Gina’s Struggle with Constipation

For as long as Gina could remember, she had been dealing with constipation. As a child, Gina’s mother gave her enemas to help maintain regularity. In her teens, a doctor recommended laxatives, and Gina found relief. For the next 20 years, she continued taking laxatives on and off. In her job as a flight attendant, though, she was often forced to hold off on using the bathroom, something that did not help Gina’s battle with constipation one bit.

Her prolonged habit of not using the bathroom when she needed to, plus long-term laxative use, eventually made Gina’s condition worse. By the time I saw her, Gina was doubling the recommended laxative dosage to achieve results. “But that’s giving me terrible cramps,” she confided. “Some days I can barely stand up straight, they hurt so badly. There must be a better way to handle this.”

I was happy to tell Gina there definitely was a better way. Chronic use of laxatives can actually make the body dependent on them. What Gina needed was to stop taking laxatives and make a drastic change in her diet of airline food. Since her flight schedule did not allow time for personalized meal preparation, I suggested Gina try psyllium fiber supplements to make up for the lack of fiber in her diet. In addition, I asked her to increase her water intake by 50 percent. Air travel is dehydrating, and the additional fiber requires extra water to work properly.

When Gina returned to my office a few months later, she reported a dramatic improvement in her condition. “All the bloating and gas and cramping are gone!” she said, obviously delighted. “I just feel so much better now. Things were really bad, so bad I was afraid I was going to have to quit my job. But not anymore. It’s great to have all systems in working order.”


Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: September 27, 2012