Adhesions, Exercise and Bowel Obstructions

I’ve been hospitalized many times due to small bowel obstructions caused by the combination of adhesions and exercise. The paradox I find myself in is that when I attempt to get stronger I can actually end up becoming a lot weaker. I’ve had a bunch of abdominal surgeries that have left me with a ton of adhesions, three severe narrowings in my small intestine and an ileostomy. Whenever I begin to feel better I have to be extremely careful how much I exercise or else I can end up balled up on the floor in excruciating pain.

I’m not a doctor and this protocol has been helpful for me. If you think you are having a blockage (painful cramping, nausea, vomiting and no or limited output) call your doctor or go to the emergency room. I’ve had almost 30 years of experience with bowel obstructions caused by adhesions and I know when to go to the emergency room. Once I reach that point of the panicking pain I do go to the emergency room. But this protocol I’ve come up with has helped me to avoid reaching that point and kept me from having my guts completely shut down on many occasions.

Adhesions are the number one cause of small bowel obstructions. And for me any exercise that uses the abdominal muscles causes my adhesions to pull and cause extreme pain and inflammation. This inflammation can then cause further problems with the narrowings and that’s when the blockage can occur. There are no good solutions for adhesions. I’ve been advised by my surgeon that he could go in and fix the narrowings and clear out the adhesions but it only had a 50/50 chance of improving anything. And every time they go in more adhesions are actually created. I’ve held off having another surgery because I’ve learned how to manage the adhesions I already have.

I have found a few things that have helped me to manage my adhesions while still striving to get stronger. I am in the process of getting over a bowel obstruction that occurred in May along with a severe case of pancreatitis.  Now I feel well enough to start exercising. I’ve been doing pull ups lately. And I’ve had two instances in the last two weeks that could have led to complete bowel obstructions but I was able to get output flowing without going to the hospital. Through breathing techniques, epsom salt hot baths, abdominal massage, and cannabis oil I’ve been able to stay out of the hospital these last few times while still being able to get stronger.

The breathing techniques I’ve found most helpful are pulled from The Wim Hof method and from a Ted Talk by Alan Watkins. Wim Hof has a whole program of breathing and cold exposure exercises that help with resetting the mind body connection and increasing one’s capacity to control the autonomic functions of the body. I’ve used the Wim Hof method which consists of breathing in deeply and exhaling only a little, then repeating this for up to thirty breathes many times in dealing with pain and also with improving bowel motility. At the end of the thirty breathes you take a big deep breathe in and exhale completely twice then hold your breathe with empty lungs for as long as you can. I’ve found this technique to be very helpful in getting my bowels moving again, relieving soreness from inflammation and reducing felt pain.

The other method of breathing taken from Alan Watkins is one I do all the time. It’s a simple exercise that you can do anywhere. I use it to create a calm and peaceful mental state as well as help get my bowels moving and lessening pain. It is simply breathing in for 3 or 4 seconds then breathing out for 6-7 seconds. The amount of time of the inhale and exhale is your choice but it must be consistent. And the force of breathe should be consistent as well. Do this for at least three cycles and focus on your heart while your breathing. It usually takes me two sets of three to get some noticeable relief. By the fifth cycle my mind is clearer and my body more relaxed. By the sixth breath I am feeling better. I do this exercise when I get up in the morning, while I’m driving, as well as when I’m in a lot of pain.

These two breathing techniques have been an amazing tool that I’ve used to help keep me out of the hospital and to greatly improve my experience of living. These techniques help to reduce inflammation in my body and in my brain. The heart sends signals to the brain all the time. By breathing deliberately in these ways we calm the heart and this in turn calms the mind.  I read today that “Meditation will be the next health revolution” and at the heart of meditation is breathing. When I use these techniques it calms the brain and the body and helps to get my system working again.

