This post is all about the poos, so if you are a squeamish person, this one may not be for you. 😉
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become less frequent, with the stools becoming harder and more difficult to pass. Adults experience it periodically (or chronically) and as you sit here reading this you can probably think of at least one or two times in your life that it’s happened to you. Children are no exception to this affliction. It affects 12% of all children, although if more people knew all of the signs, that number would likely increase. Because, you can poop every day and still be constipated. …
YOU CAN POOP EVERY DAY AND STILL BE CONSTIPATED!
First let’s start with the causes of constipation. It is a complicated, multifactorial issue and one not always easily understood or identified, but some common causes include:
Diet. Too little fiber, not enough water, and too many processed foods can all reek havoc on our digestive system.
Exercise. Ever notice when you’re sick in bed for a few days that you get a little backed up? Our bowels function better in an upright, gravity-assisted position. They function best with routine movement.
Changes in routine. Traveler’s constipation is something most adults have experienced. This also applies to smaller scale changes as well. New bedtimes, new foods, new schools with new toilets, and long road trips, can all influence bowel habits for a longer period than realized.
Withholding behaviors. All it takes is one painful poo for a child to become afraid to go again and end up in a cycle of withholding. This can be a conscious decision or an unconscious habit the child is not even aware of. Another common scenario, one most adults experience on a regular basis, is not wanting to go in public and holding it until you’re home. But the longer you hold onto that poop, the longer it sits in the rectum, having more and more water drawn out of it, becoming harder and harder, and making it more likely to have a painful bowel movement later on.
Medical and health conditions. Constipation is more likely to occur in some populations like in children with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, anxiety/depression disorders, and could be a sign of other conditions such as Hirschsprung’s disease.
Medications. Some examples of constipating medications include ADHD medications, anticholinergics, narcotics, phenytoin, and antacids.
Children may or may not be able to communicate to you that they’re constipated, but they may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:
- Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea
- Straining to poop
- Body odor
- Lack of appetite
- Stools so large they plug the toilet
- Fecal leakage
- Skid marks on underwear
- Increased frequency or urgency of urination, with or without incontinence
- Recurrent UTIs
- Diarrhea (this sounds like the opposite of constipation but trust me!)
So what can you do if you suspect your child is constipated?
1. The best thing you can do to help your child, is to become a poo detective. Frequency of
bowel movements is important, but even more important is the consistency. Remember, you can poop every day and still be constipated! Healthy bowels should
look like soft serve ice cream in a toilet or hummus in a diaper. Anything harder or softer than that is a sign that something is off.
2. Invest in a floor potty for young children and a squatty potty for older children so that their knees are above their hips when they are trying to go to the bathroom. This allows for proper and complete emptying during bowel movements.
3. Make sure your child is drinking enough fluids. The general rule of thumb is 1 ounce per kilogram. For simplicity, urine should look almost clear or light yellow. Dark urine with a strong odor is a sign of not enough fluids in the body.
4. Track your child’s diet. Choose more fresh fruits and vegetables and eat less processed foods. And while each individual body responds differently to certain foods, the
following foods are more likely to cause binding and may be beneficial to eliminate on a trial basis: bananas, rice, applesauce, peanut butter, marshmallow, tapioca, cheese, and arrowroot.
5. Reach out to your pediatrician sooner rather than later. The longer constipation issues last, the more challenging it may be to resolve.
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