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ED recovery and constipation/no bowel movement


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Hey its my first time posting here. Im currently recovering from ana,  here are my stats: 16 y.o. 88 lbs and 5,2". I have started recovery 2 weeks ago and had binging episodes which just sucks but thats another topic. Anyway, im having horrible digestive problems eversince. I havent had a bowel movement in a week and i mostly eat oatmeal, apples, grapes( literally had 2-3 cups today), peanuts, oranges, fish, rice, and LOTS of yogurt cause im reeally addicted to them. I had 3 cups yesterday and 2 cups for tonight's nightsnack and theyre not the "light" ones cause i have to gain weight (ugh). The not so healthy foods i always have though are peanut cookies(addicted to them lol), butter popcorn, really oily fish omlets with chapati(or something), lots of milk tea and COFFEE yumm. I occasionally have some pastries as treats here and there. (i feel like i cant stop eating since recovery) I told my doctor about my constipation and said i have a lazy bowel because i used to use laxatives like once in a few months when i really feel impacted. I never abused them as in overdosing or using them too frequently. But i am not having anymore bowel movements and he told me to retrain them by siting there at a certain time of the day for 20 minutes but nothings happened. Does that really work? Ive also started taking metamucil.  For those in recovry or have recovered an Eating disorder, were you ever constipated?? Did your digestive system heal after recovery?? Or am i doomed forever??

22 Replies (last)

constipation is really common. the best thing you can do is eat MORE FAT!! lots of it!! i suspect fiber isn't really a problem for you, so just up the fat intake and go to the restroom at the same time every day and sit there pushing (gently...don't strain) for a good 10 minutes. even when you don't go to your satisfaction this practice will help train your body. also try to relax on the toilet...maybe get something to read and just loosen up a bit. I also HAD and still have digestive issues but they are just less severe now.

Couple of things: if you have not had any bowel movements in more than 5 days, then you should check in with your doctor. While constipation is common in recovery, absolutely no bowel movements in a week needs a quick review with your doctor.

Second thing, insoluble fiber can worsen the situation for those dealing with chronic constipation (which is the case often during recovery). Soluble fiber is a good thing to include (although don't take it every day for months on end).

While metamucil contains psyllium husks, its number one ingredient is sucrose and it has artificial flavors and dyes that really aren't helpful unless you cannot stand plain psyllium husks and seeds (soluble fiber) in warm water. That's up to you. So yes, good you've begun taking metamucil (as I said, don't overdo it and follow the instructions).

Follow all of chrissy1988's advice too -- fats over insoluble fiber is a good idea. And yes, the entire body will heal including the gastrointestinal system. It takes time which is, of course, just what you don't need to hear right now!

Really glad to hear you are eating in recovery -- that your appetite has decided to make an appearance is an excellent sign. 

i really would advise you to see your doctor it is very dangerous to be so constipated . he/she should be able to check you over and give you something to help you to go. this isnt uncommon its happened to me and numerous other people on here who have ed . i think a big factor like chrissy stated is getting the basis of your diet right , fats is vital. you can eat all the fruit vegetable and fibre in the world but if you are lacking other things . have you a dietican who is monitoring your meal plan .

thanks for the replies

I want to ask how long will it take for my digestive system to start working again if I used to have an eating disorder? If it depends on how long i've had it, let's say a few months. If you had an eating disorder, did you experience the same issues? How did you cope?

Also, what are some types of soluble fibre besides oats? And what kind of insoluble should I be avoiding? I'm staying away from bananas because they make it far worse. Then, what kind of 'fats' would you recommend? Any kind?

Thanks so much. Recovery would be so much easier if my digestive system was doing fine. :( 

edit: I unfortunately do not have a dietician, just my family doctor.

and another thing, about retraining the bowels by sitting there for 10 minutes at a certain time everyday, when will results show? After few days or will it take weeks or longer?

hey there i know what you're going through, it is NOT fun.

okay some things that helped me:

1. Drink! make sure you are drinking enough fluids (preferably caloric ones :) )

2. Eat prunes. Or drink prune juice. Both high-cal and great for digestion!

3. hot water with lemon is rather gross but may help

4. Have 3/4 cup of fiber one cereal at night with prunes and something to drink...might help? maybe? worked for me

5. Don't use laxatives!!! It was a veerrry bad decision on my part...

6. Don't overdue the fruits...maybe too much?

and just wait it out honey...it'll pass. once you are healthy, and exercising normally, it will fix itself. Best of luck xoxo

bananas aren't a source of fats anyway, so not being able to eat them is not a problem.

eat...

