I can definitely relate to your friends’ plight with multiple small bowel obstructions post abdominal surgery.
In my case, as may be true for your friend, my history with repeated obstructions was due to scar tissue/adhesions that would tether and restrict a segment of intestine. I have had several hospitalizations with NG tube decompression and three surgeries for lysis of adhesions. However, be aware that each surgery to snip adhesions to clear an obstruction can also serve as a physical trauma and stimulus for the body to react by forming additional scar tissue and adhesions - an ongoing cycle of misery.
My surgeon did share that the highest likelihood of post operative adhesion-based obstructions is within the first 12–
16 months post surgery. He indicated that that nature of scar tissue morphs and changes and is less likely to cause acute attacks at the 12-16 month mark.
Here is what has worked for me in lessening my incidence of small bowel obstructions:
1. Adopt a regular, daily program of yoga stretches. This has been the most beneficial of approaches for me. The gentle stretches and connective tissue mobilization that yoga provides serves to keep scar tissue subtle and mobile. Yoga serves like internal massage to keep adhesions from becoming fixed and tacky. Yoga also acts to keep the digestive system moving along, similar to kneeding a tube of toothpaste. You need not be a human pretzel with hyper flexibility to reap the benefits of yoga. Gentle, basic yoga postures and movements serve as a powerful basis for health and well-being.
2. Take Mira-Lax or Magnesium Citrate or other osmotic digestive agent daily.
The key is to keep the fecal/stool output toward a more fluid consistency to ease transit through possibly tight intestinal passageways. Your friend has a colostomy so should be tolerant of taking Mira-Lax or Milk of Magnesia or Magnesium supplement without risk of undue dehydration (individuals with an ileostomy should NOT take an osmotic laxative without physician guidance). Your friend can titrate a daily dose that works for him - the goal is to direct more fluid into the large intestine to make the fecal consistency easier to pass. A stool consistency of “mushy oatmeal” would be beneficial to easing of fecal backup that ours in the presence of adhesions/scar tissue.
3. Find a physical therapist or massage therapist for abdominal massage.
Hands-on massage and tissue mobilization as well as body stretches (rotation of the torso; elongation of the torso) can do wonders to minimize the static effects of dense/thick scar tissue.
4. Exercise and keep the body moving
Move, move, stretch and move. Scar tissue that is mobilized is less likely to become problematic. Walking. Swimming. Shooting a few basketball hoops. Golf. Almost any physical sport or activity will have beneficial effects. Of course, use common sense in knowing your own body, medical history, and personal tolerance for activity. It need not be strenuous exercise to be beneficial. In fact, gentle movement and slow/sustained stretches are much preferred to dynamic/quick stretch movements that can cause inflammation and additional adhesion formation.
5. Turmeric as a supplement
Turmeric is available as a supplement and has powerful
anti-inflammatory properties. Have your friend consult with his with MD as to any contra-indications. Turmeric is in the same family as cumerin, an India-based spice, that is used in many dishes/recipes.
6. Avoid foods that are high in insoluble fiber
Avoid skins of apples. Avoid the internal membranes of oranges or grapefruits. Avoid or limit stingy, fibrous foods such as asparagus spears, celery, mushrooms, coconut. Be cautious of beans and lentils. Foods that can form a large bolus in the digestive tract can be difficult to move through and out. If your kitchen disposal would have a difficult time grinding through something, take pause before eating for yourself.
There are positive steps that your friend can take to lower his risk of adhesion-based small bowel obstructions. See what in the list above might appeal to him and integrate a few of the ideas into his daily routine. I have found benefit in each of the above, to one degree or another.
Dear friend to Bella Piazza, former Colon Club member (NWGirl).
I have a permanent ileostomy and offer advice on living with an ostomy - in loving remembrance of Bella
I am on Palliative Care for broad endocrine failure + Addison's disease + osteonecrosis of both hips/jaw + immunosuppression. I live a simple life due to frail health.