Tenacity. Word for the day. Word for a season. Word for life. I can hear mom’s voice even now, “Oh, Terrrr-rrrri. You have a one-track mind.” She said it like it was a bad thing! Pshaw. But, tenacity got her to buy me some black parachute pants; I think it’s restoring my gut too. I’ve worked very hard to get this gut moving. Very. I’ll be laying out all that I can think of that I tried and how I think it affected my gut and me. There is no ONE thing that worked for my colon regularity and stool consistency. Geesh. What would I have to write about if it was that easy? I’ve turned down more cookies, cakes, and cheese platters than you can even imagine. I’ve made myself go to bed early more than I’ve ever made my kids go to bed early. I’ve attacked my gut on all fronts that I can. Tenacity.
I’m starting out by writing about the supplements I’ve tried. That does NOT mean that the supplements are the most important. Just that I’m postponing talking about acupuncture and gargling and chakras. I’ve already mentioned vitamin K2 in the last post. These posts will just keep rolling. So let’s continue. Don’t use this as medical advice. It’s my story. If it gives you ideas to try, talk about them with your doctor. Be SAFE.
I’ve taken iodine for about two years now. I don’t have much in the way of a reliable iodine source in my diet, so I supplement. Iodine comes to a conventional diet via egg yolks, dairy, seafood, and iodized salt. Iodine didn’t seem to have any particular impact on MY constipation, although other people have reported to me that when they started taking iodine it did seem to improve their constipation; I experienced other positive benefits from taking iodine. I was able to have my thyroid labs followed to make sure I was safely supplementing. Hypothyroidism (low thyroid) causes constipation. I was never categorized as hypothyroid. However, iodine supplementation did slowly drive my TSH down over time, which was medically interesting to watch.
Bottom line for me: Iodine did not seem to make my constipation better, but it helped other things for me. I think that a TSH needs periodically checked and symptoms need closely monitored if a person is going to take iodine. In case you’re counting, this is the second supplement I take routinely.
Probiotics and Probiotic Foods
I’ve tried dozens of probiotics. Not A DOZEN—but DOZENS. There is no probiotic that makes my motility improve directly. I’ve tried soil based. I’ve tried VSL. I’ve now tried the Japanese kind. I’ve tried Klaire Labs. I’ve tried pickles, pickle juice, sauerkraut, sauerkraut juice and kimchi. I’ve made my own fermented pickles, sauerkraut, and beets. I’ve tried 24 hour homemade yogurt. I’ve tried homemade coconut yogurt. Tenacity. There is one probiotic source I haven’t tried, but I’d like to try: Mutaflor. It has studies showing it helps constipation. However, it’s only available in certain countries, and the USA isn’t one of them.
Probiotics aren’t the “cure” for my STC. I’ve tried many kinds, and I’ve tried driving up the doses. Tenacity. In fact, for a couple of months this summer, I even stopped probiotics completely!!!! I suffered no ill GI effects and my gut still moved! Why did I stop them? I think that I have a mild case of small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO). (Why not test? 1) I already eat a tailored diet. 2) Things are improving. 3) I’ve tried antibiotics before for it, and it came right back. And now, I won’t take antibiotics because I’m nursing. 4) My case isn’t that bad.) I now waffle between probiotics and no probiotics.
What is SIBO? This is where the bacteria from the colon track up into the small intestine in larger numbers and/or with different species than those that should be there. It leads to significant bloating, distention, bowel movement changes, fatigue, and other symptoms. There is a dispute in the SIBO arena about whether one should take probiotics with this disorder. Having no vested interest and an open mind, I could see both sides. So since I’d tried probiotics like crazy for years, I thought I’d try without. (Another aside: I have not always had SIBO symptoms. They started at about age 35. I think it was a result of chronic non-movement of my gut. I think to effectively treat SIBO, a person HAS to address the underlying issues.)
Bottom-line for me: I tried coming off my probiotic. My gut still moved off the probiotic! However, my gut also moved normally for a couple of months before I got pregnant a couple of years ago and I was ON a probiotic. So for my body, I’m not yet sure whether it prefers a probiotic or not. LOTS of people swear by probiotics for constipation. I have been trying to utilize normal portions of Bubbie’s pickles, Bubbie’s sauerkraut, and eating my home-grown produce.
