Five Constipation Frustrations! #1
"Are you doing everything you're supposed to for constipation, but nothing is working?!"
Well, first of all, take a deep breath, relax, and realize that you're not all alone here - and you're definitely not helpless, even if it sometimes feels that way. Constipation tends to be one of the more frustrating IBS symptoms, and it does take longer to resolve through lifestyle changes than diarrhea. But - there are many, many ways to help alleviate constipation successfully, it just takes a little patience and persistence.
What's the best way to take control of IBS constipation? Just make sure you avoid The Five Constipation Frustrations. We'll tackle number one today:
1. Soluble Fiber Supplements Are Overnight Wonder Drugs, Right?
Soluble fiber supplements (like Acacia Tummy Fiber) can work wonders for constipation, yes. But they are NOT an overnight solution, and they're definitely not drugs. It makes a great deal of difference how you take a soluble fiber supplement, and it's well worth the time and effort to do it right. (Here's a great resource page about soluble fiber supplements if this is all brand new territory for you.)
First of all, these are the best ways to NOT get the results you want from a soluble fiber supplement:
* Try one at a low dose for a few days, then give up because there's no change.
* Go from zero to the maximum dose in one week flat, then give up because it's not working and now you're all bloated and gassy as well.
* Start taking one at the same time you stop taking laxatives, enemas, or colon cleanses you've been using regularly, then give up because your constipation is suddenly worse, not better.
The cardinal rule with a soluble fiber supplement (SFS) is to start at a low dose (for Acacia Tummy Fiber, just 1/2 a level measuring teaspoon, twice daily), and increase gradually.
Constipation often requires a much higher daily dose of a SFS than diarrhea, and it can take several weeks, or even a few months, to slowly work your way up to the maximum daily dose. SFS are not laxatives, and they will not give "overnight relief", so taking a low dose of one for a few days will not alleviate your symptoms. What it will do is begin to acclimate your gut to a higher daily dose of fiber, and this is the goal. Don't give up as soon as you start - just realize that using a SFS is a slow, steady process. You will see improvements along the way.
It's tempting to think that if you need to reach the maximum dose to see the best results, you can just force your body to adjust to a high dose as fast as possible. After all, if your constipation will resolve on a SFS dose of, say, 25 grams a day, and it might typically take someone, say, 8 weeks to reach that dose, you'll be way ahead of the game if you race your way up to that dose in your very first week - right? Nope - wrong.
By definition, if you have IBS, you do not have a normally functioning gut. No matter how your IBS symptoms manifest (constipation or diarrhea, bloating or pain) your GI tract - and specifically, your gastrocolic reflex - is hyper-reactive to normal stimuli. Your goal should always be to keep your gastrocolic reflex stable so you can soothe and regulate your gut function.
Suddenly overloading your bowel with a fiber dose that is possibly ten times what you were taking before you started a SFS will do nothing but give you bloating and gas, as your GI tract struggles to deal with all of this unexpected fiber. Fiber is, after all, indigestible, and your body needs to work to process it through your digestive tract.
Asking your gut to go from no soluble fiber supplement to a maximum daily dose too quickly is like trying to become a marathon runner by sprinting as hard and as fast as you can without rest. It won't work, you'll be frustrated, and you'll give up.
Instead, go slowly, increase your dose gradually, and give your body the time and gentle approach it needs to adjust to the SFS increase. You can't beat your colon into submission with IBS, you need to kindly, patiently, and consistently coax it into normal motility. A SFS can help do this for you if you give it a fair chance.
If you've been regularly using laxatives, or artificially increasing colon motility through other means (enemas, colon cleanses, harsh stimulant herbs such as senna, cascara, aloe) the odds are pretty good that your bowel is dependent on them. If you suddenly stop using them, bowel motility might shut down and your constipation will seriously worsen. This would be the case even if you didn't add a SFS at the same time.
It is definitely possible to transition from a laxative or other unnatural methods of alleviating constipation to a soluble fiber supplement. But, you can't simply switch from one to the other in a single day and expect equivalent results. What you can do is keep taking your usual dose of laxatives while you begin your SFS and start to gradually increase your SFS dose. When you've been able to reach a fairly high daily dose (say, 2-3 tablespoons of the Tummy Fiber) you can start to gradually decrease your laxative.
Keep increasing the SFS and continue decreasing your laxative, taking each step slowly and carefully. This is not likely to be a fast process, but the slower and steadier you go the more likely it is to have a highly successful result.
I've heard from numerous people who transitioned off of laxatives, senna, enemas, and even prescription constipation drugs and onto a soluble fiber supplement, with terrific results. But it took anywhere from one to six months, depending on how long their bowels had been dependent on the laxatives. Good things can be well worth the wait, and this is one of those situations where patience is truly a virtue. IBS is a lifelong problem for most people, so giving yourself a few months to make a tremendous improvement is not really taking too much time in the grand scheme of things.
Next Time ~ More of the Five Constipation Frustrations!
Heather Van Vorous &
Heather's Tummy Care
Over 15 Years of IBS Business!
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