Help me deal with the cramps while I wait to see the doc!
October 6, 2010 2:13 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to treat and/or prevent severe constipation cramps?

The kind where you have to grab your lower abdomen as tight as you can, scream and tense your muscles until you start to tremble, while simultaneously trying to kick your shoes off and find some running water because all of a sudden you can't stand how hot you're getting?

I suffer from IBS/constipation. Main symptoms are bloating, cramps and constipation. However, the cramps have never been this bad before. In the past, the worst cramps would just make me grab my desk and make my eyes bug out until they went away.

The gasping/screaming cramps started in August and lasted about a week, went away to be replaced by soft stools for a month and a half, then normal stools for a week, and now I'm back to the agony again. It likes to happen during or shortly after breakfast. I now eat a lighter breakfast. (I am making an appointment with a GI doc.)

I am very sensitive to fiber, and need to eat the same amount of fiber each day if possible, or else very gradually increase it. I am guessing my current problem is more fiber than I'm used to and not enough water combined with lack of sleep and too much unaccustomed exercise. Taking magnesium clogs me up. Small amounts of chocolate usually help. Stool softeners work a little too well, can't you get them in a children's dose?

My current therapy is walking, drinking water and eating fiber in smaller amounts at a time (not too much at one meal). I also usually take one half to one Fiber-con a day (doesn't cause gas). I have been doing this for a couple years.

Of course, I suspect certain things...Chrohn's without the diarrhea symptoms? (I am sensitive to a lot of foods.) Colon cancer? Mild gluten intolerance? Parasites? Giardia? or just my IBS getting worse?
I also want to know, do the same things that help muscle cramps help intestinal cramps?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
You might want to try cutting out the gluten and seeing how that works for you. Since childhood, I'd have constipation/gas pains so severe I'd end up in the ER, but when I accidentally went gluten free, it was like living in a different world. A happy, non-gassy, unbloated, world where trips to the bathroom weren't a nightmare.

Otherwise, I found dried apricots helped a lot.
posted by Ruki at 2:37 PM on October 6, 2010

I have found that a cup of thick espresso can work magic.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:51 PM on October 6, 2010

Have you been to a gastroenterologist recently? I was diagnosed with IBS years ago and was able to manage it with various remedies, but in the past year or two it started to become unmanageable... long story short, I eventually got a colonoscopy (don't worry, they knock you out!) because my doc thought I might be developing ulcerative colitis (runs in the family) or something else, and to everyone's surprise it turned out to be colon cancer.

I don't say this to frighten you, but rather to suggest the level of pain and distress you are describing with this particular change of bowel habits indicates that you need a doctor involved (preferably a specialist, not just a GP), rather than just trying to hit upon the right home remedy.

If you are really in severe pain, you might even want to go to an Urgent Care office (or the ER) -- it sounds possible that you might be describing an impaction, which absolutely requires medical attention. You also run the risk of developing a fissure if you're straining too hard, which is... not something you want. Really.

Feel free to memail me if you'd like.
posted by scody at 3:48 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry, i just saw now that you mentioned as an aside that you were making an appt. with a GI doc. So... carry on! And also, I found that a warm (not hot) heating pad on my belly sometimes helped with cramps, as did hot peppermint tea. Hope you get to see the doc soon. If it turns out to be a long wait for your appointment, ask to be put on the cancellation list, too, so that they'll call you if an appointment opens up sooner. Good luck.
posted by scody at 3:52 PM on October 6, 2010

Your pain might be from gas. Try simethicone (Gas-X) on a regular schedule (with each meal plus at bedtime).
posted by neuron at 4:40 PM on October 6, 2010