1. olive oil on everything...aim for at least 2-3 tablespoons a day...easy to add to pasta, rice, veggies, salad 

2. flaxseed oil/ground...in oatmeal, in cereal, in yogurt

3. full fat dairy...ice cream, yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, cheese

4. avocados

5. fatty fish...salmon, mackerel

6. olives

7. nuts

avoid...

1. salads--too much bulk, it will worsen the condition

2. cruciferous veggies--broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage (it will cause bloating, distention, and make it more painful)---> choose peas, potatoes, corn, lima beans, carrots

3.  broth based soups that fill you up and make it more difficult to meet your calories (choose creamy soups instead like broccoli cheese, potato soup, clam chowder)

if you eat 2-3 pieces of fruit, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and whole grain cereals you will get enough fiber no problem so don't load up on veggies and fruit. overdoing it can actually worse the condition and cause a bowel obstruction and really prevent you from going. hope this helps.

Constipation and bloating are very common when recovering from an ED, but absolutely no bowel movement for 1 week is dangerous.  You should definately check in with your doctor, and maybe see a gastroenterologist (G.I. doctor).  

  • I would recommend Miralax, an over the counter, very gentle laxative.  Try using one capful mixed with water 2x a day.  it's pretty gross tasting, so i mix it with crystal light for flavor...
  • While making sure you're eating enough calories, try to restrict the volume you are taking in.  If possible, try to drink a lot of your calories (smoothies & shakes are good) and eat really dense foods (like nuts or dried fruit).  This should help with stomach pain
  • Gentle yoga can help move things along too
  • Try a heating pad on your stomach
It would probably be a good idea to get a colonoscopy/endoscopy done to see if you have stomach damage, etc (which is not uncommon with eating disorders).  for this procedure, you need to do an enema beforehand, but talk to your doctor obv. 

Pleure:

The constipation you are experiencing is so normal during recovery from an ED.  During my first couple of weeks into my recovery from anorexia/bulemia I had the worst constipation...sometimes I wouldn't have a bowel movement for a week.  My nutritionist went over this with me because she said I would experience it. 

-when you begin recovering from anorexia you will have constipation in the beginning.  Keep in mind your digestive system and intestines aren't used to processing foods! 

-because you restricted for so long, the foods you do eat now will take longer to digest.  When you had your ED your stomach shrunk, but now that you are eating it will feel bloated...espceially when you are constipated. It will almost feel like it is just sitting there (which in fact it is).  If you keep up your eating and increase the fats in your food and amount of it, your body will begin to regulate itself.  ...this will take a LEAST a month for your digestive system to begin working properly.

-My nutritionist recommended for me to use the maximum daily dose of Miralax...which is OTC.  DO NOT use laxatives!  I was told long term use and abuse of them will lead to permanent damage to your bowel.  I would only use STOOL SOFTNERS...NOT laxatives to help alleviate the constipation.  Also drink a lot of water and eat prunes. 

-Like I said...your body isn't used to proc

-your stomach isn't used to processing foods, but over time it will.  I have been in recovery for 4 months and there are times where I don't have a bowel movement for 4 days. It is frustrating but I let my body do it's natural thing and know I will have eventually.  Your body is a machine...so when your metabolism is back to normal and you keep eating normally you will have normal bowel movements.    

can you become dependent on stool softeners? like my N told me to wean off of dulcolax stool softeners. she said id become dependent/ i also use sennacot

Pleure:

I also wanted to say that your craving of sweets is so normal during recovery.  Because you restricted for so long your body is telling you what it needs and wants.  I crave sweets like crazy still...like cookies, ice cream, anything with chocolate, and cupcakes.  I now allow myself to eat them because I can, and it feels so good.  Remember, when you had your ED your body was in 'starvation mode' and it will be for a while during recovery...that is why you crave certain foods.  Just tell yourself this if you ever have ED try to take over your desire to eat sweets.  Tell yourself that you deserve it and your body needs it..which it does.  Keep up the progress!

Original Post by sarahbear24:

can you become dependent on stool softeners? like my N told me to wean off of dulcolax stool softeners. she said id become dependent/ i also use sennacot

No you cannot become dependent on stimulant laxatives (which is what dulcolax is). Although I say that -- human beings have an ability to become psychologically dependent on pretty much anything -- nonetheless there is nothing biologically addictive to a stimulant laxative.

However long term use of these products appears to result in damage to your gut, specifically the muscles responsible for long term contractions (moving everything along from one section to the next) and the nerves associated with the gastrointestinal tract.

Now, these results are contentious and some studies do not support the findings above, although all agree it causes damage to the surface cells of the gut.

Believe it or not, a long term study on patients suffering with chronic constipation saw the best results with cognitive behavioral therapy.

