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Constipation or bowel obstruction?
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Constipation or bowel obstruction?

Ladies, I need some help with this.  While I was in the hospital post-op, I was unable to pass any gas at first and they had to do 2 Harris flushes on me to get things moving.  After coming home, I wasn't told I should eat a high-fiber diet and, consequently, ended up back in the hospital 2 days later with stools stuck in the ilium.  Thanks to some really fabulous nurses and a super-dose of Milk of Magnesia, we eliminated (Haha) that problem.  Now I've been back home 2 days and yesterday (after eating a high-fiber diet)  I found myself doubling over again, nauseous, burping like a beer-guzzling frat-boy and miserable.  I took two doses of M of M and finally was able to get some relief this morning.

Now I'm concerned that I actually have some kind of obstruction and I'm afraid to eat anything.  I know that's not good - that the bowel won't work with nothing to make it work, but I'm so scared to eat.  Help!  Any ideas or advise is greatly appreciated.

Julie
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It takes a little while for the digestive system to get back on track after surgery.  Hang in there!
~Tascha
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Your problem is very common.  I do not understand why the hospitals do not provide better post-op instructions for this issue.  They are great at advising on the pre-op side, so why not afterwards?

The problem is two-fold.  The digestive system, or the "gastro-intestinal" tract, is highly sensitive to sedatives, whether it be the surgical anesthesia or the  post-operative pain relievers.  (By the way, even alcohol and other, illegal 'narcotic' drugs cause this effect too, hence the nausea associated with drug use and overdoses, and the intestinal upsets experienced by chronic alcoholics.) Then, due to the location of the surgery, there is swelling that affects everything in the abdomen.  So, you have a sluggish system  affected by the anesthesia and/or the pain medication  that is trying to push against the swelling.   And thus, you get concrete, oops, I meant constipation!


Yes, high-fiber helps, but a mostly liquid diet for the first week is best - lots of soups, high fiber cereals (fluid and fiber in one bowl!)... and Jell-o is great too.
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What's a Harris flush? Is it a soap-n-water enema?
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I had some difficulty along those lines after having my partial colectomy.  I was actually on an extremely low fiber diet at first, then gradually added in fiber, up to 36 grams per day now to try and keep what is left of my colon healthy.

There is simply no way I can get enough fiber in my diet without supplementing.  I take a tablespoon of Benefiber with every meal that I eat.  It is entirely colorless and odorless when mixed with whatever I'm drinking, and it doesn't thicken like Metamucil or some of the other fiber supplements.  I have a slight insulin resistance problem, probably also related to the colon problems and the lack of any really good exercise for a long time, so I was having to get most of my 36 grams a fiber from vegetables and fruit.  That's ALOT of lettuce, and the fruits were messing with my blood sugar almost as much as when I was eating more cereals, breads and grains which is the quickest source of dietary fiber there is, but then the carbs mess with my blood sugar.  It's been a real balancing act.

But the benefiber gives me 15 grams of fiber, and then eating a salad, or an apple, banana or bowl of oatmeal in the morning easily provides the rest.  Benefiber too also seems to help me create - sorry maybe to much info here - good stool that doesn't seem to cause me any discomfort when passing, even when my surgery was brand new.  Kinda like chilled Skippy Peanut Butter in texture which believe it or not, is what we should all have just from how we eat.  It just works really nicely, without creating too much bulk and drying out, again, like some of the other supplements can do if you are not careful.  I also drink about 64 ounces of water a day too, besides my coffee, milk, juice and occasional margarita.  It is very important to drink alot of water, for us all, but especially if you have a high fiber diet whether you get it from supplements or not.

Hopefully you won't have long term problems along this line.  For me, it is essential to keep what remains of my colon healthy after losing my sigmoid and about 6-8 inches of the descending colon, so I'll follow this regimen religiously for the rest of my life.  I can tell you, first hand, that a bowel obstruction and/or perforration is a REALLY BAD THING, and I'm not going there again.  I am in all honestly very grateful to still be around to have develop ovarian cysts. . .  Plus, they are linking high fiber to so many other health issues we have in these modern times so it's a good idea for us all to get as much fiber a day as we can, at least 20 grams, 36 being what my GI doctor wants me to shoot for because of diverticular disease.

I'm glad you are feeling better.  Benefiber is good stuff and literally, you can put it in a glass of juice, cup of coffee or bowl of soup and you won't even know it's there.  I buy it at Costco and a jar of it seems to last about 2 months.

Colon Health/poop 101!!!  Sorry for the lecture, but this I know about.  Like my husband likes to say, "Barb, you really know your s**t." Love, hugs and God bless, Barb
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Oh okay, 'cause I had a soap-n-water enema because of constipation when I was pg, but you hold it until you feel like you gotta' go bad, and then you run to the potty!
Harris flush sounds easier 'cause they suck it out for you, other than having the tube in (of course).
Thanks for defining it!
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Oh Barb, you poor girl!  I feel so badly for you.  What a pain in the a$$ -- j/k :-D.

Thank you though for the Benefiber suggestion.  I'll send the hubby right out!

Julie
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I don't know if they call it a 'soap and water enema' but it's like an enema except they don't allow you to hold the fluid.....they draw it out with suction and the air comes out with it.  When they were doing it they were telling me they could see all the gas in the line coming out.  Not fun but it worked.

Thanks for all your suggestions and support ladies.  I've put myself on Julie's high-fiber/liquid diet today.  Lots of fruit.  The strawberries are gorgeous!

Julie
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I just got some orange flavor drops that you suck on that are for fiber. I can't believe how good they taste and each has 2 grams of fiber. They are made by Fiber Choice who makes other fiber products but these are terrific. The main thing is to make sure that you use a water soluble fiber. That is really important or you will really get gas and block up.
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Thanks for the info Doc.  Things are 'moving' well this morning and I've just had my All-Bran and strawberries....yummy!
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