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Treatment options for redundant colon?

I am a 56-year old woman and have had problems with constipation since I was a child. I have been addicted to laxatives on-and-off.  Several years ago I developed intermittent lower abdominal pain, but now it's every day in varying degrees. At one doctor's recommendation, I drastically changed my diet, eliminating gluten, dairy and coffee, with no improvement. I seem to do better without starches/sugars. I've also had to change my wardrobe - I can't wear anything that is remotely tight on my stomach and often have to leave my low-cut pants unfastened. I take Miralax every day and supplement with MOM as needed. I've also found a wonderful herbal product to help with the gas that gets trapped in the "curves."
My first colonoscopy could not be completed and was followed by a barium xray; there were no polyps or masses. After a second colonoscopy under anesthesia I was told I had IBS and sent home with pills that didn't work! It wasn't until I asked for a copy of the procedure report that I saw the term "redundant colon."
I have been able to find little information about this diagnosis.  What treatment options are there? Is surgery an option and, if so, what is the longterm outcome? Is there someone who specialized in this problem - most gastroenterologists get that "deer-in-the-spotlight look" when I ask!?!
I hate that my life has to revolve around this problem - and no one understands what I'm going through!! I am otherwise healthy, I exercise regularly, eat well - I just want to know what I can do to "fix" this problem! Thanks!
40 Responses
Avatar universal
Lizzie, ask for a referral to a good GI person and then discuss having a marker study done to follow 'transit time' through your large intestine. This will help the doc to determine what's going on. Some people do have surgery on the large intestine if there's a serious problem, but it would have to be documented. And the problem with the surgery is the large intestine has a variable blood supply so more than just the portion that's redundant might have to be removed. There are also consequences to removal of a portion of the colon. One of the largest can be on-going diarrhea, which many people find to be as bothersome as having unremitting constipation. You can make dietary changes to try to control the diarrhea, but?

Avatar universal
Welcome to the gastroenterology community!  If your only physical abnormality is a redundant colon then you should not get surgery.  This a very common thing that a lot of people have.  It can add to your constipation problems, so it is best to deal with the constipation problem (which is probably IBS) with a gastroenterologist and don't worry about the diagnosis of a redundant colon as it is not a big deal.
With all due respect, it is a big deal when every day your life revolves around your GI status. The bloating and embarrassing gas is more than just a mere nuisance. It definitely interferes with the individual's daily life. I have had IBS with constipation and a redundant colon for 24 years. I treat the symptoms DAILY but it doesn't always work. I wish there was a better answer.
With all due respect, it is a big deal when every day your life revolves around your GI status. The bloating and embarrassing gas is more than just a mere nuisance. It definitely interferes with the individual's daily life. I have had IBS with constipation and a redundant colon for 24 years. I treat the symptoms DAILY but it doesn't always work. I wish there was a better answer.
I agree with nurseIBS.  I just learned I have a redundant colon.  I've been constipated for years.  It's painful and disrupts daily living, work, vacations, etc.  My GI doctor did not have a solution for my constipation.  When I asked hiim how to hanlde the constipation until my next colonoscopy, he asked what I'm taking now.  I said massive volumes of Magnesium Oxide.  He was flippant and said "continue doeing what you're doing."  Well, what I'm doing landed me in the hospital with a potassium level of 2.1 which can cause death.  So I would not say "it is not a big deal."  It is a big deal if your only solution to constipation is cleaning yourself out regularly.  This affects your electrolytes.  But I'd rather take the risk than not go to the bathroom for, sometimes, 12 days.
I agree with these women. It is a huge deal when you are uncomfortable every day and get told “it’s just IBS”.
Avatar universal
Respectfully, redundant colon can be problematic depending on the length and configuration of the redundancy. If of excessive length and if that redundant section is 'twistable' on it's mesocolon, the redundancy can 'twist or torque' presenting significant problems. When redundancy is found, it should be fully investigated and if the section presents problems, appropriate steps should be taken.
Avatar universal
Very true, if lizzie416 starts developing twisting and torquing and developing obstructions from that, then surgery should be considered.  However, many many people have a redundant colon and for almost all of them, surgery should not be performed.
Avatar universal
I've seen my barium enema xrays, and they look like my abdomen is populated by a bunch of big snakes. There are so many loops and squiggles it's not funny. I don't have to be told that it's caused by constipation. In my 20s my intestinal troubles began, and I was encouraged to take Metamucil and eat plenty of fiber. I followed orders, kept taking the Metamucil, but nothing was happening on the toilet. I wondered where all that stuff was going, now I know I was probably stretching on the inside! I know I have IBS, and my bowels are never "normal," either constipated or diarrhea. Miralax is a disaster -- cramps and incontinence. Colace doesn't help much, either. Milk of Magnesia helps but I don't use it often. I'm still on a high fiber diet, and take a fiber supplement, but nothing's "normal."
I know this is late but you may wish to rethink the use of metamucil or other fiber supplements. I have a tortuous and redundant colon and suffered for years with fiber. I now eat a gluten free low fiber diet and manage constipation as it occurs by cycling cape aloe, milk of magnesia, and bisocodyl as necessary. I use magnesium citrate when I am aware that my colon is stagnant- which is what occurs with redundant colon. I do a great deal of pelvic floor exercise and core because you need muscle to support the sagging colon or its gonna pile up in your pelvis and cause rectal issues. No doctor can help you manage this- it's an ongoing problem you need to be on top of. There is no magic pill. In fact, I disagree with doctors pushing metamucil and esoecislly miralax. Do NOT use miralax. Stick to the natural substances I mentioned above. Never rely on just one. Magnesium citrate is the ultimate solution to your problems evey time they flare up. If you insist on fiber, eat artichokes and prunes. But I strongly recommend decreasing your fiber intake because that synthetic fiber is stretching out the walls of your bowel making it even less efficient at peristalsis. Yes, I am a health care professional and I think any doctor pushing miralax over magnesium is in big pharmas pocket and not to be trusted. Miralax is made from propolene glycol. So is antifreeze. Magnesium in all forms is an essential nutrient and critical for efficient bowel function. Gastroenterology is useless for your problem stop expecting them to cure you. You can help yourself and need to do so- you will get no relief in a GI office. Colon hydrotherapy once a month also is amazing and if you can find a practitioner I strongly suggest you see one. Be well
i have a very redundant colon. Three years ago it twisted and even though I had my ascending colon and part of my transversal colon removed, my descending part is also redundant. My doctor suggest very low fiber and does tell me to take polyethylene glycol every single day for constipation. Seems fiber gets "caught" like water in a hose when the hose twists and it can cause an obstruction.
Avatar universal
I'm so sorry you are going thru this... Im also in my 20s and after much constipation, very irregular "activity" and many stomach cramps, I finally went to a GI doctor myself. Unfortunately many of the pains and problems and feelings you are describing, I can relate to all to on well.

I had a colonoscopy and an upper GI done. They some acid in my stomach, but most importantly an elongated colon. It explained everything.

Like you, I have not found a solution. And like you, I'm sick of my life revolving around this.

What I would suggest: maintain your exsercise or activity level, drink LOTS of water, and try to stay away from starches as much as possible. I have also found that taking a generic fiber supplement every morning with a big glass of water helps wonderously too.

My prayers are with you as we figure this out together. I'm so sorry for your discomfort and pain.

i have a very redundant colon. Three years ago it twisted and even though I had my ascending colon and part of my transversal colon removed, my descending part is also redundant. My doctor suggest very low fiber and does tell me to take polyethylene glycol every single day for constipation. Seems fiber gets &caught; like water in a hose when the hose twists and it can cause an obstruction.
Avatar universal
I have been suffering with this problem for over 2 1/2 years.  After my persistence and 24 doctors later I found a colon doctor that did another colonoscopy and ordered an MRA for my blood vessels and I had a 99% blockage of my celiac artery.  Had a stent put in but very little relief.  My doctor put me on a medication called Linzess, well let me tell you it cleaned me out every morning but who can live on a toilet.. I did this for 30 days and am back to abdominal pain galore, can't exercise because of extreme pain. Been to the specialist at UofM in Ann Arbor, Mi and nothing.  My quality of life is awful  
Avatar universal
this olso is happening to me ! I went to hospital. They gave me some tablets and some powder to mix with water for ten days.

An other  docter told me to use Chlorophyll , cellulosis, to eat
1) lemon+1 spoon of honey+2 tbs of olive oil+ 1 onion  morning , 4 days a week all the month long
2) pumpkin+ green tomatoes+ vegies of beenplant+igname
3) 4 aples+passion fruits+ pinapple+maize+papay all the day long at 8:00am and at 4:00pm.  I took it there is only one week. I still wait for result of all this.
Avatar universal
Lizzie, I am 48 yrs old and have had issues since I was a child too. All I ever got was "drink more water, eat more fiber" end of story. Until I ended up up with an internal hernia of my colon and had to have major surgery.  I finally ended up with a great GI doc who got me on the right track. I have a routine of benefiber powder every morning and miralax as needed.   I just adjust as needed.   I am getting over a GI bug and my colon is a bit messed up now, but I am tryong to get back into the routine.
I am really curious about the herbal supplement that you use for gas.  Please pass on the name!