And really, that's not so far fetched. In a busy modern world, someone who is struggling to normalize their body function during ED recovery is going to feel a fair amount of stress about being able to go to the washroom.

Our guts contain 100 million neurons (nerve cells) -- in fact it is called the enteric nervous system or our gut brain. It communicates with the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and they affect each other directly. So it follows that cognitive behavioral therapy isn't just for the central nervous system -- it has positive impacts on the enteric nervous system as well.

You'll notice in chrissy1988's original post she mentions the following: "go to the restroom at the same time every day and sit there pushing (gently...don't strain) for a good 10 minutes. even when you don't go to your satisfaction this practice will help train your body. also try to relax on the toilet" -- these are all cognitive behavioral techniques to help retrain your gut brain. And they will work if you practice and are patient.

Hope this helps.

Pleure: and others on this site

I was informed from my nutritionist to take Miralax that is safe an OTC.  I also was prescribed to take this from my my Gastroenterologist (stomach doctor) .  Stool softners are NOT a laxative!  Stool softners soften the stool and they aren't addictive.  I hope this helps clear some questions. 

Original Post by dancerqueen1:

Pleure: and others on this site

I was informed from my nutritionist to take Miralax that is safe an OTC.  I also was prescribed to take this from my my Gastroenterologist (stomach doctor) .  Stool softners are NOT a laxative!  Stool softners soften the stool and they aren't addictive.  I hope this helps clear some questions. 

Stool softeners (such as Dulcolax) are in a class called stimulant laxatives. The active ingredient is bisacodyl.

Miralax is in the class of osmotic laxatives. Its active ingredient is polyethylene glycol 3550.

Stimulant laxatives cause muscle contractions within the intestine. This moves the fecal matter more quickly through the colon and hence less water is drawn out of the stool during its passage (which is why this class of laxative is referred to as stool softeners).

Osmotic laxatives draw water into the intestine. Using different mechanics, osmotic laxatives also act as stool softeners by adding water to the fecal matter as it travels through the colon.

As with stimulant laxatives, osmotic laxatives do not generate physical dependency, however both classes of laxative can be psychologically addictive.

Original Post by dancerqueen1:

Pleure:

The constipation you are experiencing is so normal during recovery from an ED.  During my first couple of weeks into my recovery from anorexia/bulemia I had the worst constipation...sometimes I wouldn't have a bowel movement for a week.  My nutritionist went over this with me because she said I would experience it. 

-when you begin recovering from anorexia you will have constipation in the beginning.  Keep in mind your digestive system and intestines aren't used to processing foods! 

-because you restricted for so long, the foods you do eat now will take longer to digest.  When you had your ED your stomach shrunk, but now that you are eating it will feel bloated...espceially when you are constipated. It will almost feel like it is just sitting there (which in fact it is).  If you keep up your eating and increase the fats in your food and amount of it, your body will begin to regulate itself.  ...this will take a LEAST a month for your digestive system to begin working properly.

-My nutritionist recommended for me to use the maximum daily dose of Miralax...which is OTC.  DO NOT use laxatives!  I was told long term use and abuse of them will lead to permanent damage to your bowel.  I would only use STOOL SOFTNERS...NOT laxatives to help alleviate the constipation.  Also drink a lot of water and eat prunes. 

-Like I said...your body isn't used to proc

-your stomach isn't used to processing foods, but over time it will.  I have been in recovery for 4 months and there are times where I don't have a bowel movement for 4 days. It is frustrating but I let my body do it's natural thing and know I will have eventually.  Your body is a machine...so when your metabolism is back to normal and you keep eating normally you will have normal bowel movements.    

 Dancerqueen:

Thank you so much! Your replies were very comforting and made me feel more positive about this super stressful recovery process!! Also to you Sarahbear and everyone!

 Anyway, for those who have experienced this digestion issue, if I don't be able to go for a week, would you recommend me using a stimulant laxative(sennokot) just to clear out my system? Or will it be worse in the long run? Am I really going to be dependent on them if I use them like once in 2 weeks as opposed to daily? I will try my best to just let my body do its 'natural thing'' though. Also, would you recommend the docusate-type of stool softeners? They don't actually stimulate the muscles but just draw water. How long does it take for them to work? Lastly, could i be eating too much yogurt because i have 2-3 cups a day(I know, i can't help it lol). Maybe the milk in it is constipating me?

UGH this is so frustrating :-( I hate this ED!! I will destroy you! Guess what, I'm going out for dinner with my mom tonight! take that haha

Original Post by hedgren:

Original Post by sarahbear24:

can you become dependent on stool softeners? like my N told me to wean off of dulcolax stool softeners. she said id become dependent/ i also use sennacot

No you cannot become dependent on stimulant laxatives (which is what dulcolax is). Although I say that -- human beings have an ability to become psychologically dependent on pretty much anything -- nonetheless there is nothing biologically addictive to a stimulant laxative.