Seconding the gluten suggestion. I mean, dealing with bloatedness, mystery pains and cramps by second-guessing your food choices inevitably brings you back to something of a medieval scientist's mindset (empiricism with too many variables and no idea where to start), which can feel a little random and hopeless, but:
As I'm told, gluten's side-effects are a running (no pun) theme in low-carb discussions, a diet (if you will) where the gluten sort of by accident is left out together with all the carby goods. Waking up from your bowel nightmares seems to be one of the typical things to happen there.
I never had IBS diagnosed but I did have my share of nonsense going on for a while and feared that I was heading that way; then I half jumped on the low-carb waggon together with my SO, left out all the pasta and most of the bread, and its all gone. Worth a thought.
posted by Namlit at 5:06 PM on October 6, 2010

I used to have constipation for at least 10 years, and it was really bad certain days/weeks/months. I tried eating a lot of fiber, exercise, fiber drinks, etc. None of them really worked that well. A lot of times even ex-lax didn't work. Then I started using Glycolax and I have never had a problem since.

Glycolax isn't fiber - supposedly what it does is attract extra water into your intestines or something. I take it every day. Sometimes once per day is not enough, but twice per day always is. You can get it over the counter as Myralax but it is cheaper to get a prescription for Glycolax if you have insurance.
posted by hijol at 5:14 PM on October 6, 2010

you can get children's dose stool softeners. you might also try taking a gas reliever like simethicone. (i was on a medication that caused similar bowel issues as a side effect).
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:05 PM on October 6, 2010

my, uh, friend's wife has issues with constipation. She's discovered that if she snacks on a little granola at night (fiber) and drinks a really strong cup of coffee mixed with a large amount of milk in the morning, she can usually get some movement going. This is after years of maybe producing one movement a week.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:25 PM on October 6, 2010

I've recently started taking Acidophilus with Bifidus (same stuff in those designer yogurts, my spelling may be wrong) tablets that I got at my local health foods store. It's made a world of difference in my bathroom trips and gas pains.

Get checked for Celiac Disease while you're at the GI Doc.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:25 PM on October 6, 2010

I had this problem when I was a small child. My mother tried everything. Eventually she discovered that Milk of Magnesia was the magic elixer. I do not even know if they sell that stuff any more.
posted by bukvich at 11:09 AM on October 7, 2010

I used to get INCREDIBLY painful cramps and constipation until I switched from Tagamet to Omeprazole and switched out my gummy candy fetish (which was pulling my cavities loose, anyway) with dried fruit instead.

I hated giving up jelly bellies, man, but try dried strawberries, cherries and of course the morning jolt of espresso if you can. You should also cut back on dairy, if possible - when I've lived with the lactose intolerant in past situations, I noticed less gas and less bloating, probably because of the fat/sugar content in dairy that can trigger stomach problems.

I'm pretty sure my symptoms were identical to yours; I'd get cold on the back of my neck, then sweaty on my forehead, suddenly shiver like I had food poisoning, have intense pain - the kind of pain where you literally can't talk and can barely move, believing you will die - then a brisk limp-walk to the bathroom where you pray to god you'll poop and then just release an insane amount of gas. Then later, you DO finally poop - and it's either painful and you end up bleeding, or it's loose and smells like death.

(Times like these, I really wish I could answer anonymously, but I'm also too lazy to memail the admins. I've heard people at my office throw up when I was, uh, doing things in the bathroom.)

Eventually, I got sick about a year and a half ago and ended up with a gastroenterologist sending a camera down my esophagus (endoscopy) and they discovered NOT IBS or anything else I'd been diagnosed with YEARS BEFORE, but long, stringy growths in my esophagus, stomach and duodenum attributed to undiagnosed GERD and years of taking the wrong stomach medication, which was interfering with my asthma meds anyway. They removed the growths, switched me to Protonix, then generic omeprazole 2x per day with a short-term calcium supplement. This is totally TMI but you say you're going to a GI - see if your situation is something similar.

also: try cutting out ANYTHING carbonated for a week and see what happens. I love mineral water, ginger ale (soothing) and tend to chug anything I drink. I'm trying to change that, but it's a fact that bubbles = gas = gassy human/bloating. Good luck - feel better!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:44 PM on October 7, 2010

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