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Reminder: These are things that help me prevent constipation as a individual but I am not a doctor, and everything written in this post should be used for informational use only and is not substitute for individual medical care or advice.
October is Spina Bifida Awareness month and when you live with Spina Bifida chronic constipation can be a serious problem for many because a vast majority of people have bowels that do not work properly. There are things you can do to help manage and prevent constipation such as getting an ACE (stoma connected to your colon that helps you have a bowel movement independently) but there is no cure for constipation with Spina Bifida because the reason why a lot of people struggle with constipation is that your bowels work and there is nothing you can do to change that. People with Spina Bifida are more prone to constipation which can be very painful and is something that most able-bodied people will never understand to the extent a disabled person does because occasional constipation is not the same as chronic constipation that happens almost daily. As a disabled person I prevent constipation in the best way that I can, but I can’t change the fact my bowels don’t work properly and even when it seems like I am doing everything right I still sometimes get constipated and don’t know it until it’s too late and I am trying to have a bowel movement. In this post, I am going to talk about a few things you can do to lessen the likelihood of severe constipation.
Do your bowel regimen often– Bowel regimens with Spina Bifida can take hours and most people dread doing them and sometimes people slack because they know it’s going to take them all evening and you have no motivation for doing it. It’s so important for your health that you make the time to poop because everyone needs to have bowel movements and if you don’t it can cause avoidable health problems that need a doctor to fix. I understand that having a bowel movement is hard with Spina Bifida and will sympathize with people but that doesn’t mean we don’t do it because we all need to evacuate waste from our bodies whether it takes five hours or five minutes. I am not suggesting that you have enjoy your bowel regimen and can curse at it for all I care but if you want to prevent painful constipation the best thing you can do for yourself is having bowel movements often. Bowel movements can take hours for people with Spina Bifida and may take even longer for full-time wheelchair users who can’t do a lot of exercise but what a lot of people don’t understand is that it takes less time the more you do it because you aren’t allowing yourself to get severely constipated.
Actually, listen to your doctor- Doctors often will give you advice of things you can do to prevent constipation, but it’s no secret that not everyone listens to their doctor and sometimes will have every excuse in the book as to why they don’t have time to sit on the toilet for hours to have a bowel movement. In high school I had a friend with Spina Bifida who would brag about how long she could go without having a bowel movement and would tell me that not everyone is as unlucky as I am and can slack if they want to. Would you like an award for not taking care of your health because anyone can choose not to take care of their health and I am not impressed when people choose not to practice self-care. I really hope this girl grew up and realized that bowel movements are not one of those things you can choose not to do without consequences and it’s necessary for your health. A bad habit doesn’t not always negatively affect your health right away and even though a bad habit doesn’t affect you right away that doesn’t mean it never will. Listen to your doctor and if the advice is reasonable which is usually is, listen to them because there is always a reason behind the advice your doctor is giving you. If you listen to your doctor, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will never have a health issue, but you may have a little bit less hospitalization because you won’t be creating avoidable health issues.
Eat your fiber– Fiber helps you poop because it increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it so it’s easier to pass and if you don’t eat enough fiber a lot of the time it creates big hard stools that are difficult and painful to pass. Fiber is essential for gut health, and you can get a lot of fiber from foods you eat such as apples, black beans, or broccoli but if don’t think you are getting enough fiber you can always try a fiber supplement. I try to get a lot of my fiber from foods because for me fiber supplements cause more stoma problems that I don’t like to deal with if I can avoid them. Fiber is an essential nutrient for your health but if you consume too much it can create the opposite effect and cause gas, bloating and cramping so you don’t want to overdo it!
Take a stool softener– When you have Spina Bifida it’s easy for your body to create hard stools and not notice it until it’s too late because people with physical disabilities often have a more difficult time staying mobile and sometimes don’t get the sensations of feeling constipated that most people would get and you don’t realize you have a problem until the damage is done. If I have been struggling with constipation, I sometimes will take a stool softener in addition to the other laxatives I take because stool softeners can help soften hard stools and make bowel movements go a little bit smoother and less painful. I do not need stool softener every single time I do my bowel regimen but if I am on my period and am more likely to get constipated, I most definitely take them because bowel movements can almost be impossible during that time of the month.
Move your body as much you can- When you have Spina Bifida and are a full-time wheelchair user sometimes movement is difficult because you can’t stand and do exercises that able-bodied people can, but you still need to move your body if you’re able. Exercising does something to your colon and if you do a little exercise an hour two before having a bowel movement a lot of the time it works in your favor and helps you have a bowel movement because exercise keep everything moving. Be careful with how much exercise you are doing because overtraining can cause a lot of unpleasant GI problems and make it difficult to go to the bathroom which I totally have done.
Eat some prunes– Prunes have many health benefits and some moms will give prune juice to their babies to prevent constipation in their young children. Prunes do have a lot of sugar which can be problematic for some people with a stoma and sometimes can cause too much leaking and is not going to be right for everyone. When I first I started taking prunes for constipation I had to stop because it was causing too many problems but recently, I started taking them again because it would appear my body can now tolerate them.
Try collogen- Many people know of the benefits of collogen for joint health, but did you know that it can also improve your gut health? I started taking collogen because I had had a lot wrist pain and I noticed it wasn’t just improving my joints but also my gut health. Before I started taking collogen supplements I could not eat prunes because there was too much sugar, and my body could not tolerate them but with the collogen supplements I am able to have small amounts. As we age our bodies lose collogen which can cause a lot of pain and discomfort and adding a collogen supplement sometimes can help get rid of this pain and I am all about trying things that improve my health in even the smallest way! Some people are sensitive to collagen protein and if you don’t feel well when taking collogen stop taking it!
Drink your water– Some people struggle with drinking water because they don’t like it but it’s so important for your health. Water can help support healthy skin, cardiovascular health, and also plays a huge role in a healthy gut because water helps get keep things moving and softens hard stools so we all should aim to drink more water. There is a lot of recommendations on how much water you should drink, and some people swear by eight cups a day but that is a myth because it depends on how large your cups are and how active you are because people who are a higher weight or exercise a lot will need to more water than smaller bodies who barely ever move. It is usually recommended that people with Spina Bifida drinking around seventy-two to eighty ounces of water a day, but I think it varies from person to person because some people will need more or less water than others.
Take a probiotic– As a disabled person a probiotic affects me in a slightly different way because my bowels don’t properly and even though all the tv commercials say that a probiotic will transform your gut health it doesn’t always do wonders for disabled people. Studies have shown that probiotics can help supportive a healthy gut by giving your body good bacteria and killing the bad stuff which can help prevent improve your digestion and prevent constipation! Probiotics are good for gut health but can also cause constipation if you are taking too much or are sensitive to them so if you are feeling extra gassy while taking a probiotic that doesn’t go away it should be a sign to stop! Probiotics can also be found in foods such as yogurt, but I prefer a pill because I am sensitive to dairy.
Eat less sugar– Donuts are delicious and we all would love if we could eat brownies at every meal without it affecting our waistline but when you live with bowel problems that might not be the best idea because a high sugar diet causes inflammation which can negatively impact your gut health. Carbohydrates helps stimulate bowel movements and you don’t want to try too hard to not eat them because carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source but too much can cause constipation.
Try intermittent fasting- When it comes to fasting people often think that it would be horrible for your gut health because you are not eating but it depends on how long you’re fasting. Before I started fasting, I was constipated all the time and didn’t matter what I did I still was always constipated but now I only occasionally get constipated because studies show that short fasts can alter the composition of your gut microbiome and reduce inflammation which gives your body a break from food and improves your gut health. If you are fasting for improved gut health, you shouldn’t do it more than sixteen hours because you don’t need to be doing for as long as if your goal was weight-loss and anything much longer than sixteen hours can harm your gut health. If you have a medical condition that requires regular meal schedules such as diabetes or are pregnant, please don’t fast without talking to your doctor!
Constipation can affect anyone but it’s a million times worse for disabled people that have bowels that don’t work properly. There is nothing I can tell you that will guarantee you’ll never constipated because you can’t change your disability and can be doing everything right and still get constipated, but you can take preventative measures such as eating more fiber or doing bowel regiment often to less the risk. Most people with Spina Bifida will struggle with constipation but not everyone will manage it in the same way do because not everyone has a stoma, and you couldn’t go to the bathroom in the same way I do without one. Constipation is a struggle for disabled people, and full-time wheelchairs who can’t stand to exercise may struggle with it more than others that have movement in their legs. How do you prevent constipation while living with a disability?
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