Constipation…. how big is the trouble???

Constipation is a common and increasing problem in all age groups.

Passing less than 4 stools per week or passing very hard stools even though 3-4 times a day with difficulty in passing stools is known as constipation.

Breastfed infants usually pass 3 to 4 soft stools every day, but it may vary upto passing once in 4-5 days. A doctor should be consulted if baby passes very hard stools, is in pain while passing stools, is feeding poorly, or has abdominal distension.

Babies on formula usually pass slightly formed stools. When babies are shifted to complementary feeding, there are lots of variations. Give time so that child adjusts to changes. If you feel baby is has difficulty passing stools, consult your pediatrician immediately.

The most common cause of constipation in young children is unbalanced diet. The diet lacks fibers, which are most important factor of passing daily soft stools. Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in fibers but children tend to avoid them. Even parents are more concern for the amount of chapattis or rice child is eating. Polished rice and refined flour is also deficient in fiber.

So to regularize the bowel habits, change dietary habits….

The amount of dal and serials combined should be equal to the fruits and vegetables in a day. Add vegetables to parantha’s aur Khichdi. Give sufficient fruits as whole, avoid soups and juices as far as possible as they have no or minimum fibers. Always choose seasonal fruits for your family.

Another factor is use of western toilets. Try to make child use toilets in squatting position. Make child sit in toilet daily for 5 to 10 minutes.

Too much of fast food like burgers, noodles, pasta, and white bread sandwiches play an important role in forming hard stools. Avoid use of refined flour as per as possible.

Too much milk causes constipation in some children, so restrict or stop milk intake for few days.( You can read the article on milk requirements of children – )
Ensure enough liquid intake by the child

Long term effects of persistent constipation

  1. Poor diet – as child will not pass stools, so he will not feel like eating or completing his meal. Poor diet will further affect the growth and development of the child
  2. Long term constipation may lead to anal fissure which causes even more pain during defecation and worsening of constipation.
  3. It may lead to other medical complications like rectal prolapsed, fecal impaction, hemorrhoids(piles)

When to see your pediatrician…

  • Constipation is persistent for a long time
  • If child has not passed stools for more than three consecutive days
  • If child is passing blood stains stones
  • If child has pain or other troubling symptom

Eat healthy and give your child a healthy diet to stay away from diseases.

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