Good luck.
Avatar universal
I am 60-years old and have had issues with my bowels all my life, the worst was after my second child was born where I went from constipation to diarrhea and back to constipation, back and forth, for over a year.  With a pre-schooler and a baby, I didn't have funds to see the doctor for myself, and never really knew what the problem was until I had my first screening colonoscopy 5-years ago, where I was told that I had an elongated colon with multiple tortuosities.  I also had the X-rays, and was able to see the rosettes, loops, and helix curls of my colon.  But before that, I had learned to manage the issue.  Yes, fiber and water is important, but I found the most useful tool to manage my bowel issues is routine.  A morning routine that almost always results in a satisfactory bowel movement.  When my routine is disrupted, usually while traveling, is when I have problems, and then, it usually takes about a week and several doses of Miralax to get back on track.  Recently, I discovered Squatty Potty, and that has helped to reduce the length of time per sitting.  I don't think it is the exact routine that is important, just that you have one, but here is mine:  Get up, empty my bladder, immediately drink 12 oz. of water.  Take my pills, fix and eat breakfast, consuming another 12 oz. of water.  Take Metamucil with yet another 12 oz. of water.  Have one mug, also 12 oz. of coffee. Like Pavlov's dogs, usually just the smell of the coffee as I make it, is enough to stimulate a bowel movement, and then I usually have a second movement, after sipping the coffee.  After that, I shower and dress.  However, if I go off routine, and shower and dress to go out for breakfast, I probably will not have a bowel movement that day, and will be out of kilter for the next week.  It does effect my life; but it is manageable.
Avatar universal
Thanks for all your comments. Since it's been a while since some of us posted, could we possibly let people know how we are doing now?

There isn't much change for me, I'm afraid. I still have constipation/diarrhea often. In addition, sometimes I have incontinence and trouble emptying my rectum. Last year my PCP referred me to gynecology because I also have a rectocele. I saw a specialist who visits the medical center one day per month. I had several visits, and the doctor really could not figure out what to do for me. Unlike the rectal surgeon I consulted, who confirmed I have the rectocele, the GYN only had me lying face up, so that everything collapsed and he couldn't find the rectocele. Finally he referred me to the bowel program at the University of Michigan.

When my appointment time came, I was scheduled to see someone for my spine problems. So I skipped going to Ann Arbor so I could focus on my back. So there's really been no progress in resolving my problems with redundant colon and IBS.

However, I discovered online the concept of FODMAPs. I'll not explain it here, but you can google, especially the Wikipedia article. Finally something made since to me. The FODMAP theory is that the starches and sugars in the food we eat cause our problems. They recommend an elimination diet of the various categories of FODMAPs, and if that helps, then the reverse process is used to pinpoint what is causing the problems of gas and bloating and constipation. I tried the elimination diet, which made all kinds of improvement. Then adding one category at a time, I found what causes me problems. I try to avoid these foods, and the bloating and gas are much better, although constipation is still with me. I really recommend you check out FODMAPs and see if it helps you.

By the way, after my spine surgery, I wore braces to support my back, which also had plates in the front to help my abdominal muscles support my back. During this time, I had very regular bowel movements. Side effect, my GERD came back due to the pressure on my abdomen. Still dealing with these issues.
Avatar universal
I had a colonoscopy a few months ago; was having a lot of constipation, which I only had intermittently before.  MD explained I had some flat polyps(can't remember the name, but turned out to be benign, thank God), and a redundant colon.  Recommended metamucil, increased water (1/2 gal. per day), high fiber diet, (40 Grams/d), and Stoneyfield yogurt, which is a yogurt with healthy bacteria, and is different from the other yogurts that have bacteria with them).  While I took the metamucil, my constipation improved, but I developed an allergy to it (itching to head and trunk that just about drove me mad).  Also 2 stool softeners 3 times daily.  When I stopped the metamucil, I got bound up again, but if I eat a lot of insoluable fiber, like corn, grape nuts, fiberOne cereal, etc., it helps.  The yogurt is also key.
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