Long time no poop:
July 16, 2013 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm recovering from food poisoning. It's been a week now without a "proper" bowel movement. I feel mostly OK otherwise. How long is too long? GI and minipoop details inside.

I got a nasty case of food poisoning a week ago. I'm back on my feet again, but I haven't properly pooped since then.

I've had a couple of little poops. They weren't painful or unusually hard. Just wasn't much to them, and kind of an odd sickly color (which didn't really surprise me).

Most days I've been eating light, sometimes just a smoothie or yogurt as a meal, but for a couple of days and for random meals I went ahead and ate normally. After a week, I think there's quite a bit that needs to come out.

Most of the time I feel pretty much normal. When I ate a normal meal I'd feel more full than usual, and it seems to take longer than usual to stop feeling full. However, I don't feel constipated, I'm not in any pain (*) or otherwise feeling ill.

My wife thinks, and I am inclined to agree, that the machinery down there got disrupted and it will recover on its own in time. I don't want to go mucking around with laxatives or other strong interventions unless it's really necessary. Since I'm not experiencing any other alarming symptoms I'm inclined to let it play out a while longer. But maybe this is an error. What does MeFi think?

(*) I did have an gastric ulcer attack last night that was pretty miserable. That's a whole nother story and I don't think it has anything to do with my lack of bowel movement, but I mention it for completeness.
posted by mattu to Health & Fitness (21 answers total)
How long has it been since you last had a bowel movement, and have you passed gas in the last 24 hours?

Also, are you drinking water, and to what extent are you eating solid food vs. liquids?
posted by janey47 at 3:28 PM on July 16, 2013

What happens when you drink coffee? How's the fiber intake?
posted by oceanjesse at 3:29 PM on July 16, 2013

Response by poster: It has been 7 days since my last substantial bowel movement, and that was diarrhea from the food poisoning. I had a small bowel movement today, and another small one I think 2 days ago.

I am passing gas basically normally, often shortly after a meal, and I'm sure I've done so in the last 24 hours.

I am drinking water and peeing normally.

I'm guessing I've had 6-8 normal meals since I started eating again at all, which would have been last Thursday. The rest were yogurt or fruit smoothies.

I minimize coffee and caffeine because of the gastric ulcer. Definitely avoiding for a while now until I heal up.

Fiber intake, moderate, eating fruit with meals plus what I've gotten in smoothies, but nothing especially profound there.

I did eat five prunes over the weekend hoping to move things along a little, but no difference.
posted by mattu at 3:43 PM on July 16, 2013

In my...uh...experience...the "mini-poops" you describe are a pretty normal thing after recovering from a bout of diarrhea, and even "mini-poops" still qualify as "bowel movements." I would give it a few more days. You also might alternate between mild diarrhea and mild constipation a bit over the next few days, which also is pretty normal, in my experience.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:45 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

With prunes I found I had to eat them nightly for a few days to get the expected result.
posted by cabingirl at 3:45 PM on July 16, 2013

Keep enough fluids and make sure you monitor your body for anything out of the ordinary.

I had a stomach issue that lasted for about a month, but then it ended up that my body kind of got halted, and my colon got too much build up which caused stomach/abdominal pain, and ER visit, a CT scan, and laxatives. I didn't think I was constipated either, because it was built up in my body. Then I got really bad abdominal pain.

Overall, you should be okay, but if you get abdominal pain you may have a build up.

I would keep up what you are doing. If it doesn't resolve in a few days, visit the walk-in. Also keep a food/bathroom journal to make sure you can report everything if there is a problem.

The signs I had of a colon build up was fullness, loss of apetite, stomach pain, cramping, then a stabbing pain in my stomach and abdomen, aching, etc. Other signs of any blockage will include total constipation, lack of passing gas, vomiting, etc.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:51 PM on July 16, 2013

If you had a major cleaning out, like I feel you have, you might try things that get your good gut bacteria up and running. Yogurt is excellent and if feels good on an icky tummy. Just make sure they say-active yogurt cultures. A Dr. once suggested room temperature beer or buttermilk to get my good bacteria back. Hope you feel better soon.
posted by PJMoore at 3:52 PM on July 16, 2013

(Ordinary IANAD preface, but you know that.)

