My Digestive Adventure

I have not written my blog for several weeks due to my health.  It’s been a rough month due to my need to straighten out my issue with constipation.  When I started my diet program a lot of what we used to call roughage and now we call fiber was left out of my diet.  Consequently, my bowels slowed down to the point of three days between bowel movements.  This was not good so I went to a G.I. doctor at Penn Medicine.  Penn Medicine is associated with The University of Pennsylvania and is considered one of the best levels of care in the area.  So I felt fairly confident in going there.  What a ride it has been.

I met with the doctor via Telemed as I got an appointment faster that way.  He had quite a program mapped out for me by the time we were finished and he told me that if I followed his advice I would begin to move my bowels at about the same time every day.  And no my doctor was not named Sheldon Cooper.  I liked that idea and got to work on what he wanted to be done.

Diet changes were necessary. I was to have a high fiber diet and try to get 25 grams of fiber in my body each day.  This is not as hard as I first thought, but it wasn’t easy either.  The doctor recommended prunes and prune juice, pineapple, apple and apple sauce, whole grain bread, corn and creamed corn, figs, raisins, beans, lentil soup, and a few others.

Gone went my Slim Fast Breakfast and nice dinner.  I now start my day with Refrigerator Oatmeal.  What is Refrigerator Oatmeal you ask?  I’ll tell you.  It’s delicious and only takes a few minutes to prepare sometime before you go to bed.

For one serving of Refrigerator Oatmeal, you need one half cup old fashioned or rolled oats.  And one cup of a liquid of your choice.  You also need a leak-proof lidded container.  A mason jar works well but some Tupperware-style containers also work just as well  You could use regular milk of any fat percentage, Almond Milk, Oatmilk, or any other liquid that you feel goes well with oatmeal.  I have a friend who uses water and he loves it.  Place the oats and liquid in the container and then add anything else you might like.  I had one-third cup of raisins, cinnamon, two teaspoons of cinnamon, and vanilla.  I have a friend who alternates frozen blueberries and cherries.  The fruit thaws overnight and the juice permeates the oatmeal.  Once you add all your ingredients put the lid on the jar and shake for about 30 seconds or so.  Then place it in the refrigerator overnight.  When morning comes take it out pop the lid and eat.  The oats absorb water in the same way they would if you cooked it only it’s a slower process.  I eat an apple with my breakfast which brings my fiber intake to 12 grams of fiber every morning.  That doesn’t include Sundays.  On Sundays, I have eggs toast, and sausages if at all possible.

Unfortunately, though the doctor’s diet advice was sound his other advice was not.  He first wanted me to take two medications daily.  One he said was a stool softener and the other an over-the-counter laxative called Miralax.  A third medication was what is commonly called GoLitely.  This medication is used to clear a person out the night before a colonoscopy.  It consists of a gallon jug that you fill with water. Some fowl-tasting powder that you mix into the water and drink over 24 hours.  I was to do this once a week.

I started the regimen on a Friday night by taking the laxative mixed in cold water.  I woke up the next morning and dislodged whatever was in my bowels and then some.  That afternoon I was to start the GoLitely.  I started it at two and by three pure water was coming out of me.  I drank half of the medication between two and six.  I was also taking the medication the doctor told me was a stool softener.  I had diarrhea for a week.  From that point on for more than a month, I never felt like I didn’t have to move my bowels.  I had diarrhea or I would have to strain to get the stuff out of me.  It was ugly and exhausting.  More than once I didn’t make it to the toilet and ended up messing myself and the bathroom floor.  I had to clean up as best I could whatever I had messed up and I had to hope I wouldn’t have to go again before I was done cleaning up.  This was my month between June 24th  and July 27th.  It was close to being the worst month of my life.  Scratch that.  It was the worst month of my life and I hope I never have another like it.

This past Wednesday, July 27, I fired the GI doctor.  I had spoken to either the doctor or a staff member almost every day of that terrible month. Things did get changed but the combination was never right.  The GoLitely was stopped after the first half gallon.  The Miralax was stopped next but I was still having diarrhea while taking only what I was told was a stool softener.  The dosage was reduced and that didn’t help.  I wanted to stop it and was told to keep taking it.  Finally, I realized I wasn’t being listened to at all.  At this point, I felt abused and decided it was just time to do things my way.  That Monday I did not take what the doctor told me was a stool softener.  I just ate the high-fiber foods and I began having regular bowel movements.  I tried to talk to the doctor and all I got back was misinformation and the orders to continue taking the stool softener.  It was at this time that I found out the stool softener wasn’t a stool softener at all but a laxative a fairly powerful one.  The doctor misled me.  He lied. I was angry, and hurt but determined.

