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Tips and tricks after a bowel obstruction

Hi Ladies,

My incredible mum was diagnosed with with stage 3 HGSC last year. She has completed front line chemo and is currently talking a PARP. In the middle of november she had a bowel obstruction and was admitted to the hospital for 1 week. The bowel obstruction was fixed with medications. There was a potential that she is have a reoccurrence, but her oncologist wants to re evaluate at the end of January with a CT scan. 

For the last few weeks she has been experiencing cramps every afternoon, they go away if she takes Tylenol and rests. She is practising a low fibre diet but not as strictly as when she was discharged from the hospital. The nurses have told her to just stick to a low fibre diet and the pain should go away. 

She asked me to reach out to this amazing group to see if anyone had any tips and tricks after experiencing a bowel obstruction? Anything diet related? or taking a laxative regularly? or anything at all that would help her! She really wants to be able to get back to doing all the things she loves, any help would be appreciated! Thank you in advance <3


  • Hello @SM222 and welcome!   I will say that I am more adverse than not on this subject...unfortunately.  I experience these or ileus on a regular basis.  For me, I have to eat smaller portion sizes throughout the day and cannot eat too much at once or end up in trouble.  
    I take either Restorolax daily and/or mixed with a prescribed laxative called Lactulose which is like taking cough syrup (in its form).  Both do the same thing, they draw the water into the bowels via osmosis.  I find it is the gentlest on my bowels. I, personally, am unable to do the Senokot because if I am 'backed up' all it does is cause me more cramping and I can sometimes end up worse from it.  I am doing my best to do protein shakes that I make myself instead of taking Ensure but Ensure does work.  That is my own preference and budget that dictates that.  I have written a lot on this subject and you may find a lot more under 'partial bowel obstruction' or 'ileus' if you type it in the search bar.  It is a very difficult thing to live with and wears on oneself daily.  Sometimes I have no idea at all what sets it off.  I am fortunate to have a SRK kit at home which allows the nursing to come and administer intramuscular ports so that I can administer pain and nausea meds myself as directed by them until I can get past it.  A lot of soup and liquids and I always have applesauce and gingerale on hand.  Sometimes these occur due to the location of tumours and what they are doing to us on the inside.    I am finding it is taking me longer to bounce back from my episodes compared to last year. What would be a day down and then recovery is now a couple of days down and then recovery. I also go from having difficulty going to the bathroom to having to wear a depend at night or I would end up with a mess in the morning.  No explanation for it and I find it all quite embarassing but it is real and does happen. 
      Some say to watch nuts and seeds but even with IBS they are dispelling that myth these days.  I say low and slow to eating after having an episode and then journal daily what she has eaten.  It may help to discover something that is setting it off. For myself these days, it is the amount of food at one time and I now have to slow down and eat more often.  I hope that helps but feel free to reach out should you have any more questions, I would be more than happy to answer them. 
  • @SM222  As someone who has been dealing with constipation/diarrhea, I find even Restoralax can cause severe cramping and I avoid any of the stimulant laxatives for the same reason. I take a laxative that isn’t recommended by healthcare professionals any more because the research shows it has no effect. But it does for me and it’s still available over the counter. It’s docusate sodium and all it does is soften  the outside of the stool to help it dislodge and get expelled. Her doctor might raise an eyebrow but make sure you ask questions before you use it in case it causes problems for your mother’s particular condition. The other thing friends have mentioned is good old-fashioned stewed prunes. These I have to avoid because they’re full of potassium which my kidneys can’t excrete any more, but if her doctor gives the nod, go for it. Apparently they’re quite effective, they’re pleasant to eat for the most part (you don’t need a lot) and are a good way to prevent future problems. 
    I hope she finds something that works for her.
  • Great suggestions @HoldingOn.  Thank you for sharing what works for you!
  • Hi @Strongwoman and @HoldingOn thank you for these suggestions, I have shared them with my mum and she is going to try them. Seems like trial and error is necessary to see what works best for her. Thank you again for taking the time to respond, we are both very grateful. I will let you know if we have any additional questions! 
  • Okay ladies....I finally found a research article that explains (and now makes more sense to me) regarding bowel obstructions and why I find it so difficult to get the fluid intake up.  
    Basically, it slows down the bowel and bowel movement which creates an inflammatory response and inability to uptake fluids properly no matter how much one drinks amd round and round we go.  Here is the article for anyone who wants to read it:

    Hope this helps some one.
  • Hello All.  I do have some stuff to add here.  I had my worst bowel obstruction as of yet.  It hit Sunday night and I went directly to the hospital.  I did vomit on the way in which helped a bit. After doing a CT scan, it showed that it was obstructed at 2 ends.  This meant that I had to and I do mean had to, get a NG tube inserted. For those that have never had one, hope to everything you have that you don't have to experience it as it is very unpleasant.  I had it in a little over 5 hrs.  For those that don't know what it is, look it up.  If it had not resolved, I was possibly looking at a surgery with many risks involved.  Thank goodness it did resolve itself.  I am now on what is called a "LOW RESIDUE DIET".  This has 3 phases to it, fluid diet (when you are severe in symptoms), minimal fibre diet (in between stage) and low fibre diet (when you feel your best).  I am in the fluid one for a few more days and then will graduate over to the low fibre diet for a month.  If anyone wants a copy of this, kindly contact me and I will gladly send it to you via an attachment.  It is going against some of the things I enjoy and I know are good for me but if it wards these attacks off, well I am all for it.  I have had 4 since November.  I wish to have no more if I can help it all.  I am slowly get back to myself and energy and fatigue are still coming along.  Today I did my first outing and am fatigued.  I got home from hospital yesterday late morning before our Ontario storm really took hold.   NO more raw fruit or veg for me....I will miss them.   But on the up and up, I can still have chocolate and ice cream!  :)
    Hoping no one else has to ever have that tube inserted.  Let me know if I can help in any way. 
    Take care
  • Hi @Strongwoman I'm sorry to hear about your bowel obstruction and having to use an NG tube, it really does sound unpleasant. But glad to hear it did its job and that you are back home :smile: The diet sounds tough, are you able to have homemade fruit and veggie juices? We got my mum a juicer this year and she has been loving it, as she is able to still get some raw fruit and veggies in despite being on a low fibre diet! Also an update, we met with my mums oncologist today, and she thinks that she might having acid reflux and possibly early stages of an ulcer, so they have prescribed a medication for her to try for 2 weeks. Hopefully, it will help ease some pain for her!
  • Thank you @SM222 I am going to ask about juicing.  As I didn't even think of it as an option and completely went blank on it being one.  
      Sorry to hear of your Mom's acid reflux and ulcer, I have my fingers crossed that any medication they offer will provide a solution to the issues. 
    Take care and thank you for caregiving and being open to chat about how your Mom is doing.  <3