Advertisement

I had extreme constipation for five years, here's how I finally cured it

Laura Cruise, 48, is a business coach and mentor. She lives with her husband, who works in HR, in Bedfordshire and has three children aged 19, 18 and 15. Here she shares how constipation used to affect her life, before she eventually found a cure.

Laura Cruise had issues with constipation for five years before finding a cure. (Supplied)
Laura Cruise had issues with constipation for five years before finding a cure. (Supplied)

This time last year I was invited to a gorgeous hotel with a group of friends to celebrate a 50th birthday.

Normally, I’d have been the life and soul of the party, happy to stay up late with my friends laughing and drinking cocktails. Instead, I was making excuses about 'needing an early night' and was curled up in bed with a stomach ache by 10pm.

Excruciating constipation had ruined yet another night. For five long years, I’d suffered with this same condition that I couldn’t seem to cure. Yet one simple half-hour appointment would soon change my life.

Until my early 40s, I hadn’t had any serious health problems at all. But in 2018, I went through a very turbulent time with something within my family and I ended up taking antidepressants. They helped me get past this event on an emotional level, but physically I was changed. Constipation – something I’d never suffered from before – gradually crept up on me to the point where I was only going to the toilet once a week.

An embarrassing secret

You can only imagine what it’s like, carrying around everything you’ve eaten for five or six days at a time. It felt horrible. I was lethargic and grey and it was affecting my life in so many ways.

You can only imagine what it’s like, carrying around everything you’ve eaten for five or six days at a time. It felt horrible. I was lethargic and grey.

My constipation became the focal point of everything I was doing. I was scared to socialise in case I suddenly needed the toilet. I’d worry about visiting friends in their homes for the same reason. I was nervous about travelling long distances. And because I was so embarrassed about my condition, I didn’t tell a soul – not even my husband.

My stomach was so tight and bloated that I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes. I felt confused and disorientated that my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do naturally. It was especially concerning as previously, if I’d been worried or nervous about something, it would often have the opposite effect on my bowels.

Laura Cruise had no health problems until her early 40s, but then constipation began to take over her life. (Supplied)
Laura Cruise had no health problems until her early 40s, but then constipation began to take over her life. (Supplied)

Looking for a cause

At first, I thought my constipation was being caused by my antidepressants so I came off them but it made no difference. I tried eating more fruit and the few people I did mention it later on would always say: 'Eat more prunes' but that didn’t work either.

By 2019, I went to see my GP who referred me to see a bowel specialist. At one point they thought it might be bowel cancer, which was terrifying, but after a colonoscopy, it was discovered I had a polyp which was removed. That helped a little. But soon the constipation was back.

I was even investigated for ovarian cancer – again, terrifying – but the results were clear. No one could tell me why I was having so many issues.

My GP gave me powdered laxatives, which were horrible but worked for a while. I kept hoping my body would reset itself to normal. A friend who is trained in colonic irrigation gave me several sessions, which cleared me out, but the constipation would return within weeks. She said to me: "It’s as if your body has forgotten what it’s supposed to do" and something in me clicked. Could this condition be down to something other than a physical cause?

The experts said that often the fix with gut health wasn’t down to diet – although that can help in some cases. Instead, it might be down to subtle changes in mindset, habits or related to some kind of trauma.

A lightbulb moment

I’d already been watching a programme on Channel 4 called Know Your Sh*t all about gut health and had been absolutely fascinated by some of the patients’ stories and the experts who had been helping them. The experts said that often the fix with gut health wasn’t down to diet – although that can help in some cases. Instead, it might be down to subtle changes in mindset, habits, or perhaps it is related to some kind of trauma.

It made me think back to what had happened to me in 2018 when I’d felt so out of control with the stressful situation in my family. I decided to reach out to the dietitian Sophie Medlin, one of the experts on the show. Over Instagram I asked her: 'Do you think that trauma impacts gut health?' and she replied: 'Absolutely it does.' It was a lightbulb moment.

Laura Cruise says her life changed after an appointment with an expert who looked at the emotional causes of her condition. (Supplied)
Laura Cruise says her life changed after an appointment with an expert who looked at the emotional causes of her condition. (Supplied)

Finding a solution

I organised a Zoom session with Sophie and honestly, within half an hour my life had been changed. Simply by talking to her about my trauma, she made me realise that the control I had lacked in that situation in 2018, was something I’d tried to regain in my own body by tightening up my gut. It sounds bizarre but in simple terms I had been holding onto my bowel movements to seize back control of my life.

Sophie suggested some changes to my life. I was told to relax more when I went to the toilet and to just ‘sit there’ and do nothing for 10 minutes. If I went, I went but if I didn’t, not to worry about it.

She also suggested a low FODMAP diet – eating certain foods that are low in starches, sugars and other fibres.

Regaining confidence

Within three months of that appointment, I was a different woman. Simply hearing that gut health could be connected to emotions proved something of a shift in my mindset. I began to relax about my condition and gradually my bowels began to move more regularly. I had so much more energy, my confidence returned.

I began to relax about my condition and gradually my bowels began to move more regularly. I had so much more energy, my confidence returned.

Now I can’t believe I spent five years feeling so awful when I could have done something about it by looking at my emotional state as well as my physical state. Of course, the FODMAP diet may have also helped but if I’m honest, I struggled to keep to it. I’m no longer on it and my bowels are still fine.

Gut health – and particularly constipation – is one of those conditions we simply don’t talk about enough. I remember being so embarrassed mentioning it to anyone. I even went red when talking to a consultant about it when my husband was with me at an appointment.

Laura Cruise wants people to talk more openly about gut health. (Supplied)
Laura Cruise wants people to talk more openly about gut health. (Supplied)

Listening to my body

Today I feel so much better. I’ve learned to listen to my body. There’s a saying that 'You can’t pour from an empty cup' and it makes so much sense. If I feel constipated again, I know it’s because I’m rushing around stressed and depleted.

I have learned techniques to help me relax. I love a warm bath, I try to get an early night but I also make sure I don’t get overstressed and give myself some 'me time'. I don’t drink much alcohol anymore and know that if I don’t go to the toilet once every couple of days – normal for me, but not for everyone – then I need to slow down and listen to my body again.

I have regular colonoscopies now – purely so the doctors can keep an eye on any more developing polyps – and I’m being honest about this debilitating condition because I think more people need to talk about it. They say you have to 'Trust your gut' and that’s true – because it could save your life.

Dream it and Do it, Six Steps Into Your Own Dream Life and Business by Laura Cruise is out now (£10.99, published by Authors & Co).