For anyone who has had surgery on their abdomen before, there is an increased risk for bowel obstructions. A bowel obstruction can be imagined by thinking of your intestines like a long garden hose. If they get twisted they can pinch off like a garden hose only instead of water not going through it is your food. It gets backed up and can cause pain, nausea and vomiting and inability to have bowel movements. Sometimes this will correct on its own but sometimes it requires surgery to re-straighten the bowel. This can happen in people who have never had surgery before but it is much more common in those that have because surgery can cause bands of scar tissue that we call adhesions. These bands of scar tissues give the intestines something to wrap around and get kinked.
For some this can be a recurrent problem. I have had a number of patients that this has led to a debilitating spiral of recurrent surgeries to un-kink the bowel and then further scar tissue causing more obstructions. These patients’ lives are changed forever and they often lose weight and become quite ill. And there is not much we in the medical community can do for them. It is a mechanical problem so medications are of no help. Some University hospitals will try extensive “lysis of adhesion” surgeries to go in an break up these bands of scar tissue but this more often then not just leads to more scar tissue.
Here at the hospital where I work there is a nurse who went through this personally and after years and multiple surgeries she met a doctor from India who seemed shocked that she had not tried Yoga yet. He stated that Yoga would fix her with such conviction and she was so desperate that she gave it a try. And it worked! Ten years later she has not had another bowel obstruction and she is now a Yoga instructor.
I was elated when I heard this story as these cases are so hard for me as I see the patient spiraling downward and I feel powerless to help. Finally I had something safe and possibly effective to offer. And I can tell you from personally experience that the patients that have tried it so far all to the best of my knowledge and follow up have been bowel obstruction free.
One may think this is all tree hugging, hippy, new age crap (no pun intended) but actually it makes perfect sense. Yoga entails a lot stretching and is one of the few exercises that really stretches the core area. This may very well be the key to Yoga’s success. Bending and stretching the core area may likely pull and lengthen those scar tissue bands until they are long and floppy, no longer giving the intestines anything to wrap around. And as for the side effects of Yoga. Well from what we know it’s mostly improved cardiovascular healthy, balance, mood… well you get the idea.
As for the data… none. I can not find one study looking at this approach. Not for yoga, stretching or any other form of exercise.
So yet again we have a risk free, effective treatment for a debilitating medical condition that also happens to cost medicare billions of dollars in hospitalizations and surgeries that do nothing to fix the underlying issue. And yet it has not been studied in any way and other than that Indian doctor and myself I know of no other doctor recommending it to their patients with recurrent bowel obstructions.
It is time we do a study to look at Yoga for bowel obstructions and see if we can finally stop the endless nonsense cycle of surgery making scar tissue that is broken up with surgery that creates more scar tissue. And I highly doubt this will be the only thing Yoga is found to treat.