However long term use of these products appears to result in damage to your gut, specifically the muscles responsible for long term contractions (moving everything along from one section to the next) and the nerves associated with the gastrointestinal tract.

Now, these results are contentious and some studies do not support the findings above, although all agree it causes damage to the surface cells of the gut.

Believe it or not, a long term study on patients suffering with chronic constipation saw the best results with cognitive behavioral therapy.

And really, that's not so far fetched. In a busy modern world, someone who is struggling to normalize their body function during ED recovery is going to feel a fair amount of stress about being able to go to the washroom.

Our guts contain 100 million neurons (nerve cells) -- in fact it is called the enteric nervous system or our gut brain. It communicates with the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and they affect each other directly. So it follows that cognitive behavioral therapy isn't just for the central nervous system -- it has positive impacts on the enteric nervous system as well.

You'll notice in chrissy1988's original post she mentions the following: "go to the restroom at the same time every day and sit there pushing (gently...don't strain) for a good 10 minutes. even when you don't go to your satisfaction this practice will help train your body. also try to relax on the toilet" -- these are all cognitive behavioral techniques to help retrain your gut brain. And they will work if you practice and are patient.

Hope this helps.

wow hedren yes this helps! what a thorough answer...are you in the medical field by any chance??

so taking 2 dulcolax and 2 sennokot daily is not bad? is it weird that i have to take it earlier in the night if im waking up early? i tend to have to lie in bed on my left side for about 15 minutes till i feel the urge...is this psychological? sorry if tmi hehe

wow hedren yes this helps! what a thorough answer...are you in the medical field by any chance??

so taking 2 dulcolax and 2 sennokot daily is not bad? is it weird that i have to take it earlier in the night if im waking up early? i tend to have to lie in bed on my left side for about 15 minutes till i feel the urge...is this psychological? sorry if tmi hehe

Sorry -- took me a while to respond.

Yes I'm in the field.

I always shy away from saying anything is good or bad. I would say that taking dulcolax and senokot has its uses, but I would also suggest finding a way to get off of them both.

The body is always best suited to running things for itself wherever possible. We also live a whole lot longer than even the longest long term study on the uses of these laxatives. A really long term study covers off maybe 3-5 years. If you take them for 20-30 or 40 years, what does that actually do to the digestive tract? Well, we don't really know.

One of the biggest challenges with digestive issues is that the stress of dealing with them alongside living the semblance of a normal life. This often leads us to use these shortcuts (like dulcolax and senocot) because the other options are so stressful.

What I recommend is using time off or holidays to wean yourself off of them. If you are unable to go for 2-3 days it's uncomfortable but not usually dangerous. You have to find a week or so where the usual pressures of your life are not there so that whether you have to go or not is not worrisome -- you just try again later.

As for the current use, it's not psychological to lie on your left side. Because of how the colon snakes through your body, many studies have shown that lying on your left side helps with digestion. So, you've likely just come across this working more effectively for you because it does.

Hope that covers your questions.

wow yes it definitely does. what is your profession if i may ask?

and that made a lot of sense about the studies...how we really don't know. i tried to wean myself off...then got scared it wouldnt work. i just have to do it.

thank you so much

Original Post by sarahbear24:

wow yes it definitely does. what is your profession if i may ask?

and that made a lot of sense about the studies...how we really don't know. i tried to wean myself off...then got scared it wouldnt work. i just have to do it.

thank you so much

hey, i havent had a BM for a week now so its really uncomfortable. You must know what im experiencing as you said. I used a stool softener and it sort of worked. So are you going to go for senokot? Just to clear out your system? Or will you proceed with the bowel retraining/weaning off process. I'm really tempted to use senna but it might get me more dependent

 

Original Post by pleure:

Original Post by sarahbear24:

wow yes it definitely does. what is your profession if i may ask?

and that made a lot of sense about the studies...how we really don't know. i tried to wean myself off...then got scared it wouldnt work. i just have to do it.

thank you so much

hey, i havent had a BM for a week now so its really uncomfortable. You must know what im experiencing as you said. I used a stool softener and it sort of worked. So are you going to go for senokot? Just to clear out your system? Or will you proceed with the bowel retraining/weaning off process. I'm really tempted to use senna but it might get me more dependent

 

hey! i already use senokot everynight its hard for me to convince myself no to take it. if i were you, try not to take it...just wait it out you know? once your healthier itll normalize xx here if you need me sweetie!

um i was just wondering wether miralax can cause laxative dependency? help im scared.

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