Got Time for Some Toilet Talk?
Posted: April 11, 2022
Here's the scoop on poop: we don't talk about it enough.
Unfortunately for cancer thrivers in treatment and recovery, bathroom breaks can be a real sh*tty situation. Taking a quick peek into the bowl before flushing can tell you so much about your health during and after treatment. (Learn more.)
Did you know that gastrointestinal (GI) issues are one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment?
Sometimes, we can’t decide if this stuff is more uncomfortable to experience or to talk about. Either way, as the most common of all chronic physical side effects of treatment, GI problems have the greatest impact on your daily activity!
We know it’s not ideal to discuss your bowel situation with your care team. Resolving any problems can improve your tolerance for treatment and/or overall quality of life, though. With that in mind, we feel it’s worth educating yourself on what to look for. Plus, failing to let your care team know when you see those early signs of trouble in the toilet can lead to more painful problems later! Ouch.
Some common signs / symptoms of an unhealthy GI tract:
Heartburn (chronic acid reflux)
Difficult or painful swallowing
Chronic nausea or vomiting
Chronic diarrhea or constipation
Black tarry stools or blood in stool
Changes in appetite
Abdominal distension / feeling bloated
Yellow eyes, yellow skin (jaundice)
We encourage you to consult your doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms. Those that come on quickly or are severe (such as sudden abdominal pain and vomiting) may indicate an urgent problem that requires immediate medical attention.
Before you pop open another tab and slip on over to WebMD, you should know: for cancer patients, GI symptoms may be caused by a number of reasons.
Why do cancer patients have constipation and other stomach struggles?
All of these factors can play a role:
Lack of activity
Some treatments, such as chemotherapy, may also wreak havoc on your digestive system. Although chemo is created to attack quickly growing cancer cells, it also targets other cells sometimes. Normal cells, like the ones that line your intestines, can get caught in the crossfire between chemo and cancer, causing belly pain and digestive disruptions.
Wondering what to do about your poo?
Your buds aren’t medical experts, but we've gotten some natural relief from surprisingly simple tricks. Feel free to try them yourself – with a green light from your care team, of course!
We know that dehydration, lack of fiber, and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to constipation. So… at the risk of sounding like your mom, we’d just like to say: eat more fruits and veggies and less sweets, drink more water, and try to get a little exercise today. Seems somewhat easy enough, right? On the opposite end of the spectrum, be wary that drinking too much alcohol can cause painful diarrhea. Woof.
Slow the Stress.
Cancer is stressful – there’s no way around that. While you can’t eliminate it all, you can do your best to manage the stress you feel in a healthy way. The buddhi library offers a wealth of information on alternative methods of pain and stress relief that could inadvertently ease what ails you.
Acupuncture and breathwork are some of our favorites. Art therapy, meditation, and nature walks are also effective, and might be more accessible depending on your budget and schedule.
Skip the stage fright.
We promise: your care team has heard it all before. You won’t gross them out and they’re here to help. Don’t hold back, even if it stinks to be so candid.
If you’re in treatment or starting it soon, ask your doctor: “Is my treatment likely to cause any GI issues? If so, what can I do to relieve them?” Go ahead and seek professional preventative advice as well, if possible.
“If you have a problem with your digestion, if you have something going on with your metabolism, maybe it's your liver, or, you know, things to do with your kidneys, your blood sugar. But realistically, all of those systems rely on one another. I think the big conductors in that whole symphony are your brain and your gut. And when they're not functioning right, then they're sending signals to every other place in the body and it's causing distress and inflammation.” – Dr. Tracie Hinton-Chavez of Deep Roots Natural Medicine
Take it a step further.
The gut is oftentimes referred to as the second brain, and lets you know when your systems are off. You may find it worth the effort to research Functional Medicine or Holistic Practitioners in your area to enlist the help of a professional bud.
Another great option to get you started? Tune into “On-Demand Event: Gut-Brain Connection + Functional Medicine” in our library to learn about the gut-brain connection and functional medicine with Deep Roots Natural Medicine. Dr. Tracie has supported buddhi – and members of our community – since our start, and is uniquely experienced in helping people heal from the inside out to live with more energy and clarity.
During this discussion, we asked her questions from buds in our community, and learned how functional medicine can play a role in your own healing journey – whether you have been through cancer treatment, or are just curious about functional medicine and digestive health!