Slow transit constipation (STC) is a neuromuscular problem where the muscles of the large intestines have delayed movement. It’s also associated with a ‘sluggish bowel’.
A bit of a background with my diagnosis… It had been a couple of years since I had my visit to the doctors explaining that I was constipated. But back then, I felt like my body became accustomed to feeling the way it did and it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
That was until a while later when my body just wasn’t right. No lifestyle change or dietary improvements were helping. I’m an active and healthy person, I eat my oily fish once-twice a week, drink plenty of water throughout the day etc. However, I was lucky if I could go to the toilet (to empty my bowel) for at least two weeks at a time. And even then, I’m talking small hard pieces, not a proper poo! No matter how much bloat was building up, a very tiny amount of coming out of me.
There’s more to the side effects of slow transit constipation than people think
Not only that but I could no longer eat, I was being sick in the morning and throughout the day when I attempted to eat. It caused me to feel anxious whenever I could manage a small amount of food because it would either harden my stomach or come back up.
Feeling dizzy was a regular occurrence, probably because I had zero energy levels. I felt sad all the time and didn’t want to see friends. It’s awful to admit that I punched my stomach a few times because it was so swollen. I hated how I looked in clothes – one big ball of bloat.
It’s got to the point where I had an awful amount of fear and embarrassment about eventually needing the toilet. To this day, I still get the urge to go and can’t miss the opportunity but still have pain. My left abdomen suffers the most. But more recently, I’ve started to feel a sharp pain my right side too.
What’s worse is the frequent urge to need a wee but not always being able to go. The pressure from my bowel is the cause of this.
Being diagnosed with slow transit constipation
After feeling my left abdomen, the consultant said he could feel an unusual sized hard lump. He gathered this was due to a build up of impaction. Afterwards I had an internal examination, which resulted to the decision of booking in for a colonic transit study.
In the meantime I had a trip to A&E. I had to leave work because I was experiencing an excruciating pain in my left abdomen and I was throwing up. The same abnormalities were picked up but there was nothing they could do other than prescribe more laxatives. Eventually I was booked in for the colonic transit study after waiting 6 weeks for a letter or phone call. But that’s another story.
During the study, you take a capsule which has lots of tiny radiopaque markers inside. On day 5 you go back into the hospital to have an x-ray. This reveals where all of the little markers inside have reached. To their surprise but not mine, I had more than 20 markers left inside, some of which hadn’t even reached my small bowel and there was also some faecal residue in my colon.
The consultant said, “Yes, it confirms you have slow transit constipation.” And when I asked how I move forward with this, he said try more laxatives or there’s a tablet you can take which he suggested my GP to prescribe me.
Guess what happened next? I was passed back to my GP which he for one, couldn’t understand how it had ‘been dealt with’ and why my follow-up appointment was so rushed. I took a course of the medication and it didn’t work. This was after I tried Laxido, Lactulose, Senna, Movicol, Dulcolax etc. so you can imagine how frustrating it was.
As advised from the consultant, there’s no way to cure slow transit constipation. But it was interesting to hear that it’s a symptom rather than a condition on its own. Whenever I look up slow transit constipation, I see a lot of web pages referring to the STC in children more than adults.
It’s quite annoying because my body always seems to be, let’s say, a bit odd. For example, my diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure) at the age of 23. I often wonder if the constipation, high blood pressure, migraines and sensitivity to coldness causing blue/grey hands are all linked together in some kind of way – perhaps thyroid related? However, blood test usually reveal ‘borderline’ or ‘normal’ results.
The slow transit constipation doesn’t go away but I’ve just got to learn different ways of coping. I try to eat less portions but still make sure I’m having enough food and fluids intake. Mostly, chia seeds and prunes help me to digest food. My stomach can go from flat to a huge ball and it’s very uncomfortable. Just the other day, my boyfriend asked me when did I last go to the toilet. Other than a night out where one drop of Malibu had me running to the nearest toilet, I honestly can’t remember.
There are still occasions where I cry because of the pain. Digesting food is the most important thing for me. Without it I’m weak and let’s face it, a little grumpy too. We all need food!
If you suffer from slow transit constipation share your experiences below.