A spinal cord injury may take away the ability to walk, but it also takes away the ability to have a bowel movement normally. Many people say this is actually worse than losing the ability to walk. The seesaw effect of going back and forth from constipation to diarrhea is a common issue for many people with paralysis, and it can be incredibly destructive to one's life.
Many people as a result struggle with the right way to manage their bowels. There is a lot of advice out there. Doctors have their list of recommendations, but people who have been living with paralysis for decades also have some great advice. Below we’ve compiled some of the best tips from the spinal cord injury community on managing neurogenic bowels.
10) Consistent, Healthy Diet
One of the first things a person will tell you who’s been living with paralysis for a long time is that you must eat healthily. Whatever you eat will greatly affect your bowel program, so try to each whole foods as much as possible. This means staying away from processed and greasy foods, and eating raw fruits and vegetables, lean protein and food with plenty of natural fiber. Also, be sure to eat healthy on a regular basis. The more consistent you eat healthily, the fewer issues you will have with your bowels.
It is also incredibly important to incorporate fiber into your diet. There are plenty of ways to do this. Some people prefer to eat a fiber bar or a breakfast bar with plenty of fiber (search online for recipes). There's also fiber medications available, which are taken daily. Fiber gummies are especially popular. Just make sure you eat fiber daily in order to see results. And foods high in fiber include beans, raspberries, peas, whole wheat pasta, barley, popcorn, lentils, and Chia seeds.
8) Psyllium Husk Powder
So popular it deserves as a category, psyllium husk powder is a form of fiber you can purchase from any pharmacy which is incredibly life changing for many with paralysis. Psyllium is a form of soluble fiber that is made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant seeds. This is typically added to water and also taken every day.
7) Cholestyramine Tablets
A medication originally prescribed for lowering cholesterol, Cholestyramine is prescribed for people with chronic diarrhea. It has the ability to remove bile acid, which is the cause of diarrhea for many.
Thanks to the caffeine in coffee, it can act as a stimulant to your bowels which can help you have a bowel movement. While it is not the most powerful solution for constipation, it can help anyone with mild constipation issues. Do not overdo it, however, as caffeine can also dehydrate, which can cause constipation.
5) Abdominal Massage
Typically taught in rehab, rubbing the lower bowel area of your abdomen can help for many with paralysis. A simple abdominal massage is usually all it takes to get things moving in the right direction. Since many cannot push their bowels through their intestines on their own post-injury, a regular bowel massage rectifies this.
Taking probiotics can help regulate the bowels amazingly. They deposit good bacteria in your digestive tract. This good bacteria can help prevent diarrhea and it help form regular stool. If you begin a probiotics treatment however be patient. It can take up to three weeks to see results.
A popular laxative taken in liquid form, Laxaclear is a generic form to Miralax, which means it is an osmotic laxative. This is also a powder solution which is added to water, and it is not taken each day but instead taken when needed. Many people take it 2 to 3 times a week. Be careful however, as it is powerful. It is also available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kirkland-Signature-LaxaClear-Compare-MiraLax/dp/B002YJZMCQ
2) Regular Bowel Program
Having a regular bowel program is one of the best ways to keep your bowels regular. Many people will do their bowel program either in the morning or at night, and some people will do it both morning and night. Find a rhythm that works well for your body and stick to it. Keeping your body on a regular schedule is a must when you’re paralyzed.
A supplement you can purchase at any pharmacy, magnesium is an element that can help regulate your bowels. Milk of magnesia is another way to take magnesium, but for most people taking a magnesium supplement is easier. Many people will also take their magnesium at night in order to have a good bowel program in the morning.
If you have tried all of the above tips and still see no results, you may have a bowel blockage. In that case, go to the doctor right away, as they will need to do a CT scan or X-ray to determine if a bowel blockage has occurred. There are stronger medications available to help in this situation.
Written by Spinal Cord TeamSpinalCord.com has been created as a resource for patients of spinal cord injuries and their families. Find everything you need to learn more about your injury, locate a doctor or treatment center, or discover financial relief to support you through this difficult time.
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