The Shittery -volume 1

I haven’t written a post in so long, and honestly, I was afraid that with everything going on I would just be a wet blanket. The fact is I was going in circles trying to figure out how my gut health – something I have worked so hard on – could all go down the tubes after an excision surgery. And now, 11 months later, I’m more confused than I ever was because of the last three days. But let me back up.

In October of 2020 I had a 6 hour laparoscopic surgery to remove endometriosis and adhesions from the span of my ovaries to my lungs. Luckily the endometrial growth was minimal but extensive work was done on my bowels and left ovary to remove them both from the abdominal wall by way of adhesions. Within a day of my recovery I could feel the difference; the way I was able to expand my lungs, the way I could move and twist, the way I had more energy than before. I used very few hydromorphone pills and was able to walk and move around to the best of my abilities. The only hiccup I had was a fussy nerve along the side of my pelvic wall which we fixed with a nerve block. The goal from this point onward was to switch me off of Gabapentin (which I was on after my 2018 surgery for central sensitization) and try me on amitriptyline which my doctor has seen better results with. As for endometriosis and pain, I was to continue on birth control (oral contraceptive of combination hormone) on a continuous basis so to skip my periods, reduce the pain and potentially limit the estrogen that fuels the (re)growth of endometriosis. You can pause on that one if you’d like. I did.

About 4-5 weeks after my surgery, while still recovering slowly at home, I noticed I was having difficulty with bowel movements. Not only were things not moving well, but I wasn’t able to push anything out. So began the whirlwind trial and error of laxatives, stool softeners, fibre, enemas and suppositories. My GI reluctantly gave in to my request for more tests and much to my dismay everything kept showing up normal. On the contrary my symptoms were getting worse AND I was starting to have reduced mobility because of the laxatives. Around the 5 month mark I threw my hands in the air and stopped everything. I turned to my osteopath and my naturopath after realizing that both my GI and my endo specialist were not able to help (or… not optimistic in finding a solution). I have to give my surgeon credit, he took me off the amitriptyline because of its constipating effects and was more than happy to learn about SIBO (see next paragraph).

For those who are naysayers on the natural therapies you can skip this part but basically my osteopath could conclude I had a lazy bowel and my naturopath was able to conclude with a gold standard breath test that I did in fact have SIBO.

For those of you who prefer the more medical flavor, I had a defecography which showed ‘stasis {was} severe’ and a 1.3cm rectocele (a hernia that protrudes from the rectum into the vagina). Yay me! But none of this, in conjunction with some blood work was anything to cause alarm. I proceeded with the natural path so that I felt like I was doing something.

SIBO treatment is still ongoing at this point BUT in phase one – opening the biofilms – my flatulence decreased significantly after 5 weeks. Into the second phase – eradication of the bad bacteria – I started to regain complete mobility. COMPLETE MOBILITY! That was worth celebrating!! But I did not regain the ability to literally poop. So, I started taking a suppository every day and this was enough to poop out the most glorious poop. Once a day. Regular. Nicely shaped and sized. I mean this was something worth sharing LOL. Anyways… now we come full circle. See, aside from all the changes that were made to my body after the surgery the one thing that remained consistent was… the birth control pill. I don’t want to lose you here because at this point I am perplexed and fairly confident I will never know the right answer to any of this but …

A few days ago, around the 11 month mark of all this fecal chaos, I talked to my naturopath again about the PMS, boob swelling, cravings, and discharge – what feels like a period – minus the bleeding. She said sometimes the body’s own estrogen levels can combat the effects of the birth control pill. That same day I felt like I was bleeding but I wasn’t. I did what any insane person would do; I stopped the pill to just allow myself to have a period once and for all. That same day, I had the urge to poop and I was able to poop: 2 things I have not experienced in ELEVEL MONTHS!!!! What did I do? I texted my mom, my sister, my fiance…. I danced. The next day and the next day? same thing. Urgency and poop.

Is it the prostaglandins? Is it the naturally constipating effects of the pill? Is it the certain levels of hormone that are being maintained with the pill? I found this quote today which kinda sums it all up:

Studies have shown that oral contraceptives negatively impact gut flora, and estrogen metabolism. This can lead to weight loss resistance, increased risk of irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety, and unresolved digestive issues.

