Chronic bowel blockage and fragile intestines

Posted by patwball @patwball, Oct 15 11:43am

I am a 80 year old woman who is 30 years post gastric bypass (one of the first where bowel was removed). I recently had surgery for kidney cancer, actual surgery, not robotic (got it all) but surgeon said he was more worried the condition my bowels were in. I had adhesions, and he called my bowels fragile. For the past 15 years, I have had bowel issues and three times have been hospitalized for “locked bowel.” Now, my bowels have lost the ability to push stool through. I take stool softeners 2x day and have been taking Duculax. At least three to four a night. Six when it hasn’t worked in a week. I know you will say talk to your doctor. I have. Primary dr was okay with Duculax, Digestive doc told me to take a full dose of Miralax every night for 30 days. I did for about a week and became so weak I needed help getting up. I do not think I empty my bowels completely and think I have stool stuck somewhere. Now for my questions: Any help with bowels that can not push? Something that would work without wiping me completely out. I get so dehydrated. Is there a medication or herb that would strengthen my actual bowels? I am in need of help. Except for this issue, I do pretty well. My husband and live on our own and I want to continue to do so. If you have read this far, thank you!

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Hi @patwball. Welcome to Mayo Connect where so many others with medical concerns exchange information and good wishes for treatments and cures. I'm in the midst of a month long series of digestive problems, and I have learned a lot from Mayo's book "Digestive Health," but the digestive system has so many facets that I can't confidently give you any medical advice, even if Connect would allow it from a patient who is not a medical professional.

Like you, I'm in my 80s. My medical problems are mainly high blood pressure and urinary dysfunction due to prostate growth and bladder cancer, all of which were diagnosed and brought under control several years ago. My digestive problems — like you, I'd be more accurate calling them bowel problems — seem relentless, but I feel more optimistic than you.

Surgery of your bowel is linked with "adhesions," I see. In that regard, you may find some helpful information from the Cleveland Clinic:

I'm taking Dulcolax from time to time, primarily to produce some watery feces for stool samples, but never more than 3 pills at night (more often 1 or 2). I also used Miralax on a few occasions, but it is so powerful and discomforting that I quit, and I am surprised that a "digestive doctor" (a gastroenterologist?) would recommend a full dose every night for a month.

I too have been dealing with dehydration — not drinking enough clear liquids and loss of fluids from diarrhea — but I have found these last two weeks more comfort and less bulging of my abdomen when I drink more than a quart of water and several cups of tea every day.

I hope you have a good Medicare plan to finance your medical care. That could go a long way toward developing a medical care team of doctors, including a gastroenterologist, who will perform the tests that are needed — inside your digestive organs, liver, and pancreas as well as your nerves and circulatory system — and that I'm getting lined up for me. My wife who lives with me in a house in Virginia joins me in wishing the best getting better medical care and relief of the symptoms that will yield to accurate diagnoses and effective treatments. Martin


I am 68 and consider my bowel super-sensitive and fragile. I don't eat anything that is hard to digest as it constipates me.

For example, meat and firm fat is hard for me to digest, so I don't eat it. For protein I consume egg whites, low-fat fin fish, protein powder, and lactose-free nonfat/1% milk. I have a few nuts and olive oil too.

All my produce is cooked. That makes it easier to digest. Nothing raw.

To help move my food in my gut, I take one Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar capsule with each meal. Studies show apple cider vinegar to be a digestion aid. I also use the liquid version as a condiment. At bedtime, I take 1.5 teaspoons of mineral oil, a lubricant laxative. I have a warm breakfast.

In general, eat light, small meals instead of big meals, and drink water reasonably. Hot drinks are great too.

I hope some of this works for you.
Congrats on being 80! I hope to get there too 🙂


Hi, I'm in the same boat…
This is what I do:
I alternate days of:
Milk of Magnesia with mineral oil
Citrate of magnesium
Dulcolax (generic is Bisacodyl) Suppositories
Dulcolax (generic) tablets as many as necessary. The same with all the rest.
Fleet enemas
I've been living with this since I was young,…. 64 coming up.
Your body gets used to anything you take every day
It feels horrible to not go for 5,6,7 or more days. I don't let that happen; I just go along with my regimen.
I hope this helps you, Deb


If you are having bowel obstructions, do not take Dulcolax as it is a stimulant. My colorectal surgeon has always said, you can’t knock down a closed door. That is of you have adhesions and are prone to obstruction. You should only take stool softeners (without stimulant) and MiraLax. I have a tortuous colon and many adhesions along with a wondering bowl and cecum. I could twist very easily and I am also prone to obstructions.

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