I did a lot of thinking during that month.  What else did I have to do?  I realized something very important, that bothered me at the time, but I thought I was wrong.  The Gastrointestinal specialist never did what I would consider a proper intake evaluation with me.  He found out what my issue was, which was severe constipation, and went ahead and ordered all of the drugs that we already discussed.  Before I went to that first appointment I felt that my diet needed to be worked on.  I wasn’t sure how to do that and a nutritionist was not covered by my insurance.  So I went to an expert and, though he recommended a 25-gram-a-day fiber intake diet, He never once asked me what I was eating.  I felt that was what should have been discussed at least a little but it was never even brought up.

I worked in dialysis and in a doctor’s office for years and though I don’t feel intimidated by any doctor I do get a little scatterbrained when a lot of information is pushed at me at once.  I tend to forget to ask the questions I meant to ask or bring up the things I forgot to talk about.  I do believe that my diet was something that should have been discussed almost first and I lay that on the doctor.  On the other hand, I wish I had remembered to talk about it.

So what can we all take away from this?  First, if a doctor doesn’t seem to listen to you get rid of him or her.  You and I are the patients and we know what our bodies are telling us most of the time.  If a medication is too strong or seems to be harming us we have to decide on what to do.  There are other ways to find medication information.  Your pharmacist is a great place to start.  He or she knows a good deal about each medication and what it does or has great resources to help you out.  You can do a Google search on the medication.  Be careful here.  The internet is a wealth of information but a lot of it is wrong.  Go to websites such as the medication manufacturer’s page or a trusted medical sight like The Mayo Clinic.  Avoid reading people’s opinions that can lead to fear and disaster.  Foremost speak to your primary care doctor and find out what he or she thinks.  They know you better than the specialist and will be able to steer you in the right direction.

Speaking to my primary care doctor was my next step.  I thought out a plan that I felt would help.  My plan was first to stop all of the specialist’s medications and then simply concentrate on the foods I was eating attempting every day to get the correct amount of fiber into my diet.  I also knew I need to hydrate more.  I never drink enough water and that is a component of a healthy stool.  Also, movement of some kind was very important.  With a crippled foot, I am limited in exercise but I knew there was some stuff I can do.  Luckily I had some exercises my physical therapist asked me to do at home and so I called and asked if he would add a few more to that list.  I’ll go into this another time, but my Primary Care Doctor suggested that I begin following The FODMAP diet.  That is one word and is an an acronym for a bunch of words I can’t pronounce yet.  More on that later.

I really felt the fiber was the key.  So I made plans to eat as much of it as I could every day.  Some of this even involved happy memories.  I remember my mom making stewed prunes for us growing up.  I think we got them for dessert every once in a while.  I remember liking them and so was determined to find a recipe.  The internet came through for that.  Stewed prunes are delicious and taste much better than eating them dry.  The recipe is very easy and takes about fifteen or twenty minutes to make.  You take a standard package of dried prunes.  Put a cup and a half of water in a small saucepan.  Add the prunes and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and one teaspoon of cinnamon.  Put the pan on the burner and set the burner at high until it comes to a boil.  When the liquid begins to boil cover the pan and turn the heat down to simmer.  Cook for fifteen minutes and then remove from the stove to cool.  Once cooled place prunes and the liquid, which has become a syrup by now, into a Tupperware container and refrigerate.  These can be eaten once they have cooled but I prefer them after they spend the night in the frig.  You eat five prunes in a serving and get I think six grams of fiber.  Other high-fiber foods that I love are figs, pineapple, corn, apples, and prune juice but add cinnamon and vanilla to this too, otherwise, it’s too sweet.  Oatmeal and raisins are also very high in fiber and make a great breakfast as mentioned earlier.

A few weeks back I attended a webinar given by Jerome Ludde and Mike Morrell.  Dr Jerome as he prefers to be called is a neuropsychologist and has written a book on the Enneagram (pronounced Anyagram) a personality test that helps you define why you act the way you do.  After taking the test, the results assign you a personality number.  The purpose isn’t used to define who you are as much as to see how you can become better.  The test that is the most accurate is The RHETI TEST.  It can be taken at The Enneagram Institute website which is .  The cost is twelve dollars and includes the test, which takes about forty minutes to complete, and the results that come to you in a PDF file.  Your results are in-depth and include your three highest numbered scores.  My scores were #4 The Individualist, #2 The Helper, and #9 The Peace Maker but the scores adjoining your main number are also important.  The two adjoining 4 are numbers 3 and 5.  #3 is The Achiever and #5 is The Investigator.  It is a great tool to help you learn about you.

