TREAT CONSTIPATION WITH PROPER FOODS, PRODUCTS
Constipation in children costs the taxpayer millions of dollars every year. It is really a simple issue that should never happen to begin with, and it blocks (no pun intended) the flow of healthcare resources to other areas.
In many cities all across Canada, the wait times to get seen by a gastroenterologist or a pediatrician are longer than it should be — partially because of constipation.
Not so long ago, I found myself with a group of pediatricians in a children’s hospital. We were getting an update on what is being done to help kids who are constipated. Much details were provided on the international classification of constipation and the best ways to treat it.
It just struck me at the time that if the body was created differently and if families consumed more fibre, this pesky issue would never be a medical problem and the manufacturers of medication to treat it would go out of business.
A full bladder tells us it is time to empty it. We can — for whatever reason — decide not to do that, but only up to a point.
However, the bowels were designed differently. When we get the urge, and we decide for whatever reason to not obey the body’s message, the rectum fills up and expands.
Plumbers are often the ones to diagnose constipation in a family.
Not so long ago, a parent of one of my patients explained that her son regularly passes feces the size of a pop can.
It is not uncommon to get even bigger than that and then the toilet gets blocked in no time.
When I was a new pediatrician 33 years ago, I got a call from a mom at 2 a.m. about a constipated toddler.
It surprised me, since constipation is not an acute issue.
However, as is the case so often with huge feces, the rectum can rip and bleed. The sight of blood from a child’s bum at any time of the day or night can send many parents in a frenzy.
Like a dog chasing its tail, it does not matter how fast he runs, he will only go in circles.
Constipation, too, has families going in circles — the more one holds stool in, the bigger it gets over time, and the bigger it gets, the more one holds back when there’s an urge to go.
The solution is simple but not easy: empty the rectum before it builds up and then keep the stools soft.
Stool softeners create an income to manufacturers of close to a billion dollars annually. Many parents worry that the child may become dependent on them. If the right softeners are used, this will not happen.
One such product is known as PEG 3350 and most pharmacists can direct families on what kind of product to use. Nobody wants to use medication for a long time, and thus when it works, some families stop it after two weeks.
That is too soon. It takes time for the rectum to shrink and, in some cases, the medication must be used for a few months to avoid a vicious cycle.
Dental hygienists tell close to
99.9 per cent of their patients to floss more often; dietitians tell
99.9 per cent of their patients to eat more fibre. Numbers are thrown out, such as a minimum of 30 to 40 grams per day. In 40 years of being a doctor, I have not met one family where they use mathematics to calculate their fibre intake. The solution is rather simple: become vegan or follow the new Food Guide, which underscores more plant-based foods and less dairy and meat.
A book highly recommended by experts in the field is The
Ins and Outs of Poop, by
Dr. Nieman has worked as a pediatrician since 1987. He hosts a website, healthykids.ca, and has completed 111 marathons.
While nobody wants to use medication for a long time, there are quality products out there to help treat childhood constipation. ISTOCKPHOTO