have used them to help heal my gut that had been ravaged by Lyme Disease. I have a raging Lyme infection as my February culture test proved. I’m CDC positive which is the gold standard for proof you have Lyme, but I now live with no pain due to them helping me build a custom low inflammatory diet. No one else is doing nor has done this in this way. Please look them up. They care and have a team of caring people who ANSWER every email. They care.

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thank you, Susan. I am VERY happy that you have moved forward! That’s awesome! I love what Steve and Jordan do! I’m a “follower!” Every blog post of theirs I want to cut and paste here just about! 🙂 However, I have worked with them in the past, a couple of years ago. Perhaps the timing was off for them and me because my experience was different than yours. It sounds like it’s a very responsive system now!

      I’m currently having lots of fun reading a book by Richard Horowitz on Lymes. Sounds like you’re on your way, but if for some reason a glitch ever arises, it might be a good read. My journey has led me to better stress management of my life (which I’ve not typed up yet) and helped in the health of my family. So perhaps two years ago wasn’t my time for my GI tract to move.

      Have a great Holiday Season upcoming!

      Terri

      Reply
  8. Pingback: Maybe Slow Guts Need Poked | The HSD

  9. Pingback: Do Slow Guts Need Loved? | The HSD

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Teri,

      Thanks for the link. The author’s bio is inspiring; I’m so glad he turned his health around. Those kinds of stories make me happy. On the topic, I agree with his train of thought, although I think I’ll land on a more general end and not label the problem as CRH. But the gist of the article and where I am heading in my thought processes and personal health now-a-days (especially the last about 6 weeks) match. “Stress” needs short-circuited!

      No matter what I’ve tried, my leaky gut issues and constipation, although improved won’t budge despite doing things right. I distinctly note two things when I reflect: 1, my gut sometimes moves “normally” now when I am alone in my house doing absolutely nothing and nobody is around 2, when I had only three children and had optimized my diet and stress was lower due to the children being older and more self-sufficient ( since have had our fourth), I was starting to eat more “normal” without food reactions. This has led me to think that my sympathetic nervous system is just too active; what can I do to lower its tone? It plays a role in everything! All those things mentioned in the article you linked to. I can gargle and sing loudly in the shower (stimulate the vagal nerve–the opposite system to the sympathetic system). But somehow I have to shut down the over-active tone. Someone recommended reading John Sarno, MD, and this has led me to really, really, really think about the role of daily stress (which I didn’t even see as stress—just as life!) and my core inner beliefs and values which make that stress more stressful (perfectionism, want everyone to be happy, don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, etc.). Yoga and meditation and exercise DON’T shut those down and the stress hormones they create continue to be there and affect my gut and brain and immune system. I’ve read tons and will continue to do so. I think this modification will be the ticket. And if it’s not, it’s still leading to a happier life, motherhood, and wifehood.

      But it makes physiological sense that my frustration over a messy house, whining toddler, juggling four kids while homeschooling, no time with my husband, not having time for a shower, my irritation that I can’t “do it all,” my desire to keep peace in the family and among friends, my sense that certain responsibilities fall completely on me, my guilt—all these things keep CRH, cortisol, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and many, many more hormones in stress mode. I have to shut that down if I want to feel and function well each day. I’ve now read so many books lately on the mind/body! LOL! John Sarno, Chapman, Phil Barker, Deborah Ford, Joseph Murphy, Robert Sapolsky, Candace Pert, and so on. I originally found that food made a huge difference and wasn’t “voodoo;” will I find that mind-body is not either?!

      Sorry for the long reply!–Terri

      Reply
  10. antolacava

    I have suffered with constipation and digestive problems all my life (I am in my mid-30s) and these issues, in a certain way, determined my life events.
    In my 20s I had three major surgeries for hemorrhoids and anal fissures. When I was 28, I started to suffer of LPR/GERD. At some point I was barely able to eat anything without having any intolerance and regurgitations.
    I have always had a very healthy diet since childhood, but nothing helped.
    Only in the last year, I made great improvements with all my health issues. First starting an anti-candida diet (ditching sugar and experimenting with anti fungal and antibacterial herbs). Second, focusing on my liver and above all my gallbladder.
    Ditching sugar healed my chronic acne (I have suffered of it since I was very young). But the anticandida diet didn’t healed my constipation, but I am sure it helped healed my colon. Prebiotics (Fiber, RS,..) and probiotics, magnesium, iodine and other supplements helped a bit, but they didn’t fix my problems completely.
    Only focusing on my gallbladder has really improved my constipation.
    Bile (stored in the gallbladder) is essential for the absorption and digestion of fats soluble vitamins (A, E, D, K2). Furthermore, bile helps to lubricate the colon.
    For this reason, supplementing with vitamins D3 and K2 can help with constipation, but it doesn’t fix the problem. About 75% of vit K produced in the body each day is produced by bacteria.
    Constipation is linked with the gallbladder and the bile.

    Reply
    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      What a tough medical history to happen so young! I’m glad it sounds like you’re doing better! If you see this comment, could you elaborate a little more on what you think supported your gall bladder? Ginger? Ox bile? And so on?

      Reply

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