The webinar was not actually about the enneagram but it was the enneagram system that led me to this webinar.  The webinar was titled HOW THE BRAIN AND HEART CREATE WHOLE LIFE COHERENCE.  I’m going to boil it down for you into the six essential things to gain coherence in your mind and heart.

The six are breath, eat, move, rest, sleep, and hydrate.  That’s it.  It’s pretty simple or is it?  Let’s go through them one by one.

Breathe.  Breathing is something that we all do all day every day.  In this case breathing means to breathe intentionally.  You do this by being still and breathing in for 3 seconds and then out for 6 seconds.  You should do this approximately 6 times in a row.  You can start once a day but ultimately you will get the best results if you do it once an hour.  I have experimented with this and I find I am generally feeling better and my anxiety has markedly decreased.  I have not made it to once an hour maybe twice a day at this time.

Eat.  Eating doesn’t mean just eating whatever you want but eating right and eating mindfully.  Mindfulness has become a common idea used in many ways to keep you in the present moment.  Eating mindfully means that you eat slowly savoring every bite.  Feeling the texture of the food and the taste.  Taking your time to eat this way does two things.  One, you enjoy your meal more and two, your body will signal to you sooner when it’s time to stop because it has the time to adjust to how much you have eaten.  Therefore you will eat well and not overeat as you’ll feel full sooner.

Move.  Move means exercise.  Some kind of exercise that you can do every day.  You do what you can do.  Keep it simple or complicated but do it.  This is hard for me but I had my physical therapist give me a list of exercises to do at home.  He asks me if I have done them or not so I know I must do them.  Moving can be a simple walk around the block once a day or training for a marathon.  It’s all in your hands.

Rest.  Rest is different than sleep.  Rest is when you stop for a few minutes each day and just be.  No screens, no books or magazines, no music.  Just you being quiet for a few minutes every day.  Phones and smart TVs are ruling our lives these days.  We need to regularly unplug or we will get overwhelmed just by the amount of sensory input we take in every day.  So find a quiet spot and just be you for 5 minutes every day.  Let peace enter your spirit and soul.  Breathe in the way discussed above.  Let your mind go where it will until you aren’t thinking at all just rest.

Sleep.  There is not much to say about sleep because we have no control over it.  Sleep is great and I love it but I can only ready myself to go to sleep my body decides when it happens.  I can will myself to do the other 5 things on this list but I cannot will myself to sleep.  Most people know now that you should have no screen time an hour before bed.  You should go to bed and get up at the same time every day.  You can do all of this faithfully and still not fall asleep as soon as you hit the pillow.  I have bouts of insomnia and have many times existed on one or two hours of sleep or no sleep at all.  I have learned to not fight insomnia but I have also realized that there are things that keep me awake.  So nothing personally exciting after nine o’clock.  No phone calls, no singing nothing that will stimulate my mind.  Light TV shows are best for before bed.  You can only help sleep happen but you cannot control it.

Hydrate.  Water is one the most essential things we can do for our bodies.  It helps regulate more than we can ever really understand.  The minimal amount of water to take in a day is 64 ounces.  On the other hand, new science is showing that the amount of water we should be taking in is half of our body weight in ounces.  So if you weigh 180 pounds you need to drink 90 ounces of water a day. That’s about 11.3 cups a day. That’s not impossible but it will get harder the more you weigh.  I have a very fit friend who believed that it was best for him to drink two gallons of water a day and he did.  I never knew him to even catch a cold so maybe there is more to this than we realize.  I know for a fact if your urine is clear you are hydrated if it is light to dark yellow you need to drink more.  That however is the bare minimum.

That’s it.  That’s the six.  I am just beginning to follow these.  There is a bit of a road ahead to implementing them into everyday life.  It is an effort to exercise.  Sometimes. in fact, all the time, movement, and deliberate exercise is the hardest thing in the world for me.  It brings my horror-filled gym classes where I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the kids back into my mind.  I’m not a kid anymore and these exercises I can do at home.  I don’t have to keep up with anyone and so since it must be done it can be done.

This is much longer than I usually write but I wanted you the reader to understand fully the last few weeks of my life.  Maybe it will help others in their quest to find, as some put it, gut health.

The weeks in all of this have not been a total loss.  I went from having lost 32 pounds to a loss of 38 pounds.  I have my eye set on the forty-pound mark as my next goal.  That’s it for now.  May God bless and keep you all.