If you notice your child has been passing hard stools, the first thing you should know is that it’s a common problem. But it is one that ought to be addressed before it gets too serious.
If you notice your child’s stools have become large and hard or they experience pain and discomfort while pooping, you don’t have to rush to the emergency room just yet! There are many reasons why a child could be experiencing hard stools.
It could be their diet. If they have been eating too many fatty foods that are high in fat and low in fibre, this could be a contributing factori. It could even be lack of exercise or movement. They could be lacking liquid in the body or it could just be that they are “heaty”.
The Chinese belief: Heatiness
Heatiness in children is a diagnosis that many Chinese parents flock to when their children are not well. It is a belief that has been passed down for generations.
Heatiness can stem from the hot and humid weather that we experience in this part of the world or it is the result of eating too much “heaty” foodi. Parents believe that when children don’t get the proper nutrients and become “heaty” inside their bodies, they pass out hard stools.
But here’s the Western science behind hard stools…
Stools can get hard and dry when the large intestine, or colon, absorbs too much of the body’s water, according to the John Hopkins Medical Libraryiii.
Normally, when chyme moves through the colon, the colon absorbs water, and transforms the fluid chyme into a mush-like consistency. Then, muscle movements of the colon will push the stool towards the rectum and then it is passed out.
If the stool comes out dry and hard, it means the colon’s muscle movements are too slow. If the stool is passing through the colon too slowly, the colon absorbs much of the water, making the stool very hard and dry to push out, possibly at the expense of your child’s comfort.
The Oman Medical Journal cites this as a common problem but one that could lead to a behavioural change in children in which they lose self-esteem and do not want to go to the bathroom when they need to, making it a vicious cycle that can be difficult to overcomeiv.
To break this cycle, parents will often turn to quick fixes rather than more sustained, long term preventive measures.
Parents often go into a bit of a panic or frenzy when their kids are ill – and they are not to be blamed for it. It’s always best to get the opinion of a doctor when the child is ill, so that they may be properly medicated.
Laxatives are one of the alternatives that desperate parents turn to when their children can’t poop and they want a quick solution to remedy the problem. But if difficulty in passing motion is not well-managed, you might find that this problem will become recurring. And if it happens too often, it will leave long-term impacts on your child’s physical health and possibly their mental wellbeing.
What are some preventive measures?
It is very important for your child to be getting the right nutrition. This can be achieved from getting the right balance of foods from different food groups. On top of this, their diet can also be supplemented with gut-friendly food to maintain a good gut health.
One of the methods to promote good gut health and prevent hard stools is to have sufficient intake of prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. They can be found not only in food sources like artichokes, onions and leeks, but also in milk added with prebiotics, which can form part of your child’s diet.
Prevention is better than cure.
It is always good to keep in mind that to prevent is better than to cure. So don’t neglect your child’s hard stools and start applying preventive measures in their diets as soon as possible.
ivAli, S. R., Ahmed, S., Qadir, M., Humayun, K. N., & Ahmad, K. (2011). Fecal Incontinence and Constipation in Children: A Clinical Conundrum. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3215436/