Everyone tells you its simple. Everyone tells you, “Oh, if you’d only try this, then…”
You don’t know whether to feel stupid or insulted and mad. Then, rashly, you fork out money to try X, Y, or Z sometimes–which fails–and then you feel stupid AND mad.
I’ve got today’s post and one more on my personal story on severe, chronic, idiopathic constipation. I’m not here to tell you it’s simple or even that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to constipation. My blog is not for medical advice anyhow. (It’s to make you wonder what kind of person would type about this. Is she normal? Or not normal? Hmmm…) If you missed them, I wrote this post first and this post second in my personal update series on trying to cure my refractory, lifelong constipation.
Smooth Move Tea and Laxatives
A few years ago I went to a gastroenterologist for my constipation. She recommended that I stop the magnesium preparation that I was taking and sip Smooth Move Tea (a senna product). I didn’t like this recommendation so I didn’t do it. I’d tried senna products before, and they never worked for me. I felt the doctor clearly wasn’t listening to my story, so I found a different doctor. I mean, I’d told her I had given up pizza and bread and ice cream to try to beat my severe, chronic constipation–did she really think that sipping a simple tea was going to work? Like she blew me off, I blew her off and did not try that blasted tea. Last year, however, after having the baby, my constipation had some bad spells. So I decided to get off my high horse and try the stupid tea. The tea did nothing but cause severe cramps. (Point: Patients usually know their bodies.) I also tried some other OTC laxatives, but they also did nothing but cause cramps and create no bowel movement.
Bottom-line: These products don’t work well for me. They never have, and they still don’t. I get terrible cramping and little to no bowel movement. To get a bowel movement, I have to take like 12 or more pills of whatever. I’d better stick to giving up pizza.
Herbs and Spices
I use a lot of herbs and spices when I cook, both fresh and dried. I’ve tried increasing these over the last several months. Nothing has seemed to jump up and shout that it is making my gut move specifically. But they taste good and have many great properties. Could they be doing slow magical work? Sure. I’ll keep using my herbs and spices: turmeric, Ceylon cinnamon, cardamom, fresh-pressed garlic allowed to sit ten minutes, coriander, allspice, nutmeg, saffron, fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, rosemary, and so on and so forth.
Bottom-line: Herbs and spices are worth adding in for overall health even if they don’t clearly seem to make a definable difference in my GI motility.
I’ve read some fascinating anecdotes about people who tanked up on diverse fibers and reversed their GI, SIBO, and food issues. (Fiber is a VERY complex term. Please consider reading about it here.) Fiber in the forms of legumes, Metamucil, and whole grains has never worked for me. But as I’ve researched, I’ve come to find that I’m not needing the “skin” fiber of foods that I thought I needed for bulk–or even “soluble” or “insoluble” fiber. There are other, less definable, carbohydrates that the bacteria in our guts may chomp on to produce by-products that stimulate and repair the gut. So I devoted a couple of months to trying high dose “fibers”: glucommannan (cramping), FOS/inulin/beta glucan (no change), psyllium (no increase in movement but more bulk), and oatmeal/blueberry/potato starch smoothies three times a day (no change). I had no significant set-backs from these attempts, but I still needed tons of magnesium.
The “fiber” that seems to do me best is resistant starch “fiber” via green bananas (in smoothies), cold cooked rice (as in rice salad), and cold cooked potatoes (great over a salad topped with vinaigrette). I also occasionally pop a bit of raw potato. I do feel these “fiber” foods help me if consumed daily.
Also, over the summer I inadvertently upped my raw vegetable intake with delicious Israeli-inspired salads a good friend taught me to make. Raw vegetable intake at the beginning of my journey killed my bloating problems. Not anymore. Once a gut’s environment is improved, I think raw vegetables and fruits are important. Maybe the addition of these salads helped.
Bottom-line: I can’t be 100% sure, but I do think that the resistant starch foods eaten daily and the salads play a role in the recent progress of my gut. (And these are amazing salads! Not the kind boring ones I used to make.) The powders and supplements I tried didn’t work for me. (Too easy.)
I tried some triphala. No luck. Nothing bad. But nothing improved, and although it is listed as safe in some places for nursing (and other places not), I thought my baby had looser stools when I titrated up the dose. So I ditched triphala.
Oh man. I love the way these smell. Some people swear success in helping their constipation with essential oils. I’ve tried two different times and no go for me.
I told a medical school friend, who is married to another medical school friend, that I was trying acupuncture for my gut. She laughed and jokingly said, “I won’t tell Jeff that you’re trying that. He’d never let me talk to you again…”
Anyhow, I have received acupuncture now for about 5 months (with some quite extended breaks for traveling). When those tiny needles poke me, you can hear my gut start rumbling. It’s a little embarrassing. Sometimes after a treatment, I will have to go to the bathroom. Usually not. However, in the several months of acupuncture I’ve had, my gut has improved. The acupuncturist I go to only does acupuncture, but he draws on chiropractic, ancient Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic principles, and kinesiology. When we first started, I asked him, “So, do you think you’ll be able to fix me?” He was super honest and said, “Well–you’ve had this a long time–but we can try.” I love that answer! I have the utmost respect for what he does, but I do have to say it feels like “voodoo” at its finest to a conventional doctor.
I think that acupuncture has been a piece of the progressive improvement of my gut (but only as a part of the plan). For the first 6 weeks, treatments were weekly. Then, he spaced it to every two weeks. And then slowly we are stretching it out further. It does seem to help. On the down side, it is not cheap. In fact, it’s expensive. Some insurances pay for acupuncture, but mine does not.
Here are some links to check out about acupuncture and constipation:
Efficacy of acupuncture for chronic constipation: a systematic review.: This is an abstract to a positive Chinese study on acupuncture for constipation.
Use acupuncture to treat functional constipation: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial : Here is a full-text summary of the study protocol for the above-linked study, in case you want to take it to your acupuncturist to see what points were used. 🙂
Acupuncture for functional constipation: protocol of an individual patient data meta-analysis : And here it looks like the British Medical Journal is gearing up to explore acupuncture for functional constipation.
Bottom-line: Acupuncture definitely seemed to add some motility to my gut.
I will try to wrap up this long story in the next post which will cover things like yoga, acceptance, meditation, getting up early, and my favorite topic–diet. It seems like a lot of stuff to try–and it is–but I know these things will impact my marriage, my parenting, and my life forever. Here is a funny thought: I am a better person because of my constipation. Oh, my. Did I just type that?Insane.
I appreciate the comments you’ve all left. And I like to hear of people doing well and what and who they used to achieve that. Have a super week.