I keep running into trouble even though I’m in a wheelchair

A columnist searches for the cause of his constant diarrhea

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by John Connor |

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Ah yes, I’m starting this week’s column with a headline that’s a conundrum (that is, if the ol’ editor lets me keep it).

That’s because I’m starting with a slang word. I’ve checked, and it seems that the main slang word for diarrhea both in the U.K. (where I live) and the States is the “runs.”

When I was in a rehab clinic in February, I had the dreaded runs for three solid (sorry) weeks. It drove me to such an extreme that I completely stopped eating for days at a time — which at least offered some relief for my incredibly sore bot-bot.

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But this sent the staff into a tizzy. They kept turning up in my room with meals to entice me. As I’m severely overweight and was becoming more so every day with their enforced regimen of three meals a day, I could take it.

It also wasn’t difficult when on a vegetarian diet. The food was both monotonous and occasionally beyond inedible.

A close-up photo of a wildly unappealing dish of food at a rehab clinic that's part of the U.K.'s National Health Service. The food literally looks like mush and has a spoon in it.

Is it a bird, a plane, or something the dog wouldn’t even drag in? (Photo by John Connor)

Although I’ve been a vegan for several years, it’s impossible to remain so within our National Health Service, unless you only eat microwaved “baked” potatoes and the British canned version of baked beans for every main meal. I know this because I actually once managed to do so for three weeks straight. Never again.

A new doctor took over my care at the rehab center in Leatherhead, in central Surrey. This is a little town surrounded by fields some 9 miles from my home at the southern tip of Greater London. So it’s in the country as far as us townies are concerned.

Anyway, the doctor advised me to stop taking antidiarrheal medication because she thought the issue was undoubtably caused by a virus. She got me down pat by adding, “Something tells me you’re going to do what you want anyway.” It transpired that it was “better out than in,” as “in” would only be delaying the problem.

Grrr, she had me. I immediately stopped taking Imodium, and the continuous jets that came out of me left me red raw. I had my own afterburners!

Toward the end of my stay, loads of us actually did catch a communal virus. I felt terrible, and my multiple sclerosis let me know I was dealing with an infection. I experienced fatigue, loss of power, and that persistent favorite of mine, increased spasticity in my right arm.

It’s quite possible that I have something like irritable bowel syndrome, as I have a few of the symptoms. I won’t go into a specific one as it’s too weird even for me.

I’ll likely be referred to yet another specialist. I’ve never sat down to count the myriad specialists I’ve already seen — which shows my irredeemable laziness, as that’s exactly the position I spend my days in. I must be well into double figures by now.

Out of the ruins

There is hopefully another possibility. The rehab center was amazingly well stocked with specialist disciplines. They even had a part-time nutritionist. She pulled me out of the weekly general knowledge quiz to question me about my fasting.

She wondered if my years of constant antibiotics, combined with the intense doses I’d just had in the hospital, had stripped my microbiome bare. Even nibbling on some dry toast would help to restock it, she said.

This made sense, so I went back to the dining room. I felt terrible that I’d caused such a hassle. My crisis had been exacerbated by a COVID-19 outbreak that had put us all in lockdown for nearly a month. So no visits from my wife, Saint Jane.

When the nutritionist arrived again, copious bottles of requested kefir were delivered. My room even had a fridge to store them in. Within days of me drinking nigh on a liter a day, I returned to the thankful world of solids.

I hark back to this because last week, my awful stream started again. It couldn’t be the food because I’m now back on our incredibly healthy vegan diet. Green veggies abound. The kefir, though, had run out weeks ago.

Saint Jane thankfully made an emergency run (sorry again) to the shops, and things have settled down somewhat. Yes, I know kefir isn’t vegan, and that there are vegan versions available, but they are ridiculously expensive and hard to find.

Making an exception to something that’s not vegan may be a slippery slope, like smoking. I did get my fill of eggs during the four months I spent in the care of our health services. That’s the one food I’ve really missed since going vegan.

I shouldn’t have written about it, though. Now I want an omelette!


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

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