Potty Talk Pt 2... 3 Tips for IBS, Loose Stool, or Chronic Diarrhea
Potty Talk in a Life of Chronic Pain
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The early part of this week, my granddaughter and I were watching a Beverly Cleary film,Ramona and Beezus. Ms. Cleary’s books were a part of my children’s lives when they were growing up and probably part of yours or your children’s as well. In the film, the little “individual” character named Ramona announced she was going to swear. After much sputtering she said, “GUTS!” Oh my, such language. My grandchildren are already obsessed with this subject as they used to give each other a detailed description as to “how many” and the distinctive color of their excrement. We have all decided the most interesting addition to any diet for “future” results was the black food coloring used to make roads on birthday cakes for the cartoon cars to travel; followed closely by bright blue. There’s a little bit of valuable info for you to stash away so you don’t think you have some horrible disease. You can also put beets on that list. We all just need to remember, what goes in must come out. If it doesn’t, well you’re in deep “do-do.”
I found it interesting that “guts” was the most distinctive swear word for a child to discover. I know in England “bloody” and “bugger” have quite an impact on the language. Here in this country we seem to concentrate our interest on the poop itself when we swear, or we graduate on and use colorful words for sex or the sexual organs. Don’t worry; I’m working very hard to be discreet. You know how difficult that is for me.
Some days it feels like I am obsessed with this whole subject. We have an old Jack Russell, Annie, who constantly needs to have her tail-end wiped, washed or bathed. I’m very careful what I put in the other end. She, however, has the distinction of having a little stub tail that seems to have grown fat and points downward. I’m putting that irritating problem on my list to discuss with God one day. What a long list it is becoming. Aren’t you glad you came today? I’m sure the whole world wanted to know that but when it’s such a big part of my days and nights, irrespective of how I feel, I just had to share. Without Annie I would get far less exercise.
The Scoop on Poop
I know it doesn’t surprise any of you that I am finally getting around to talking about the delicate subject of defecation, you know, having a bowel movement. We’ve already talked about urination, vaginal infections, and various and sundry subjects over the years. We’ve discussed irritable bowel syndrome (as well as our relatives, which can be the same thing) because it is becoming more common and is difficult to diagnose. I suffer from it on a daily basis and basically, just add it to the list of all I live with in this challenging life.
Even those of you who are not challenged by IBS, Crohn’s or diverticulitis should pay a bit of attention because many of us are on NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.) Most of us who suffer daily with some form of bodily affliction also take pain medications. They both can wreak havoc with our bodies, particularly the gastrointestinal tract. NSAID’s are very corrosive to the gut and acetaminophen can ruin a liver if taken in large amounts. There are many other drugs, too numerous to include, which also can attack the liver. Almost all pain medications can cause severe constipation. For me, the particular enemy is codeine. I’m not allergic to it unless you count three GI bleeds and the inability to go. This presents a problem because most pain medications have codeine or synthetic codeine in them.
Life never becomes simple when you live with chronic pain. We have to be informed about so many things: our medications and side effects, staying active so we don’t become twisted pretzel statues, eating right and so many other things. Today, we’re going to talk about going to the bathroom. I’m intrigued that medical personnel, including physicians, often forget the simplest things in life. We have to breath, urinate and poop. Having a heartbeat is pretty important, also. I’m going to try to answer some of your questions about daily life as these are occurrences we face on a daily basis. Since I don’t have that much space, today the subject will be, “Have you had a bowel movement today?” That felt kind of good. I don’t get to say that much since I am no longer a practicing nurse. When I first became one, I was so surprised by the intimacy of the questions nurses are required to ask. We inquire about consistency, size, color and amount. Not since you were a wee one did you have to put up with such interference.
One of the most important acts you must perform is to keep informed about your pain meds. One of our local merchants came close to dying last year due to taking too much Tylenol (acetaminophen). His liver was close to dead and at the very least pickled. No one had told him the dangers of that particular drug. Know your drugs. Go online. Don’t panic, because all drugs are scary, just be made aware. They have to list any and all side effects in those drug synopses, even if it only happened to two people in some far off part of the world. Having the facts won’t hurt you and actually might help you to be on the alert and to be informed.
Daily exercise such as walking can do wonders for a sluggish bowel. That effect as well as regaining your strength is the reason that cruel nurse drags you out of bed right after surgery. The movement of the abdominal muscles is vitally important to having a healthy daily bowel activity. Some of us who suffer one of the bowel ailments have diarrhea. There are some great over the counter drugs available for that, such as Imodium, (loperamide). Read the directions. Others of us live with chronic constipation. For that there are so many formulas available, also over the counter. Miralax is a fairly new one, there’s good old Metamucil which will also lower your cholesterol and of course, the magnesia based formulas such as Milk of Magnesia. Daily stool softeners are a must if you’re on any drugs which cause constipation, such as Colace (docusate sodium). Aloe vera latex which is the leaf of the aloe plant is also very effective and can be found in any health food section.
I can’t possibly list all of the meds which are available for both problems. Read. Ask your doctor, his nurse or your local pharmacist. I gained a great deal of knowledge reading the books of Dr. Andrew Weil, MD. I like his practices because he uses integrative medicine which includes “natural” as well as traditional medicine. Just remember to know or write down the generic names of these medications and remedies so you can save a few bucks and buy the less expensive versions. Another trick with Metamucil is to mix it with fruit juice, or my particular favorite, mixing it with seltzer water. All that fizzing helps to rid it of those despicable lumps.
Eat a Digestion-Friendly Diet
Diet is, as all of you know, very vital in any conversation about the bowels. There are times when my IBS and diverticulitis is acting hostile when I have to eat all white breads, pasta and potatoes. I try to remember to look for the enriched versions of all of these. Seeds are a problem with diverticulitis and all those wonderful berries, figs and cookies with those in them, have to be avoided, as well as fresh tomatoes and peppers. Some people have trouble with veggies that leave a residual such as corn and peas. If you can’t mash it into oblivion, then your gut can’t either. Squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes are among those veggies which are helpful. Most beans leave a residual as well as causing, well, you know, flatulence or the toots. “Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat the more you toot. The more you toot the better you feel so let’s have beans for every meal.” Oh come on. I know you were thinking it. Beano is a great preventive product for that. I have also always found great benefit from daily yogurt or buttermilk because of the good bacteria they contain. You can achieve the same benefits from bottled acidophilus made from apple juice or milk. Most of the liquids and the capsules contain Lactobacillus acidophilus and I also look for the ones which also contain Bifidobacterium bifidum. It is particularly helpful in the treatment of irritable bowel disease. All of those “good bacteria” products have to be refrigerated after opening and the liquids, before opening. Dr. Weil also introduced me to the wonders of Slippery Elm bark tea and capsules and I always have them on hand. It’s an old Indian remedy. I like certain teas which contain peppermint or ginger. I eat a small 6 oz. carton of yogurt every morning because of the soothing effects of acidophilus and also because the calcium content is half of my daily requirement. The best rule to follow is to “go back to the farm.” Eat foods which have not been sprayed, hormone inflicted or processed. Who knows what all those chemicals are doing to us?
I know I have just skimmed the surface, so to speak, of this whole problem and many of you nurses out there will have ideas to add. Please feel free to do that. Before I close, I do have one question, however. Why is it that men take so long to go to the bathroom? When a man disappears into the toilet with a magazine in his hand, like theNRAmagazine orPopular Mechanics, you know he’ll be gone, like…forever. If it was aPlayboy, well, at leastthatI could understand.
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