Is Cancer Affecting Your Constipation?
If we think of the body as a whole and all the systems as interlinked, let's discuss what happens after you get done eating and digesting. Yes, your assumptions are correct. We are going to talk about the big Number 2.
As the old saying goes, "what goes up, must come down." The same is true for eating, "what goes in, must come out." Normally, your body simply takes care of everything automatically. But, if you are going too much or going too little, it becomes quite the problem. I am going to give you some real world advice on these two common problems, address their causes, and offer you some helpful solutions that will hopefully enable you to rectify the situation quickly.
Let's first start with some basic biology. When you eat food or drink liquids, they travel through your mouth and into your stomach and intestines. After your stomach, they travel into your intestines. Eventually, all of this ends up at the other side coming out as Number 1 or Number 2. This is your body's way of eliminating waste and chemicals inside the body that have been converted. This is a super important function of your body. And if it doesn't work correctly, it can cause all kinds of other back ups in the system.
What's really interesting about digestion is that it is one of the core functions of your body. And yet, many people will go their entire lives without actually giving it any thought until there is a problem.
What To Do If There's No More 2
Generally speaking, an inability to go is caused by dehydration in the lower intestine. This could also be caused by not eating enough fiber or eating too much processed cheese. Other things that can stop you from going are the anesthesia used in surgery, opiate based narcotics found in pain pills, and many chemotherapy drugs will dry you out as well. An inability to go will cause pain, discomfort, bloating, and very stinky smells emanating from your behind. The two easiest ways to start things up again are:
1. Increase your fiber intake
- Examples would be fibrous vegetables like carrots, celery, mustard greens, radishes, and so much more. All plant material contains fiber. Fiber, as we call it, is actually cellulose.The more cellulose a plant contains, the harder it becomes. This is the reason we can build houses out of wood. Humans cannot properly digest cellulose, so we call it indigestible fiber. This is what pushes things along and acts like a binder for your food as it moves through your digestive track.
2. Increase your hydration
- The function of your lower intestine is to extract the water from your foods. There's a very good chance (especially if you are on chemotherapy) that your lower intestine has sucked all the water out of the food. This makes everything dry and painful. The best solution I have found personally is good old fashioned, grandma approved, prune juice. I recommend drinking a glass or two. Give it some time to work its magic. Because when it works, IT WORKS! Prune juice is filled with all kinds of b vitamins, potassium, fiber, and a special naturally occurring chemical that will get things moving along fast. After the prune juice works it's magic, I recommend drinking a small glass of it a day to help with hydration and to continue to keep things moving.
What To Do If There's Too Much 2
Inversely, not being able to stop going can be just as bad, if not worse. The big concern is that it will cause rapid dehydration. This can lead to hospitalization. You simply do not want to get dehydrated. Going too much can be caused by a couple of things such as an inability to process whatever you have eaten. This can also be caused by something as dramatic as food borne illness or as simple as your body being unable to process a food. This happens a lot to people who eat meats that are too heavy or try to eat uncooked veggies during chemotherapy treatment. I remember my mother really wanted a fresh leafy salad mid-way through chemotherapy. But, her body couldn't handle the uncooked foods and immediately rejected them. The result was the problem that we are addressing. Going too much can also be caused by treatment drugs or a lack of dietary fiber in your diet. Here are some tips to help things from getting worse:
1. Drink plenty of fluids
- Going too much can cause rapid dehydration. Don't just drink water, it's actually not a very effective hydrator. Consider sports drinks, fruit juices, and cups of broth to keep you or your loved one hydrated. The additional salt found in these 3 items will help maintain the moisture in your body.
2. Increase your fiber
- It may seem like the solution to both of these problems are identical. But, we are using them for different reasons. If you are going too much, increasing your fiber can help push out whatever it is your body is rejecting in the first place. This helps you to "dry up" faster.
3. Try over the counter medications like Imodium A-D
- When my mom had this problem, Imodium really helped. I would recommend it as long as your doctor says that it is OK for you to use.
I never thought I would be talking about the other end of business inside of my cookbook. But with cancer patients, there are unique challenges. This, unfortunately, is one of them. Plus, I guess I am kind of a hero for saving you from going into an online forum and asking these questions. Now you have solutions in the privacy and comfort of your own home and have maintained your dignity at the same time.
This is an excerpt from the author's new book, "Cooking for Kids with Cancer".
Is cancer affecting your bowel movements? What helped you? You can share in the comments below or sign up here.
Ryan Callahan is a classically trained as well as self-taught chef who acted as primary caregiver for his mother. During her chemotherapy, Chef Ryan developed the cooking techniques included in his book, Cooking for Chemo...and After!. For more information, you can visit cookingforchemo.org. You can find Chef Ryan on IHC under the username chef-ryan-callahan .