Nutrition Rewired

In the end, this is an n of 3 days, and I have shifty data points to base all of this on. But all that to say, I thought back to why I was on birth control in the first place. Yes, of course to minimize the pain (dysmenorrhea) from my periods; no not as a method of birth control; but mostly because of the theory that it could prevent new or existing growth of endometrial lesions. I posted the question on social media today and there was a resounding NO IT DOESN’T PREVENT ENDO BECAUSE:

  • The theory only works on the retrograde menstruation theory.
  • Endometriosis fuels itself by producing its own estrogen.
  • Many individuals on birth control had growth of lesions between surgeries.
  • Menopausal and post menopausal individuals who inherently have lower estrogen levels maintain their existing endometriosis and may produce a new form of endometriosis by way of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Complicated, right? Well I have one more week until I speak with my gynaecologist but Im thinking this might be an excuse to do my own little case study off the pill (I’m secretly jumping for joy right now).

Thanks for tuning in to my shittery:)

I cannot poop

I cannot poop.

It is not lost on me how ridiculous that sounds. It is not lost on me how much of an exaggeration and an over simplification this sounds to someone else. ‘What do you mean you can’t poop?’ they ask. ‘There are things you can take for constipation’ they suggest. But it’s not that simple. I’m not constipated, as counter-intuitive as that may sound.

Five months ago I will admit I thought I was constipated. One month post excision surgery to remove adhesions that were attaching my bowel to my abdominal wall, among other things; it seemed like a logical explanation. I wasn’t overly zealous on the pain medications but perhaps the small amount was constipating enough. I would go days without pooping. And while my calprotectin levels showed my ulcerative colitis was still at bay I knew something was starting to get serious. Five months ago I tried magnesium baths, calcium pills, prunes, yoga, pelvic floor therapy, teas, chai seeds… you name it I tried it.

4 months ago, I was given a calprotectin test and told they would contact me if anything was wrong.

3 months ago I finally got to speak to my gastroenterologist. No, it wasn’t lost on me that my GI nurse told me constipation was a normal symptom of ulcerative colitis and that with normal calprotectin levels there was not much they could do. It was not lost on me that the one person who was – by title – supposed to care about my bowels no matter what was wrong with it was really tunnel visioned on active ulcerative colitis. But that phone call allowed me to explain what was happening. That I could go days without having a bowel movement. That the Envytvio infusions weren’t impacting that problem in any way. That my belly hurt constantly. That it felt like when poop reached the top of my descending colon (yes I am now well versed with the compartments of my intestinal tract) it felt blocked. That if poop made its way to my rectum there was nothing I could do to poop it out. Three months ago I bought a squatty potty which really helped push out gas. Three months ago, I was told by my GI to take one dose of Restoralax and one 145mg dose of Constella once a day.

2.5 months ago I was desperate. I was fading. I was in pain and exhausted all the time. I called my GI in a panic and said I needed more relief.

2 months ago, my GI called me back with a solution. A bomb. He said to basically double the Restoralax and double the constella. Fighting ‘constipation’ with a bomb means that 20 min after taking the double dose of constella my bowels are liquified into molten lava diarrhea. I would wake up constipated, take the pill by mid morning, and be empty and spasming by afternoon. Following the bomb, everything would plug up again. I did this once a day for three weeks and then called mercy. I couldn’t do it anymore. I gave myself a two day break and went to see my osteopath. Call it the magic touch but she was able to discern that I had no motility in my caecum. It wasn’t that I was constipated (ie. filling up with poop with no interferences) it was that my poop wasn’t moving into the large intestine. The call it a lazy bowel. After a 40min massage along the pelvic wall lining the caecum she motivated some momentum back into the large intestine. I went home and had a poop. She gave me some tips on how to emulate the same massage she just did, but with not being able to feel what I was supposed to feel, I explored the use of a TENS machine. For 40 minutes a day I applied one node above my caecum and one node on my descending colon (and paralleled that with nodes on the back side). I used the massage function and motivated some movement back into the colon. After about a week I was finding that things were moving along.

1 month ago, I discovered that while I was able to maintain some movement into the large intestine, I was unable to poop anything out. I talked to my GI again. I cried mercy. By the time I talked to him, I was using enemas every 3 days with the occasional suppository when needed. Every 3 days I would have to manually empty my bowels because I had no rectum power to push poop out. No amount of fibre or electrolytes or massage or pelvic floor therapy, or squatty potty has been able to help. I can’t poop. I eat for days, my belly gets distended, and then it pushes against my rectum until I’m forced to use an enema. I told my doctor this on the phone. I said the words ‘I cannot do this anymore’. One month ago my GI took me seriously and promised me we would leave no stone unturned. We did a colonoscopy which luckily showed no active ulcerative colitis. He has booked me a CT of the abdomen, a motility test (whereby I consume metal balls and wait for them to come out) and a defecography (whereby someone x-rays me while I try to poop). He suspects at this point there may be a bulge in the anus. One month ago I felt like there was hope.

3 days ago I took my last enema. 3 days ago I felt empty and energized again. 3 days ago the poop starting filling up.

I cannot poop.