Butyrate has kick-started my gut twice in my life now. In 2013, I started taking it after a big dose of magnesium and immediately I had normal bowel movements daily. I then titrated up resistant starch using potato starch (which leads to natural butyrate production) and came off of the butyrate pills. I then titrated up food sources of resistant starch (green bananas, plantains, cooked and cooled potatoes and rice, raw potato and sweet potato sparingly) and stopped the powder forms of resistant starch.
BINGO. I thought I was a diet-controlled constipetic and the story was over! (I always told God I was going to stop blogging when my constipation was cured. Never tell God what to do or what you think YOU’RE going to do. Instead, when you hear “Jump.” from the Big Man, you say, “How high?” Got it?) But I got pregnant in 2013 and I’ve been chasing GI rainbows ever since. Finally, late this summer of 2015, I decided to get back on butyrate. I took a good dose of magnesium to try to propel that butyrate deep into my intestines (just in case that would help, you know). BAM. My gut has been doing pretty well since then. Knock on wood. And I’m working on building back up my food sources of resistant starch again and working on other areas I’ll elaborate on through these posts (like stress management, core strength, etc). THIS IS NOT A SIMPLE QUICK-FIX JOURNEY. You want that? Go somewhere else. Tenacity.
I KNOW butyrate does NOT work for all people. They’ve told me. More people have told me that butyrate did NOT help them than people have told me that butyrate DOES help them. I’d like to also point out that during pregnancy and post-partum, my gut kind of stopped working and I was on high dose magnesium. Butyrate did not work at this time—even though this summer I tried again and it did! This leads me to suspect that hormones play a huge role in constipation—which I already suspected and this simply pounded into my heat that I need to make sure and learn about this (and hopefully write it up too—although I must say the other day in my research, I saw a new review article that was downplaying hormones…).
Many people write to ask what butyrate I take. I simply tell this as part of my story. Listen. I do not support this brand, other than it has worked best for me out of all the ones I’ve tried. I don’t pretend to think this brand or even butyrate will help you. Heck, it may even set YOU back, while it sets me forward. I use Body Bio Mag-Cal Butyrate 600 mg (two three times daily, usually, but not always with a meal). If you decide to try this, flash it to your doctor so he/she can make sure it’s going to be fine for you. A commenter, Vicki, has noted that Body Bio has received some reprimands. You may read about this by scrolling down to the comments and looking for an interchange between Vicki and me. Sometimes, I have a strange feeling that some bottles work better than others. I don’t know, though. I have NO proof of that.
Bottom-line: Butyrate has some good evidence supporting its role in promoting gut motility. I have many posts on that in my butyrate series. Some people have tried it and found that it helped their food intolerances and gut motility. Others have tried it without success—and with a loss of hard earned cash. If your’e counting, this is the third, and final, supplement that I currently take routinely.
Magnesium (Natural Calm)
What did I take during pregnancy and post-partum when hormones gripped my gut so tightly? I took three tablespoons of Natural Calm magnesium citrate in a tall glass of water nightly–every night. This is WAY too much magnesium. I am well aware that most of us are magnesium deficient, but this is a lot much! One electrolyte at a high dose is not good for the other electrolytes and their balances. So even though this got things moving (diarrhea), this is not a good place to live for the rest of my life if I can help it. Tenacity.
I tried some different forms of magnesium because the taste of this, although the unflavored is really okay, is becoming repulsive after four years or so of using it. The other forms, both topical and oral types of magnesium, just don’t work. And Epsom salts bath, although relaxing, don’t do anything at all for my GI. This is the only brand of magnesium that has worked for me. Again, I’ve no vested interest in this supplement, and I’m not saying it will work for you.
At my best right before pregnancy and also the last two months now, I was able to get off of the magnesium. I still had/have to use it about once a week, and usually at a much lower dose– a heaping tablespoon. But I only use it when I skip a day or things are too hard.
Bottom-line: Calm magnesium citrate now can keep my gut going (although with diarrhea) through thick and thin. Before I changed my eating and lifestyle four years ago, high dose magnesium did not work. So the fact that it works is great! But I still want off of it entirely! I am currently down to about once a week. So I guess, if you are a nickel and dime counter, we would call this 3 and 1/2 regular supplements—since I only have to take it as needed and this only about once a week now.
I am going to stop now. I have LOTS more to say. You will be so bored by the time I finish. You’ll think I talk and think about nothing but moving GI tracts. But, finish I will. Tenacity. Get those parachute pants.
Click here for Slow Guts Need Care, the first post in this series.