Along with the breathing I also have found epsom salt hot baths to be extremely effective when I am hurting or on the verge of a small bowel obstruction. I’m always low on Magnesium and this mineral is critical for people who have ilesotomies because low levels can create problems with intestinal motility.  When I’m in the hospital due to a small bowel obstruction I always get tons of magnesium through my I.V. The large amount of magnesium in epsom salt also helps to relieve muscle soreness.  When my abdomen is inflamed from exercise it creates stress throughout my body. I am unable to relax even when I’m laying on the couch or in bed. But after an hour soak in hot water filled with epsom salts I feel better. When the abdominal cramping gets really bad with a bowel obstruction that’s brewing I take off my bag and just sit in the hot bath with toilet paper over the stoma and I breath. I also change positions in the tub regularly, lift my legs up, pull my knees to my chest, and massage my abdomen that correspond to where the narrow areas are that help to get things moving. This has helped me on more than one occasion to get my guts working again (I’ve not tried these yet but I’m starting them tonight)

The extremely hot water also helps to shock my nervous system. Even when I’m in a lot of pain the almost too hot to stand water, is somewhat painful and creates a tingling sensation that shoots through my entire nervous system. This is momentary but does help to give a modicum of relief and if you’ve had a bowel obstruction or suffered from abdominal adhesion pain you know that is a welcome feeling. With the nervous system occupied with the overwhelming sensation of heat it distracts my mind from the abdominal pain. I’ve found this also helpful when dealing with withdrawals from pain pills and dealing with pain from pancreatitis.

The breathing and the bath have helped me tremendously. And recently I’ve added another tool in helping me to avoid hospitalization and that’s cannabis oil. I take up to four infused Cannabis Coconut oil Capsules per day depending on my pain and inflammation level. It has become a regular part of my pain management strategy and it has been a life changer. Cannabis is a powerful anti-inflammatory. For instance last night I had horrible pain due to a previous exercise session as well as a very slow exit time for my ileostomy due to the inflammation from adhesions being pulled on. After doing my routine of breathing and taking a hot bath with epsom salt I took four of the cannabis capsules. After a couple of hours the pain was improved and I was able to get some sleep. I woke up feeling great this morning. The soreness and pain are almost gone. In the past if I had a partial bowel obstruction or exercise induced adhesion pain I would be sore for at least a week. But after taking the cannabis capsules the inflammation is nearly gone today. Cannabis is an amazing plant. It is a medicine that helps me sleep, helps relieve pain, helps relieve inflammation, helps me to relax,  helps me with anxiety and helps me to live a fuller life.

There are almost no treatments out there for adhesions and small bowel obstructions from the medical field besides bed rest, pain management and surgery . But I’ve created my own treatment protocol that has helped tremendously. I no longer fear working out as I did before. I no longer feel powerless when the pain and inflammation comes due to my adhesions or when my output begins to slow. By simply breathing in a different way, taking a hot bath with epsom salt along with self-massage of my abdomen, and taking cannabis capsules I have found a powerful anti-inflammatory protocol that has helped me weather many potentially devastating bowel obstructions and sleepless nights. This has saved me not only thousands of dollars in medical bills but also hours of mental and physical suffering and has saved my family from having their lives disrupted as well. It also empowers me to know that I have powerful tools that can help me to feel better and live a better life. These techniques aren’t 100% effective and I know that I’ll be back in the hospital one day due to a bowel obstruction. But hopefully by using these tools it will be a long time in the future and I’ll have done a lot of living before it happens again.

This routine I use to help get over severe abdominal soreness due to adhesions, avoiding  bowel obstruction, or to help sooth a pancreatitis attack also works wonders for everyday life. I have inherently a ton of inflammation due to adhesions and scaring as well as the state of my small intestine and autoimmune conditions. I’ve begun taking a hot epsom bath soak almost every night even when output is normal as well as one or two cannabis capsules. I also do my breathing exercises throughout the day  for mental calmness and peace of mind and physical relief. These are tools and practices I will do for the rest of my life. I’ve had over 50 bowel obstructions , some requiring hospital stays and some requiring surgery. I wonder how many of those bowel obstructions and surgeries I could have avoided if I discovered this protocol thirty years ago.

