Here at SpainStruck, we´ve had a few taboo topics – men in corsets, fishy fellatio, Sr. Rajoy with pigtails, fannyfests, necrophilia – no wait, that´s still in draft format. Today, however, we cross a significant frontier into the Windswept World of Constipation.*
Having recently spent a day in pain at the misnamed Urgencias ward (not having gone for five days, an utter lack of urgency was the problem) I feel fully qualified to write this bog, I mean blog, post.
When I was a wee lassie, nasty boys over the back used to shout Dolan, Dolan, yer bum´s a´ swollen. How I wished that was the case in the casualty ward of Alcalá´s hospital. Better a swollen bum than the gigantic belly of gas and mass that almost had me wheeled into the delivery room by mistake.
While I fretted about exploding, I was thoroughly examined. In English “to be examined” sounds gentle and thoughful, intellectual even. Not so in Spanish, where the verb palpar is used. This generally means having your sore bits pressed by what appears to be an eleven year old doctor till you scream out in agony. Fellow underage medical staff and the odd, passing sadist are then invited to have a quick palp too in case any truly excruciating bits have been missed.
Since the fun of this eventually wore off, medical staff then enjoyed pinging on some rubber gloves and carrying out an exploración of my back passage. Quite what they hoped to achieve with these expeditions was never made clear, unless it was to force my tránsito intestinal to compete in traffic intensity with the Panama Canal.
After a day of this, my tummy kneaded to the point of requiring a tomato and mozzarella topping, I was finally fixed up to a painkilling drip for half an hour. Then I was sent home with a large box with ENEMA printed on all four sides in Rockwell Extra Bold 72 font capitals and instructed to buy three gallons of Duphalac laxatives.
Please feel free to allow your imagination to linger on the contents, instructions and application of the enema box since, fortunately, I´ve blocked them out and am unable to provide you with a detailed account without Freudian psychotherapy.
Happily, I´m now just a “regular” gal again but I want to save expats from a similar fart, I mean fate.
So here´s the First Expat Guide to Spanish Constipation.
1. It´s not called constipation in Spanish!
When nothing comes up and nothing goes down it´s estreñimiento, a superbly onomatopoeic word to evoke all that unproductive straining. When you are constipado you have a cold and, quite frankly, the people at the Farmacia just can´t get as loudly worked up about it the way they do when you´re estreñido.
”Manoli … ¡joder! … ManOLI, this poor dear hasn´t had a shit in a week and she´s bunged up with gas. What anal suppositories should we give her? Medium or large? Finger-functioning or rectal insertion aid?”
Personally, I prefer to have an insertion tube and recommend Microlax and a modicum of discretion.
2. Constipation is more likely in a coffee-drinking country than a tea-drinking one.
(Prestigious Research Source of this True Fact: my kitchen cupboard/my toilet bowl).
In my experience, tea helps prevent constipation and coffee doesn´t, despite this. This is why Spaniards often order smelly, green, unsweetened, unheard of infusiones in bars instead of something appropriate, like a nice Rueda wine, for example.
So drink tea and if you get a bit blocked buy an utterly bogging, but usually effective, laxative infusion called Manasul at the Chemist. It´s designed for you to shit yourself thin with, though I´d never use it for weight loss and suggest you don´t either.
3. Gas is plural in Spanish
Life is a gas they say but in Spanish “gas” in your tummy is referred to as los gases. El gas is brought to your kitchen by orange-clad men in similarly-coloured cylinders to allow you to heat up the kettle for your cuppa.
The hospital doctors concluded that my estreñimiento was causing the painful gas visible in large bubbles on my x-ray placa. Yet I´d tried Spain´s Number One (no, not number one in that sense) remedy for gas and sore, upset tummies: manzanilla.
This is Spain´s miracle chamomile tea and it´s usually infallible. It´s also available everywhere as teabags. You can order it in a bar but be careful to ask for una manzanilla and not un manzanilla or you´ll get a dry sherry. (Some foreign waiters don´t quite get the difference yet so you might have to elaborate). And apparently some laxatives, like the Duphalac above, cause gas, so ……
4. Trust Your Local Loudmouth Chemist!
Spanish chemists are not just shop assistants but highly-qualified professionals able to offer medical advice for minor ailments such as constipation. So allow them to provide you with the best product for your particular case.
I did and waddled home with a small bottle of Aliviolas Bio tablets by Aboca. Surely the foulest-tasting pills on the planet, they had me wondering if my fecal farce had necessitated treating like with like, but they nonetheless took me from constipation to congratulations and celebrations overnight.
Friends congratulated me, neighbours came up to check on me and my husband decided not to run away and leave me after all. They all assured me I´d done a great job, though as far as I was concerned, it was barely passable.
So if there´s all this help available, how did I get to be so constipated in the first place?
Easy. I thought I knew better and pooh-poohed (if you´ll pardon the expression) the above methods till it was far too late.
So the moral of this story is eat fruit, be active, go at the same time every day and don´t be as full of crap as me!
* I thought about drawing an analogy between my constipation and Spain´s credit crunch. But I couldn´t be arsed.