Let's Talk About Constipation

Let's Talk About Constipation

I’m a recent victim—wait, that makes me sound like an autopsy corpse—make that “lucky winner” of a diagnosis of IBS with constipation. In the gastric version of “Let’s Make a Deal,” I picked Door Number Three and won the least harmful gut ailment.  While I am definitely relieved it wasn’t Celiac or Crohn’s (Doors Number One and Two), my prize—a FODMAP diet handout—isn’t as immediately gratifying as a brand new refrigerator. I know I have a bad habit of looking a gift horse in the mouth, so I’ll try to redeem myself with the observations that will follow.

In my quest to manage what amounts to a sausage with a cranky temperament, I’m trying to see the low FODMAP diet as a masseuse that rubs the stress out of this highly-strung tube of undulating tissue. Best to tip-toe around the genius that processes the food I need to stay alive. So here’s what I’ve teased out of my tempestuous relationship with this neatly-packed but neurotic soft pretzel I’m stuck with for the rest of my life:

Senna tea vs. Miralax

My gastroenterologist recognized my need to eat a low-fiber diet after I reported severe gas pains from eating broccoli, beans and anything in the cabbage family. She suggested Miralax so that’s what I’ve been using until recently. Drinking Smooth Move, a Senna laxative tea, works just as well, and with one difference: Senna seems to more thoroughly clean me out, pulling down the older, harder stuff, too. That didn’t happen so much with Miralax. Others might experience these laxatives differently. It’s nice to try several options to find a better result if there is one.

Squatty Potty

I’ve been using the poor person’s version of this by putting objects on the floor and putting my feet up on them, and enjoyed an improved evacuation of the lower level. But my feet keep flopping off them due to MS-related nerve damage, so I broke down and ordered a cheaper brand of the Squatty Potty design. Haven’t received it yet, but I’m looking forward to not feeling like I still have to go after I just went, and not having to use so many wipes to clean up afterwards.

Foods that bind me up

This is a tricky one, isn’t it? The unpredictability of IBS symptoms makes the list of constipating foods constantly obsolete. What plugged me up this month might not do that next month. But there are some semi-constants, like eating a combo of starch and meat or cheese or all of those—think cheeseburger, potatoes and meat with cheese, pasta plus cheese and meat, French fries—a couple of days in a row and I can almost hear the gut gears grinding to a halt.

Wheat products are my villains

I’m a bread and pasta lover, crackers, chips, pastries, you name it. The low FODMAP diet asks us to eliminate gluten. I was skeptical at first, not believing it would make much difference since I’d tested negative for Celiac. But I discovered that switching out wheat pasta for non-gluten versions spared me from painful bloat and stomach distention. I eat pastas such as garbanzo bean shells and noodles made from spinach powder and white bean flour. The thing is, those products, except for spinach, are high FODMAP foods I’m supposed to avoid! This FODMAP diet is trickier than I thought. Still, the most important thing is that it eliminated some symptoms. Compromise is the name of the game.

Alternative grains and seeds

In my quest to eliminate gluten, I discovered that I love quinoa! Quinoa is one of those superfoods that can stand on its own nutrient-wise and tastes great with just a dash of garlic and lemon juice. I’ve also switched to rice cereals, crackers, and cooked rice. Instant oatmeal with fresh berries, too. Who needs wheat, anyway? Well, I still love me some artisanal breads and haven’t yet found decent-tasting gluten-free bread, let alone one that didn’t cost less than six dollars for a small loaf. Still hoping to, though.


My local grocer provides fresh sushi every day. Spring rolls are the least expensive and for about $6.50 I can eat eight rolls made of rice and veggies topped with wasabi and soy for the price of a McDonald’s value meal—but so much better for me! Rice and veg are on the list, and of course all fish and meat are on the low FODMAP diet list as acceptable indulgences, too. Thank goodness, because I could live on that stuff.

I’m happy to report that eating in this new way and drinking Smooth Move tea a few days a week has left me almost constipation-free and pleased my taste buds with these new food choices. It’s not a cure, of course. But it’s progress.

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