Brad Miller

My health is my responsibility



7 thoughts on “Adhesions, Exercise and Bowel Obstructions

  1. Thank you!

    I found this article when I was desperately searching the internet for information on small bowel obstruction. I’ve had many stomach surgeries and suffer quite frequently from these. When I get that first sign I get very frustrated because I know I’m in for a long bout of it. Like you, my gastroenterologist advises that the operation would potentially cause more harm than good. Thank you so much for these breathing techniques I am trialling them now and already feel some relief.


    1. I’m glad you are getting some relief. I did go ahead and have the big surgery I was putting off last August. It was horrible and I was in the hospital for 31 days. But after six months I’m seeing an improvement in pain and in frequency of small bowel obstructions. I’ve also gone totally off of prescription pain meds with the help of Kratom. It’s a natural supplement that helps eliminate pain and fatigue. It has been a real life changer for me. I just posted this morning about my experience with it. I forgot to add that I have to drink a ton of water when I take it due because it can cause some dehydration. Hope this info is helpful. My advice is don’t give up. I never thought I could feel as I do now or be off of pain killers.


  2. I’m deeply impressed and grateful. Although I have had 20 years experience with specialists in medical centers from Stanford and in Los Angeles to little Mayo, over 200 specialists and 21 surgeries, no one has ever addressed the cycle of trying to work out to gain strength and ending up in a horrible flare with unbearable pain shooting everywhere. My youngest son has been suggesting Wim Hof breathing techniques for a while. I’m going to follow your protocol and include what you write and your contact info in my book Undiagnosed, about my medical journey. I really appreciate you and will be sharing with 4 GIs at Ochsner in New Orleans and spine pain management as movement in hips exacerbates pain but can yield results of releasing adhered colon. Conversely, finding relief in lessening inflammation in colon addresses lower back pain (and sometimes even thoracic.) Thank you and Blessings Be~


    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you never stop searching for better ways to defend yourself from pain and suffering.It’s unfortunate how our current system is constructed so that those Principally Concerned (those who are suffering) are never in the room when decisions are being made that directly impacts our existence. This is why I am an advocate of Medical Freedom so each of us is free to defend their mind and body as they see fit with what they believe will be helpful, from those external and internal forces of pain and degredation. I hope to hear from you soon. Brad


  3. Its a bliss to actually find an article to which i can relate to at many levels. I thought I was amongst the very few who are suffering these issues and it felt kinda impossible to find someone to guide me. I myself have malrotation which makes my small bowel to narrow and block movement of food. Doctors suggest surgery while stating the fact that it has its own complications in the long run. But now I feel I have found a better solution to my problem and would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I just have a question that do you follow some specific diet as well because I am following a very restricted diet which sometimes makes me wonder if I’ll be restricted to my whole life. As whenever i try different kinds of foods, especially the ones with high fibre, I feel symptoms of rushing to the hospital .
    Hoping to get a reply from you soon


    1. Thanks for reading, commenting and thanks for your kind words.I hope that you find some reilef from you’re suffering. I am not a doctor and anything I write is based on my experiences and opinions and are not meant to be construed as medical advice. My opinions can, have and will change over time. My diet has changed over time and I am constantly adapting what I eat, how I move, and when I eat in order to help improve how I feel. The focus of my current diet is built around meat and I eat almost no fibre except what little exists in white baked potatoes. I try to eat at least 2/3 to a pound of meat per day with a focus on beef and chicken. Along with meat I also eat a baked potato with almost every meal with butter (not the skin), and an english muffin with butter and sometimes strawberry jam. I also enjoy the occssional serving of fruit in between meals. I can tolerate some fruits but only in small amounts and normally without the skin or seeds. Occassionally if I feel that my gut inflammation is at an acceptable level I will eat pickles but only if I chew them up very well and I never eat a lot at any time. I avoid all raw veggies, I don’t eat apples or bananas and I have to be very careful with cherries (due to their skins) and I love blue berries but again I have to eat them in moderation due to their skin. I stay away from all fast food and I cook nearly every night. I avoid all soda (coke, pepsi etc.) because they tend to run right through my system and I try to avoid consuming a lot of sugar as a matter of habit. I do indulge in Little Debbie snack cakes or chocolate of some kind a few times a week. The older I get the more I avoid indutrial processed seed oils (sunflower, corn, soy, peanut) and eat more butter, bacon fat, olive oil and animal fat. If I know I am going to go over to someone else’s house to eat I always eat before I go so that I’m not tempted to eat that which I know I shouldnt. One safe bet for me when I do eat at someone’s house is to stick with bread and butter or just the meat from the main dish that they are serving. I’ve gotten comfortable with sitting at the dinner table with others and eating little or not eating at all. I really like potato chips but Ive slowed down eating those and Ive replaced them in my diet mostly with baked potatoes. I have found that I have to make sure that the baked potatoes I enjoy are cooked very well and either I have to mash up the potato very well before eating it or chew up each bite really well; because I have had cooked potatoes give me trouble in the past – never a blockage but theh have caused pain and slow down. I pretty much avoid french fries and onion rings even though I really like eating them but they don’t like
      me. In the last five years I’ve completely given up eating pasta. For me it acts like glue in my GI tract and I was nearly hosptialized once because of it. I’ve also been eating a lot of beef roasts lately and drinking the broth, which I believe is very nourishing for my gut. I do eat pizza, tacos a few times a month and if I avoid eating a lot of veg on them I ususlly tolerate those foods pretty well. I do avoid mushroosm because Ive had issues with them before, I avoid popcorn, raw veg, all fruit skins, potato skins, most hard fruits (apples, pears, plums) , raisins, most dried fruits, nuts, and no salads. Over time you’ll find what works best for you. Those who’ve never experienced a blockage have no idea about the excruciating pain that they cause. It is a truly uniquely horrible pain that I wouldnt wish for anyone to suffer. I always carry a water bottle with me, filled with ice and tea. I drink a combination of green tea, black tea and chammomile tea throughout the day. I find it helpful if I know that I’ll be away from home for a while and I like to carry fruit snacks, hard candy, crackers, or chips to make sure that I have something that will help keep my GI tract active without stopping me up or causing too much output. I have in the past had trouble with gummy or fruit chew snacks but now not so much lately. Ive also found drinking pickle juice is helpful when I get my electorlytes out of whack. Lately Ive been only eating between 2pm and 10pm. This permits my guts to rest during the day and I don’t have to worry about output while I’m at work. The mixture of teas that I drink helps to keep my guts just active enough where they dont start to cramp up but not too active so that I have tons of liquid output. I hope this helps. Please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing. Figuring out what to eat in order to lessen or avoid pain is a lifelong process with no easy answers, but it’s worth the effort if it helps avoid the horrible pain of bowel obstructions. Good luck and God Bless. I hope to hear from you soon. If you have any questions let me know. P.S. I follow KneesOverToesGuy who advovates walking backwards and other types of unique stretches which I’ve been doing a lot lately. I walk one to five miles per day as well. I also follow Dr. Mercola and also Dr. Rhonda Patrick who have lot’s of information I’ve found interesting. – Brad


  4. Thank you for your reply, I just had a surgery a month ago so its now that I’ve started to eat again. Although i am not able to eat more than 1-2 meals a day and even with this i feel bloated and tightness in the stomach at the end of the day. I then consider for a liquid only diet the next day until i feel better. However this pattern has made me reduce a lot of weight. I am not able to complete my daily intake of protein and calories and being a 23 year old I feel like i have no energy and feeling of lethargic all the time.
    I talked to my doctor about this and he suggested another surgery to remove my adhesions but with 50/50 chances of betterment (as you mentioned). I am pretty much eating and avoiding foods the same way as you however I am not able to find a solution for bloating and weight gain


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s