What Your Child’s Poop is Telling You
It may be a messy business but it is a key indicator of your child’s health. This year, in conjunction with World Digestive Health Day on May 29, we draw attention to bowel movements in children and a common digestive issue amongst children – constipation
Assalamualaikum and Olla everyone!
How are you today? Hope everything is great at your end. Due to World Digestive Health Day on May 29, I have an interesting piece of knowledge to share with you. To be blunt, I never even interested about the colour of my child poop leave alone the texture before I had a child haha… However, I remember even since she was a tiny little baby, every change of colour and texture get me super curious. I wish I have a indicator to help me translate the situation. Well, if you are in the same situation as me… you might want to bookmark this page. Hopefully it will come in handy. Do you know that your child’s poop is actually an indication of your child’s gut health?
Having a healthy gut helps your child to digest and absorb important nutrients from food which is essential for the healthy development of your growing child. Here are some tips which can help promote a healthy gut for your child.
What’s Normal, What’s Not?
Poop is also known as feces or stool, which is waste matter that is discharged from the bowels after food has been digested. The poop may vary everyday, depending on what your child has eaten. By keeping track of the changes in fecal features, such as shape, size, color, frequency and also consistency, you are able to understand your child’s gut health and ensure their overall health and well-being.
The Bristol Stool Chart[ii] is a useful guide commonly used by paediatricians that can assist you to distinguish types of stool.
· Type 1 and 2 suggest a potential risk of constipation
· Type 3 and Type 4 are normal stools which indicate a healthy gut
· Type 5, 6 and 7 suggest potential risks of infection or diarrhea, to which parents are advised to seek medical advice for the welfare of their children
Common symptoms of constipation generally involve infrequent, difficult, painful or incomplete release of hardened stools in children. When food residue remains in the large intestine for an extended period of time, too much water can be absorbed, and as a result, stools become harder and drier. When your child is trying to pass a large or hard stool, it will stretch the rectal walls and may lead to tearing and bleeding[iii]. This makes it even more painful for the child to pass motion and causes the child to continue “holding it”, out of fear or anxiety to avoid the unpleasant experience of passing hard stools, thereby creating a vicious cycle.
Parents are advised to keep an eye on the tell-tale signs of your child attempting to withhold bowel movements, such as squatting, rocking, stiff walking or crossing of the legsiii.
Constipation: Prevention is the Key
There are many factors that can contribute to constipation in children, such as variations in diet, developmental stage, environmental issue, emotional status or illness. To prevent constipation in your child and maintain a good gut health, here are a few recommendations:
1. Diet. Consistently offer foods rich in dietary fibre, such as whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables in you and your child’s diet. Children from 3-6 years old are recommended to consume 2 servings of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables daily[iv]. Parents have great influence on children’s eating habits, so if your children see you eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to follow your lead and be more receptive to all the food you consume. Hence, it is important for you to be a role model to your children.
2. Fluids. It is essential to keep children well hydrated, as inadequate intake of fluids will lead to constipation. Children between 2-3 years old are recommended to drink 1-2 glasses of plain water per day while children 4 years old and above are recommended to drink 6-8 glasses per dayiv.
3. Toilet Training. Studies show that there are two transitional periods in which a child is particularly prone to constipation; the first being at the time of toilet training, and during the start of school[v]. Parents are advised to encourage to your child to use the toilet regularly, such as first thing in the morning or 10 to 30 minutes after a full meal[vi]. Regular bowel movement whereby your child’s stool consistency is soft is one of the signs of a healthy gut.
4. Prebiotics. Research has shown that prebiotics such as fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) can help to promote softer stools for easier bowel movement[vii]. Prebiotics oligosaccharide mixture GOS/IcFOS (9:1) helps increase intestinal bifidobacteria and hence helps to maintain a good intestinal environmentviii. With good intestinal environment and good gut health, your child will experience fewer digestive discomforts, including constipation.
The digestive system, or gut, is a complex system that begins with the breaking down of food and ends with the elimination of waste products as stools. Proper functioning of the digestive system is important as it allows absorption of essential nutrients which children need for healthy growth and development[viii]. In essence, good digestion is key to good health, it is an important part of your child’s overall health and sense of well-being. To set the foundation for a healthy life, let’s ensure your child consumes enough fibre, water and foods containing prebiotics – it’s never too late to make good gut health a priority!
I hope you find this information helpful in understanding about digestive system and how you can aid your child to lead a healthy lifestyle. Happy World Digestive Health Day!! Lots of love and hug goes out from my home to you and your family!
[i] Van den Berg MM, Benninga MA, Di Lorenzo C.. Am J Gastroenterol 2006: 101(10):2401-9
[ii] SJ Lewis et al. Scand. J. Gastroenterol. 1997; 32(9):920-4
[iii] A Rowan-Legg. Canadian Paediatric Society Community Paediatrics Committee, Peadiatr Child Health 2011;16(10):661-5
[iv] Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents 2013
[v] North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2006; 43:405-7
[vi] National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)
[vii] Moro G et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2002; 34(3):291-5.
[viii] Guide to Nutrition Labelling and Claims, Food Safety and Quality Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia. (2010)