Contributed by Stephen Rowley
Post-surgery many people have problems with bowel control.
We take for granted our ability to control bowel motions, but forget that we went through our early years being ‘potty trained’.
Potty training as a toddler was a real thing. We learned to make ourselves go on command and also to hold back in-between. This wasn’t just learning to control the anal sphincters and further back in the gut, but recognising the signals from the rectum. Unconsciously we were also training the colon. Telling it when to start up peristalsis in the lower colon, which in turn fires up along the whole of the colon, and also to stop it.
Surgery takes away a section of colon – the chain of command is broken. The body has to retune itself so that peristalsis is normalised.
This is important to the nature of the stools. An important role of the lower colon is removing water from the stools to firm them up.
- If the faecal material does not spend enough time in the colon, not enough water is removed – result – diaorrhea.
- If peristalsis stops, too much water is removed – hard stools and constipation.
Some learnings from the group
- 1) Drink plenty of water.
- 2) Go to the loo regularly and sit there until something happens.
- 3) Eat fibre to provide bulk
- 4) Take time to be aware of the bowel signals, not just the anal sphincters
- 5) Adopt a regular eating pattern
- 6) Acknowledge to yourself that you need to take potty training seriously.
- 7) Senna and Imodium are lifesavers at times.
- 8) A coffee after breakfast is good stimulant for potty training.
- 9) Alcohol, is on the whole not very helpful
- 10) The Changi Rice Water trick really does work.
- 11) Don’t eat after 6pm (it works for some people)
The randomness and lack of controls after surgery is something that can be managed, but it does take time.
Your body was tuned to the long colon, and now you have to retrain it.
Remember, it probably took 3 years to become potty trained the first time round – now that you are all growed-up, you can probably do it more quickly.
Changi Rice Water
My mother had severe diarrhoea after small bowel surgery. This was a real issue for many weeks and she was progressively losing weight. The prescribed medications failed to resolve the matter. However, a friend who had been a nurse in Changi introduced her to the Rice Water method. She tried it and within 24 hours her bowel returned to normal.
Boil in a pan for 10 mins until the water is cloudy.
Strain the rice and collect the water
Put the water in the fridge to cool and sip throughout the day
NB: This technique will work with white rice, but unwashed brown rice will probably be best.
The remaining rice can be returned to the pan with more water and cooked and eaten normally. Rice is good for bulking up the stools.
During WWII many British people were interned in the Singapore Changi Camp. Diet and conditions were very poor. Infants in particular were suffering from dysentery, diarrhoea and dying. Nurses in the camp used this local rice water technique to stop diarrhoea. This proved to be very effective. Some studies have been done on it since: