The answer to this crossword clue: constipation. The dreaded “c” word just happens to be a not so pleasant side effect of the low fat/ low fiber GP diet which often exacerbates Gastroparesis symptoms. The last time I mentioned this unfortunate problem I used “whisper voice” but we all know it’s the white elephant in the room so here goes….
Shortly after diagnosis, I mentioned this new phenomenon to my Gastroenterologist. His advice was literally one word: Miralax. I’ve always been a compliant patient so I went to the store and picked a bottle off the shelf and began to read the ingredients. It was right then and there I decided there had to be another way before I headed down the Miralax path.
This is the point where I would be irresponsible if I failed to mention that I’m not a Dietitian or medical professional. Everything I write about is based on my own research and experience and should not be construed as professional nutritional or medical advice. It is also not meant, in any way, to be disparaging or critical of anyone’s GP lifestyle. We are all doing what we need to do in order to be well and live well with a chronic digestive disorder. One piece of wisdom I got from the Dietitian (when the look of horror came over my face when I first saw the limitations of the GP diet and heard the words “puree” and “baby food”) was that you can only give your body what it is willing and able to tolerate. I should also mention that I have been diagnosed with Idiopathic Gastroparesis and no other dysfunction any further down my digestive system. Now that we have that out of the way…
These are a few of the ways I’m able to keep the “trains running on schedule” while adhering to the GP diet. They work best as maintenance tools rather than solutions so I address any “slow downs” (when things get sluggish, incomplete or nonexistent for one day) very quickly to avoid “back log”.
Juicing: I’m a big fan of juicing and not just because it’s a great way to get fresh, raw fruits and veggies. I firmly believe that what is included in my juice helps me fend off the dreaded “c” word. Greens are magnesium-rich thanks to their pigment chlorophyll. Magnesium is necessary for normal muscle function including the intestines. It relaxes the muscles in the intestines and attracts water to the intestines. My favorite greens for juicing are dandelion, spinach, chard, parsley, kale and beet. Speaking of beet, drinking beet juice regularly is thought to relieve constipation so I include beet root every time I juice. During the summer months I include watermelon in my juice and find it very effective. The white part of the rind is loaded with chlorophyll so don’t cut it off with the green skin. Here is a link for a few Juicing Recipes for Constipation .
Limiting the White: Bananas, canned/cooked peaches and pears, prunes (as baby food or pulp-less juice), peas (as baby food), squash, sweet potatoes, white potatoes (without skin and not instant/processed potato) are all starches or carbohydrates that promote regularity. Think anti-BRAT diet. White rice, white bread, noodles and cream of wheat type cereals promote constipation because they are highly processed. I’m very mindful of how much “white” I consume and try to opt for less processed forms of starch/carbohydrate to balance out the “white” when I can.
Hot Beverages: Don’t underestimate the power of a strong cup of coffee if you are able to tolerate it. I enjoy one cup of strong, black coffee after my breakfast smoothie has settled each morning to help get things going. If things feel like they’re becoming sluggish I make myself a Cup O’Go, as I like to call it, in the evening as the last thing I consume before I go to bed. One tablespoon of blackstrap molasses dissolved in a cup of hot water (milk, coffee or tea) produces a mild laxative effect without fiber. Blackstrap molasses is the result of the third boiling of sugar and is a significant source of potassium, iron and calcium.
Probiotics: Dosing with good bacteria is believed to keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption and contribute to immune function. I’m a bit of a novice as far as probiotics are concerned and get mine with a daily Acidophilus pearl and a serving of Activia yogurt. Recently, I weened myself off of the sugar-sweetened vanilla and now enjoy plain, unsweetened with a serving of baby food fruit poured over the top. Many GPers swear by Align. I haven’t tried it but Mollee at www.mybrokenstomach.com is a huge fan. Click on the link to read what she has to say about Align.
Regular Exercise: We’ve all heard or read that regular exercise is good for us and it’s also good for all facets of digestion…that includes elimination. Weather permitting, I speed/power walk my neighborhood which is 3 miles or spend 50 minutes (5.5 miles) on the elliptical at the gym. Getting 5 days of exercise a week diminishes ALL of my GP symptoms including constipation.
Water: Again, we’ve all heard or read that being properly hydrated aids all aspects of digestion. Proper hydration lubricates the intestines and makes waste soft and easier to pass. I drink water with and between meals.
Yoga: My favorite yoga pose or asana for “intestinal discomfort” is Pavanamuktasana. The literal translation is: “wind release pose”. Click on the link. It’s much easier to see the pose than for me to explain it. I find this pose relieves bloating and discomfort associated with “slow down”.
Supplements: My last resort if everything else I’ve mentioned isn’t working. Magnesium is available in supplement form. Phillips makes a magnesium caplet (not to be confused with Milk of Magnesia which is a saline laxative). Each caplet is 500 mg of magnesium oxide. I take one or two caplets with an eight ounce glass of water before bed. I have no idea if magnesium interacts with medication so if you have any concerns consult your doctor of pharmacist.
We’ve all been diagnosed with the same condition and following the GP diet may help by keeping us fed and healthy but it has it’s drawbacks. I hope some of these suggestions prove helpful and if you have any “home spun” wisdom of your own please share.
Hoping you’re all Eating Well! Being Well! and Enjoying!