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Life after ostomy reversal and constipation

Posted by markam87, on Mon Oct 03, 2016 9:11 pm



I'm writing here because I don't know where else to look for answers and support. My husband had a colostomy back in June of this year. After 20 years of severe chronic constipation his colon gave up and had to have part of it removed. In September, about 2 weeks ago he had a reversal. We thought that this would make things a bit more normal for him, but they haven't unfortunately. His insicion is healing well and doesn't have too much pain, however he's still having problems going to the bathroom. He went today after 4 days, after taking both miralax and dulcolax this last couple of days. This is making him not eat, he's afradi something will get "stuck in there". We've been trying different foods and meals, but I think his fear and depression are getting the best of him. We are following up with the surgeon tomorrow. He did go to the GI last week, who told him to eat any kinds of foods and take miralax everyday. This was the first time he was seeing this GI, as he was not being seen by one before. When this happened back in june I had to take him to the ER because of abdominal pain and then all this mess happened. Any advice or ideas you have to offer will be much appreciated. I don't know what else to do to help him. Thanks!

Reply by Bill, on Wed Oct 05, 2016 2:17 am

Hello markham87. Welcome to the MAO site. 20 years of constipation would indicate to me that this is a 'normal' state of affairs for your husband and it is little wonder that his colon decided to give up. Having a reversal may well have had the desired effect of seeming more 'normal' for him but one should ask the question- was that more 'normal' really desirable.

There are many advantages to seeking medical help and I wouldn't knock it too hard. However, you don't say whether they told him what caused his constipation in the first place. Taking out part of the colon and prescribing laxatives may well help with the symptoms but this approach often does not address the original underlying problem. People like us can only guess at what might be wrong so everyone's individual guesses can be as good as the next person's. Obviously, diet can play a part in what goes through and what might get stuck in the system but the sytem itself might be sluggish for one reason or another. Because the passing of faeces (or not)  seems like a mechanical problem many people see the solution as being mechanical/biological and these aspects need to be investigated. There are however, alternative theories on why people get problems with their guts and this is to do with 'gut feelings'. Many folks know full well that the way they feel affects the way their guts work. People who worry a lot often suffer with gut problems. Sometimes, the worry is imperceptible, as is the case when they are stressed at work or home or simply within themselves. At times the individual's are not aware that they are stressed at all because they don't view themselves as such.Others think that they can work their way through stressful periods and sometimes they can. The problems often arise when the stress is low level yet chronic. this is when the whole body re-adjusts to the stress levels and compensates by very basic fight, flight or freeze responses. Because the gut is part of the autonomic nervous system, it does not react in the same way as the tangible nerves of the body's outer framework. It tends to act more slowly and imperceptibly to low-level stimuli. Nevertheless, over time, it can alter to the extent that it functions differently for those who stress to those who don't.

You say that your husband is 'afraid' that something will get stuck in there. Worry is a form of fear which is part of a classic array of emotions that can have an affect on the autonomic nervous system. In the case of the guts, worrying about what 'might' happen, appears to be one of the mechanisms which helps to make it happen. In the medical profession it seems to be the norm to wait until 'all else has failed' before they start contemplating that some of the underlying problems might be emotional/ psychological rather than simply physical. When I was working, my work almost always involved 'victims' of a medical system that almost insisted upon experimenting with everything physical first. When they came to the end of what they had to offer, they would reluctantly, indicate that it might be something to do with psychological factors and refer them on. Unfortunately, we live in a stressful society so quite often what professionals diagnose as psychological have underlying irritants to do with that society itself. What they like to call 'environmenta'l and 'lifestyle' factors, which result in the individual being adversly affected one way or another. Until these factors are addressed and managed, the problems will probably continue and increase. It is very difficult for individuals to change the society in which they live so, those of them who recognise these types of problems, begin to find ways to circumvent the adverse effects of their environment in very personalised ways. The interesting thing about these alternative appoaches is that they are much less likely to do harm than many of the medical solutions. They are also more likely to help people to understand about their body and the affects on it from things in their environment. Thus, they are more able to 'manage'  their day to day living without stressing about it. There are so many hobbies and occupations that people have invented for this specific purpose, that all I can really do is point a few out and say that the most effective ones are those that the individual is drawn to because they provide 'enjoyment'. Personally, I write, do gardening, birdwatch, peoplewatch, walk, ride, read and experiment. All things that help distract my mind onto things that I like doing but they are also things that do not create extra stress. they can be demanding yet simultaneously relaxing.  There have been many books written to help folks in their efforts to move from being stressed to being more relaxed and there are even more people who will relieve you of your money by telling you that they can help you in the process. Whatever works might be worth paying for but I am convinced that, in the end, it is the individual that will have to work these things out for themselves before solutions are found to suit them.

Sorry if this seems a long response but I hope it helps in some way.

Best wishes 


Reply by Emra, on Wed Oct 05, 2016 12:06 pm

Hello friend Bill who responded above, is my "go to" person - I cannot add to his reponse - he has walked the walk, and whatever he shares, you can depend on. 

I had my emergent colostomy done on 4/28...I am still dealing with two abdominal wounds from a post operative incisional infection - that's just going to take time heal - my reversal is on hold until I heal right proper.  My point, however, is that I will be looking at reversal surgery as well. 

In preparation for my reversal, and having also had issues with constipation all my life, I have been watching my reaction to every single food I eat.  Do you recall any foods that worked well for your husband before he had the reversal?  Peeled cooked carrots seem to work for me - go figure!

This whole journey is one of learning to adapt...we have all had the fear, anxiety, pain - all of it.  We got here by different routes, but have ended up in the same place.  In the beginning I was afraid to eat as well...I'm still learning what foods I can and cannot have.  Today I actually left the skin on a pear - tomorrow I will find out if that was a good decision.  One of my wound care nurses had her takedown a few months ago - she still goes to a support group - perhaps that is an option for your husband?  Perhaps being around others who have been in his position might help.

Give yourselves time to catch up with all of the events you have gone through...I often felt like I was running a marathon - my healthcare team was two miles ahead of me and I was yelling "wait for me please, I'm trying to catch up."  Events happened quickly and I felt like I was out of control...not a good position for anyone. 

And my last piece of not dismiss how you feel and try to be patient.  This is a wondeful group of folks here...I came here when I hit rock bottom - the responses and kind words of support got me through the next day.  On that success, I built my new foundation. 




Reply by Ewesful, on Wed Oct 05, 2016 2:08 pm

You have had the best advice already!! Hang in there - give yourselves some time -- things are not going to "stick" as such - work with the easier foods first and let things get started.... Better days are ahead.

Past Member
Reply by Past Member, on Wed Nov 02, 2016 4:45 pm

Probiotics help with the whole spectrum of digestive issues.

Drinking extra water may help.

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