Love Your Enemas

Warning: this post might get a bit graphic. You probably shouldn’t read it while eating. You might not want to read it at all! You know how old people can’t seem to have a conversation without over-sharing about their bodily functions? Yeah, that’s how this is going to go. Alternate titles for this post that I considered:

  • The Enema Within
  • Public Enema #1
  • Sworn Enemas
  • Enema at the Gates
  • Sleeping with the Enema
  • My Own Worst Enema
  • Enema Territory
  • Know Thy Enema
  • Enema Agent

Can you see where this is going? OK, you’ve been warned!


There were many titles that I could have used for this. If I were a smart travel blogger I probably would have entitled it something like “Five Medical Emergency Lessons I Learned in Costa Rica.” Instead, I’m going with a joke. I hope you appreciate the humor.

It all started out innocently enough. Bryn and I have generally been on a low-carb diet off and on for the last several years. We have removed most processed foods from regular consumption when possible. While we were in Mexico in 2012 we both lost weight, then promptly regained it when we revisited the states earlier this year. That should probably tell you something. After returning overseas to Nicaragua and Costa Rica we set out to re-lose our excess pounds and in the process we ran across a very interesting diet concept. The basic gist of it is that our bodies naturally guide our appetite based on traditional evolutionary patterns of ‘feast and famine.’ It’s only in the last 10-15,000 years or so that agriculture and animal husbandry smoothed out this process. In the last hundred years or so food has become global and seasons have almost been made obsolete. All foods, all the time, right on your local grocery store shelf.

And yet our bodies are still trying to operate based on a feast or famine scenario. To the part of the brain controlling this, it seems like a lifelong feast has set in, and it keeps the dial turned up to ‘more’ because surely that famine period will hit any day now. And yet it never does. So we eat too much, just a little every day. The diet in question attempts to turn the dial down by tricking the body. It attempts to game the system by sneaking calories in without any flavor so that the body doesn’t associate flavor with those calories. This somehow tricks your body and reduces your appetite. I’m not sure I understand all of the mechanisms involved, but it was enough encouragement for us to try it. Theoretically we could eat anything we wanted, but we still avoided highly-processed foods.

Now there are a few different ways to get calories into your body without strong flavors. The original method is to use sugar water, because for some reason the sweet taste doesn’t trigger higher appetite. But it’s a hassle, requires a lot of sugar, and Bryn is Type II diabetic on a small dose of Metformin. So sugar is out for her, and we like to do things together. The other option is to use extra light olive oil. In this case the calories all come from fat. After about a week we were both eating a lot less and losing weight. Unfortunately I missed a couple of warning signs and ended up in quite the predicament.

And this is where it gets a bit graphic. Again, you’ve been warned!

The warning signs that I missed were that my bowel movements became rather solid, more so than usual. On Wednesday morning I went ahead and took my normal four tablespoons of olive oil, but by the afternoon things came to a standstill. Lots of pressure, many attempts, no movement. I did a lot of googling for constipation solutions. In fact, I was well beyond constipation. I should have been googling ‘fecal impaction.’ Instead, we went to the pharmacy and got some laxative pills. I took one that evening. I didn’t sleep well, with a couple of additional attempts in the middle of the night. Thursday morning I took another pill and observed that I was also unable to urinate! I sent Bryn back to the pharmacy for suppositories. The first one lasted fifteen minutes, the second one stayed in place. Neither produced the desired results. I was approaching desperation! Bryn went on another errand and returned with small bottle and a dangerous looking nozzle attachment. It was an enema recommended by the pharmacist. It contained a small amount of sodium solution and 13.4 grams of Sorbitol.

Behold, the Enema

Yes, sorbitol, the sweetener in items all over the grocery store. It’s very prominent in low-carb products. I stopped eating anything containing sorbitol or any other sweetener ending in ‘itol’ years ago because they caused me quite the intestinal distress, as in diarrhea. But diarrhea sounded pretty good right about now. So I put a towel on the shower floor and proceeded. I’ll spare you at least some of the details, but things went generally well, especially for my first-ever self-administered enema. I intended to wait as close to fifteen minutes as I could before I had to rush to the toilet. I really did not want to have to do a second enema, and I also didn’t want to go to the clinic or hospital.

I lasted almost five, and somewhere between the laxative pills, the suppositories and the enema it was just enough.

In the end (ha!) it was fairly painful, but at least things were moving. It took about thirty minutes before I became confident that I was out of the danger zone and would not, in fact, die. And then I peed for the first time in a long time and that was also quite a relief! I was exhausted but way more excited about basic bodily functions than normal. I still am.

So, what are the lessons? There ought to be several things learned here, it seems, but I’m not sure what they all are yet. Here are my thoughts so far.

First, I’m pretty sure that my body can not tolerate as much fat as it used to. I had my gallbladder removed almost a decade ago, and the bile that it produces is very important for the digestion of fat. It’s even possible that my massive gallstones were originally caused by a ‘slow liver’ which means that too much fat in my diet will cause all manner of digestion problems and irritation. Evidently this includes impaction.

Second, if I ever get into this predicament again, I might be stupid. But just in case, if I do, I’m just going straight for the enema.

Beyond that, I’m not sure. I’m just glad to be alive, and I’m glad to be free of pain and pressure. I’m also a bit gun-shy on making drastic changes to my diet.

So that was my week. How was yours?



Retired I.T. nerd - expat in Mexico