Friday, August 5, 2011

Stay regular with “Colon Blow”

By Richard P. Holm MD

Several years ago a comedy TV show on Saturday night parodied high fiber breakfast cereal calling their fake brand “Colon Blow.” At our house, that’s what we call our fiber breakfast cereal mix topped off with ground flax seed and dried or fresh fruit.

There is good reason I promote high fiber, but the story is a bit complicated. Many of my patients, especially the elderly, struggle with constipation problems. Very often these people have been taking one stimulant laxative or another such as senna or casanthralol, and have been doing so for many years.

Specialists have known for a long time that stimulating the bowels with an irritant only works for a short while, and then a higher dose is required, and then a higher dose… and so on. What’s worse, following the use of bowel stimulants, commonly there is diarrhea and then rebound constipation when these drugs are stopped. Thus, many people have had a roller-coaster bowel problem for a very long time as a result of using stimulant laxatives.

But in a controlled environment like a nursing home, I’ve noted that when you stop the stimulant laxatives, and use instead fiber with as-needed osmotic non-stimulating laxatives, the problem goes away in about two weeks.

Here’s the formula:

1. Start with enough fiber. I generally recommend food fiber, not the packaged type, such as bran-type breakfast cereal or oatmeal. Another good source is ground golden flax seed, which has an additional fish oil-type benefit. Start slow, and increase gradually;

2. If needed add plain stool softener, one to three capsules once or even twice a day if necessary. Adjust dose to daily balance bowels. Avoid softeners when in combination with a stimulant laxative. I repeat: don’t use stimulant laxatives;

3. If still no success by the above, add one of the following: milk of magnesia, polyethylene glycol (Miralax,) or sorbitol “but only when needed.” All three work by drawing fluid into the bowel rather than by irritating it.

Fiber is the most important part of the formula, and new science shows significantly reduced over-all death rates in those who eat enough fiber. So as the TV comedy skit goes: “I stay regular with colon blow. You can too.”

No comments: