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



Ostomy Odor Control – Three Solutions that work for me

Shit stinks. That’s a fact. And the fact I have an ileosotmy makes me even more aware of this non-negotiable truth of life. But I do believe that ever problem in the world has a solution. I’ve found three solutions for controlling and even eliminating my ostomy odor > I use a three prong strategy of eating certain foods and avoiding others, and having with me at all times, a biological odor eliminator spray and biological eliminator drops.

1. Parsley, green leafy veggies, sweet potatoes, and Tea 

Food has become almost an obsession in my life. Food is truly an amazing tool for health and for specifically for odor control. Parsley is my number one food for controlling odor. I’ve even sat in a Publix parking lot (before I started boycotting them) stuffing my face full of parsley because I was meeting a woman for dinner. That day at work my output was atrocious and I didn’t have my drops with me.  My diet was basically Chickfila and Zaxbys back then so its not surprising  I was having issues. I had to drive an hour through Atlanta traffic to meet her and by the time we sat down to eat the parsley was already doing its job. After I had a full bag the odor was completely neutral. Now if you do try this I must warn you that it took me a good ten minutes to get all the small parsley bits out from in between my teeth.

Now my diet is much better. I follow mostly the Primal diet and have become a Primal Health Coach this year. By avoiding sugar, wheat, vegetable oils,  and fried foods I have less issues with output odor. I do still have issues on certain days and by eating green leafy veggies, sweet potatoes and herbs, especially parsley, I’m able to control it to a large degree. I have also had a great deal of success incorporating different teas into my diet as well. Green Tea, Yerba Mate, and especially Roobios all have a positive impact on the odor level as well. Food is a powerful tool that is my first line of defense against offensive odors. I do avoid fish the day before and the day of being out of the house and around other people. Fish oil capsules are another thing I avoid. Instead I’ve had a lot better luck with Krill oil. With them I have almost no fishy output odor and have all the omega 3 benefits.

This is the Roobios tea I really like. It also settles the stomach when I’m nauseated.

2.  Biologic Sprays

I rarely leave the home without a small 10,20 or 30 ml spray bottle full of biologic odor eliminator. Even if I use a public restroom I normally spray before I empty my pouch. I think that is the right thing to do. I’ve tried many different brands and right now I’m using April Fresh Biological Odor Eliminator. It works great. In the past I’ve used Medi-Aire products and Hollister M9 and was happy with both of them. The problem with these products is that the smallest bottles they come in is 1 ounce. For me thats way to big to fit into my pocket. That is why I use 10/20/30 ml small spray bottles from Amazon. I usually fill up the 20ml or the 10ml with odor eliminator and put it in my pocket. No one even knows I have it. They have been a lifesaver.  It is a powerful feeling knowing I can use the restroom somewhere and not be embarrassed. The smallest bottle is 10ml and it holds enough biological odor eliminator to cover me for a few days. If you do try different biological eliminators test them at home first. I’ve found some that have left a sticky residue on the bathroom floor after spraying.

These are the small spray bottle I use everyday.

3. Drops

This is an option I don’t use a whole lot  any more but I do carry a small 20 or 10ml spray bottle in my pocket which is filled with the drops. It’s nice to have them as a backup. I don’t think they have ever worked 100% for me. Even when I used five to ten times the recommended amount there was still an lingering presence that I couldn’t get rid of. I’ve used Holister M9 drops and found them as good as any others. If my skin is particularly bad around my stoma I do avoid the drops because if they make contact with the excoriated skin it can burn. Still they are great to have if I’m out and about and due to dinner my output odor changes in a big way. Sometimes the odor is so bad it can leak through the plastic of the bag. This is when the drops especially come in handy.

I’ve almost conquered my fear of ostomy odor. It still plagues my mind and I’m always super sensitive to any slight change of the surrounding smells. I’m always monitoring to see if I’m the cause of a bad smell. I think I’ll always have that anxiety. But through a few lifestyle changes and a couple spray bottles filled with chemicals, I’m able to go to another person’s house and not be overwhelmed by the fear that their guest bathroom is beside the kitchen. Living with an ostomy is fraught with fear. Any time I can eliminate one of these fears my life expands in a positive direction.

If you have any tips on eliminating ostomy odor please leave a comment.

Wishing you an expanding life,

Brad Miller