Haven't had food poisoning, but have had many episodes of a similar nature over the years. It is normal for it to take some time to get regular again, especially if you have been eating lightly for most of your recovery period. If it were me, I'd wait it out a couple more days, maybe take docusate sodium (brand name Colace if you're in the US, a stool softener)—not extra stength, no more than once a day—just to ease things. (I do this on doctor's advice. It is gentle, but not the kind of thing you want to take regularly unless instructed to.) And make sure you're getting plenty of fluids, as others have advised.
posted by mcoo at 3:53 PM on July 16, 2013

I've tried the Smooth Move tea by Traditional Medicinals in this situation and it worked well for me. It contains senna which is very helpful, though I have been told some folks build a reliance on it and then can't poop at all without it, which isn't good either. That said, this has really done the trick for me when I needed a little jump start.
posted by deliciae at 4:08 PM on July 16, 2013

What you want is plenty of insoluble fiber. Keep drinking water, and be active.

My personal next steps, in order, are MiraLax in prune juice, stimulant laxatives, and (the nuclear option) suppositories.

If you stop passing gas, that's worth calling the doctor for.
posted by moira at 4:53 PM on July 16, 2013

(Next steps if fiber, water, and activity don't get things moving.)
posted by moira at 4:55 PM on July 16, 2013

Try some vitamin D too.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:06 PM on July 16, 2013

If you took loperamide (Imodium) while you were sick, that can gum up the works, too -- it affects gut motility.
posted by oh really at 5:51 PM on July 16, 2013

In my personal, not-a-doctor experience, as long as I'm getting an adequate amount of fluids and fiber, I don't worry until I start to feel uncomfortable.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:14 PM on July 16, 2013

I've had food poisoning before. It took me five days just to feel normal, and I was doing the... mostly rice thing with an egg a day, because that was easiest on my tummy (and multivitamin). It took me over a week to have a normal bowel movement.

But just so you know, what's "normal" for bowel movements already varies substantially among people.

Mayo Clinic: "There's no generally accepted clinical definition for frequent bowel movements. Bowel habits vary widely among healthy people. Some healthy people may have three bowel movements per week, while others may have three per day."

My normal frequency is more along the lines of 2-3 times a week, without feeling constipated. What's important, I think, is that you don't FEEL gassy or constipated or are otherwise in any discomfort.
posted by Ky at 6:48 PM on July 16, 2013

Response by poster: Some helpful suggestions above, thanks.

Glad to know a week isn't necessarily extreme. I'll assume things will work themselves out, so to speak, for a few days more.
posted by mattu at 7:53 PM on July 16, 2013

Just chiming in to note that unlike other laxatives Miralax is very safe and will not create dependence. It draws water into the stool making it easier to pass. It is a good first action if you feel things need to move along.
posted by jeoc at 7:57 PM on July 16, 2013

A "bulk laxative" like Citrucel should help move things along. It's not going to give you the runs like ex-lax or anything. It just adds more fiber to diet which adds more water to your stool to help pass everything.
posted by radioamy at 8:59 PM on July 16, 2013

I agree with the yogurt recommendations, but I want to add: read the labels. If the ingredients list gelatin, pectin, or carrageenan, pass them up. There's nothing really wrong with those ingredients, they are natural thickeners, but if the yogurt has real, live active cultures, it won't need those thickeners. My favorite brand is Fage, but there are others that are good, too.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:32 PM on July 16, 2013

If it continues to get worse, or nothing comes out. I would try some Miralax. It is not a laxative like a Senna or a Dulcolax. Miralax pulls water into the colon. I have irritable bowel with constipation, or just constipation. basically i don't go. When I had a serious bout of diarrhea, for over a month, a doctor had me go on miralax, before it was over the counter, and that helped get me regular again. You can be on Miralax for up to 6 months or more. They have done substantial studies on it for use for 6 months plus, so you will not become reliant upon it. I doubt you will need it for that long if you plan to go that route.
posted by Jewel98 at 10:18 PM on July 16, 2013

Your gut is VERY long and if you really cleaned it out with food poisoning diarrhea, chances are it'll take a couple days to get things normal again.

Gut Transit Time is something to think about.

Something you eat today will hang out in your gut for about 2 days. THat's when it's been full and continuing to empty. Imagine how long it will take that yogurt to make it all the way through, with very little coming down to keep it company. And when it's time to pass it, it's not going to amount to much.

Also, if you took Immodium, you may be having a residual effect.

So given all of that, just keep an eye on it. If you're uncomfortable, or in pain, check with a doctor. If you're a-ok, except for the lack of poop, roll with it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:12 AM on July 17, 2013

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