Beth’s story – Slow Transit Constipation

Beth has a stoma due to slow transit constipation. There are three main mechanisms that may cause constipation. Slow transit constipation is where the muscles lining the gut wall do not work properly, resulting in sluggish movement of contents through the bowel down to the rectum.

Tell us a little bit about you

“I’m Beth, I’m 28 years old and I work at a Children’s Hospice. Very soon, I’ll be going back to University to become a Nurse Associate. Aside from work, I love travelling and going to festivals. There’s nothing better than being covered in glitter! 

When did your symptoms begin, and when were you diagnosed? 

I had constipation from around 10 years old, which was easily resolved by mild laxatives and remained this way throughout most of school. 

The constipation became much worse when I was 18 years old, 10 years ago. At this point, I was diagnosed with slow transit constipation. The transit study showed very slow and very little movement through my bowels. Even when my poo did move, it was often becoming stuck lower down my bowels. 

Now, the constipation was severe and debilitating. I would be bloated, with a rock-solid stomach. I’d experience nausea, vomiting, painful cramping and bleeding. The longest I went without emptying my bowel was five weeks, despite constantly taking prescribed laxatives. As a result, I developed horrible haemorrhoids too. 

Looking back, I often forget how bad it truly was. But I do believe talking about my experiences to help others, and myself, is so important. 

Which treatments did you try? 

I was referred to various hospitals during this 10-year period. I tried bio-feedback multiple times (a mind-body technique helping you control your body’s functions), but it never worked. I was referred for a nerve-stimulation treatment too, but was told this wouldn’t be effective for me. All the while, I’d be trialling different laxatives to see if any would work more effectively for me. I also had an at-home irrigation system. 

In June 2022, I became very unwell quite quickly. I was so constipated that I started retaining my urine for too long, which caused a kidney infection. This was when everything seemed to stop working. I was constantly calling my hospital, desperate for help and I was put on a soft diet, which didn’t change anything. I was helpless and was living in agony, drowning in laxatives. 

When did you get further help? 

A year and a half later, I finally saw my NHS consultant. He was horrified. “Why have they left you like this?”, he said. He sternly explained, “you need an ileostomy, or you could die. Your kidneys are failing”. I was absolutely terrified. He said I’d go for surgery as soon as possible. 

When did you have your surgery? 

It was four months before I went in for surgery, which was a difficult time. But I was so relieved somebody had listened to me. 

As soon as I awoke from surgery, I asked “where is it?” I was worried that they’d get in there and not be able to do it! Looking down and seeing my ileostomy a huge relief, even if I was still weak from surgery. 

Unfortunately, I developed a complication of abdominal surgery called paralytic ileus. This is where the movement of the bowel is affected, and ultimately, I ended up vomiting faecal matter for three days. It was pure hell and I had to have a nasogastric tube to decompress my abdomen. 

As difficult as this experience was, I would still go through it again because of just how much my life changed for the better after surgery.

When did you start to see improvements? 

Despite the complications I experienced after surgery, my stoma bag changed my life and I am grateful. Four weeks after such a horrific experience, I was dancing my socks off at Mamma Mia at a music arena. Soon after, I returned to work. 

My ileostomy has changed my life. It’s amazing. Even on the days I have leaks or troubles, which isn’t often, I can cope. It’s still better than the life I had before. 

Why are you sharing your story today? 

There were points in my journey where I was so scared and there was nothing out there for me and no one to turn to. I want other people to have a real story to read with a real face. It’s what I needed back then. Another reason is my nurse telling me, “If I don’t see your face somewhere raising awareness of this condition, I will be really cross with you”. This was when I started sharing my experiences on social media, and met others like me. People will say, “I thought I was the only one until I found you”. 

Guts UK is so inclusive of all digestive conditions. Other than Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, there are so few charities out there for other gastro conditions! There is so much that can go wrong with your complex digestive system. Knowing that Guts UK is somewhere to turn for knowledge and reassurance means everything.”

Guts UK is the only UK charity funding research into the digestive system from top to tail; the gut, liver and pancreas.

People are suffering. People are dying. All because of a lack of knowledge about our guts. Guts UK exists to change that. 

With new knowledge, we will end the pain and suffering for the millions affected by digestive diseases. Please consider donating today. Your donation will help fund research leading to earlier diagnoses, kinder treatments and ultimately, a cure.