If you have Spina Bifida it is likely you will struggle with constipation at some point because of your limited mobility. People with Spina Bifida don’t have the muscles to have bowel movements like an abled person can so they often time have to resort to having medical procedures such as the ACE (stoma to help with bowel movements) and taking tons of laxatives to prevent constipation. These medical procedures are great and I would highly recommend anyone with Spina Bifida who is struggling with constipation and wants to be more independent to get them but it’s not foolproof. You will still get constipated and if you have limited mobility often times there are limited options on what you can do to manage it. My constipation is pretty well managed but lately, it has started to act up again and some days it drives me nuts. This usually resolves itself and doesn’t last long but until it doesn’t it can drive you crazy. Daily constipation can make anyone go stir crazy so to better manage my constipation here are a few lifestyle changes I have made to get a better handle on it.
Check-in with your doctor- When you have limited mobility sometimes you could be doing everything right but for some reason, nothing is working. If that is the case and you have tried everything listed in this post and more then it may be time to take a visit to your doctor to have this issue examined a little bit further. Sometimes the reason you are unable to have a bowel movement is because of another medical issue that is preventing it and the only way you’ll have it resolved is by taking a trip to your doctor. Personally, I don’t need to visit my doctor regularly for my bladder and bowel problems but since I do have a long history I have regular testing to make sure nothing has changed. If there are any changes I always report them to my doctor and have them addressed immediately! Prevention is always important regardless of if you have a chronic condition but it becomes even more important when you face a number of health challenges and want to avoid bigger problems. There is no better way to do that than to check in with your doctor!
Actually, listen to your doctor- I know a handful of people with Spina Bifida who have gone to the doctor for constipation and could have avoided it. I understand life gets in the way and you can’t always follow your doctor’s instructions exactly but going two weeks and not going to the bathroom when your doctor says it’s not healthy is just asking for a hospitalization and I am not impressed when you brag that you can go that long but I am more disgusted. I get bathroom routines can be very time consuming but what is more time-consuming a couple hours a week of taking care of your health or recovering from surgery for six weeks because you neglected your health? Personally, I think my bathroom routine will be far less time consuming than any surgery will ever be! Your doctor can tell you what you need to do to keep your body healthy until they are blue in the face but they can’t make you listen to them and until you are willing to step up and take responsibility there will always be some medical issue you will struggle with.
Eat your fiber- If you don’t have the recommended dose of fiber in your diet you may have a harder time passing stools because they will become hard and very difficult to pass which can be a problem if you have limited mobility and can’t do much if this happens. Eating your recommended dose of fiber won’t necessarily completely prevent this but can lessen the likelihood of this happening because fiber helps shrink and soften stool so they are easier to pass. Incorporating high fiber foods into your, diet such as apples, black beans, or broccoli is very essential for maintaining good gut health and preventing constipation but if food isn’t enough you can always add a fiber supplement such as Benefiber to your diet and ensure that your getting everything you need.
Take a stool softener– Sometimes everything you are doing to try and have a bowel movement is not working and you need something a little bit more. If your doctor gives you the okay to do so, take a stool softener to give your body a little boost. The days I am scheduled to do my bathroom routine I almost always take one and although sometimes it does nothing for me sometimes it does and it can never hurt to try.
Exercise- If you are able you might want to think about doing some sort of physical activity an hour or two before you do your bathroom routine because it can help you have a bowel movement. Exercising does something to your colon making it easier for you to have a bowel movement. I have been doing this for years and was unaware that there was science behind this until my mom watched something put on the Spina Bifida Association and told me there was. I had always wondered why I had an easier time having bowel movements after exercise but didn’t really care why I just knew it was something that worked Now that I know there is science behind it I am a little more motivated to want to exercise!
Make a food diary– There is nothing worse than eating a meal and then feeling incredibly constipated afterward. Everyone is different and the foods that make me constipated may have no effect on someone else. If you are discovering that you are miserable after eating most meals then you may be eating the wrong types of foods that could be making you feel that way. Make a food diary and document everything thing that you eat and how it made you feel so you know what foods make you feel good and what ones don’t. This will help you know what foods to avoid because sometimes the only way to improve your gut health to avoid certain foods and for many, it may be entire food groups.
Have a meal regular schedule- People with Spina Bifida sometimes will have frequent accidents and because of that, some people think that if they don’t eat it will make them have less and solve all their problems. No, actually it’s quite the opposite and the key to having less accidents is to know your triggers, do your bathroom routine on schedule and to have a well-balanced diet! Skipping meals will cause more accidents because it will slow down your metabolism and although you will avoid accidents at the moment you aren’t eating the second you do your body will be like “whoah what is this food” and it will be much worse than it would have been if you were to just have a regular meal schedule. I used to think skipping meals was the solution but then I changed my mindset and starting eating regularly and realized that the solution to having less problems isn’t to eat less but to eat more of the right kinds of food.
Drink your water– We have all been told to drink more water to be healthier which is true and I stand by that but do you know why it’s important to drink more water? Water not only is important for healthy skin and cardiovascular health but it also plays a huge role in a healthy gut. Water helps get things moving and regulates your gut health which is what you want if you are looking to have a less painful bowel movement. If you are dehydrated it will be ten times harder to have a bowel movement because you will have harder stools that are more difficult to pass. The only way you will have any chance of preventing this is to drink your water!
Take a hot bath- Hot water relaxes your muscles and can help you have a bowel if you have been unable to. Whenever I am in pain because I am super constipated from my bathroom routine not working I take a hot bath which in my experience has been proven to help create one. Hot water won’t always immediately cause a bowel movement but if you give it twenty or thirty minutes or so it usually will take away some of your misery and do something for you.
Try peppermint oil- Peppermint oil has a lot of uses other than treating headaches and aches and pains but it can also relieve the pain of gastrointestinal distress. Peppermint oil generally won’t cause a bowel movement(at least it doesn’t for me) but it can help you feel better if you are feeling constipated. When I am not feeling so great I apply a little bit of peppermint to my stomach and generally get relief within twenty minutes depending on how severe the pain is. Before doing this always make sure the oil you are using is safe to apply to your skin and always dilute with water even if it is!
There nothing more frustrating than being unable to go to the bathroom which is something most abled people will never experience and fully understand the frustrations and pain of it. It’s painful and you just want to get out of that agony but sometimes it’s not as simple as you may think and it could take a couple of days which may not seem very long but in my experience, it feels like an eternity. Taking preventive measures and documenting what is a trigger for you may not necessarily fully prevent constipation from happening but it could make it a little less agonizing. If all else fails and you are really struggling just to function checking in with your doctor might be your best option to get some relief. Sometimes you may have another medical problem that is making you constipated and unless you go to the doctor and get it addressed you will continue to be in agony. Do yourself and your body a favor and keep track of your symptoms and report anything that is out of the ordinary to your doctor. It is the only way you will get better and have any chance of getting some relief. Do you struggle with constipation? How do you manage it?
*If you have occasional mild constipation all the tips I gave you today should help you feel less bloated and relieve that constipation. Just like any of my other posts nothing written here is intended to give you medical advice of any kind and should be used for informational use only and never substituted for professional medical advice. If you have constipation that has become more frequent always seek the advice of your physician to rule out anything more serious so you can get relief.