Constipation is extremely common among children. It’s the number-one source of belly pain for kids! Here’s something else that might really surprise you: Constipation can be a hidden cause of bedwetting.
If you don’t think your child is constipated, you might want to think again, says Steve Hodges, MD, a pediatric urologist and co-author of the book It’s No Accident: Breakthrough Solutions To Your Child’s Wetting, Constipation, Utis, And Other Potty Problems. “The most common misconception is that if your child poops every day or every other day, he’s not constipated,” says Hodges. He and co-author Suzanne Schlosberg are on a mission to educate parents about kids and constipation–not only because it’s so common, but also because it’s such a commonly overlooked cause of bedwetting, urinary tract infections, and other potty problems. On a personal note, reading It’s No Accident two years ago was a lightbulb moment for me, because I realized my younger son’s bedwetting was likely due to constipation–something I’d never considered before. Once I resolved the constipation, the bedwetting stopped.
Here are 12 signs your child is constipated. Do any of these sound familiar?
What causes constipation in kids?
According to Dr. Hodges:
- The typical Western diet (especially one that includes a lot of “kid food” like chicken nuggets, pizza, and mac-n-cheese) is seriously lacking in fiber. As a result, poop becomes firm and painful to push out.
- Potty training can also trigger constipation. Young kids don’t understand that they need to go when they feel the urge–instead, they learn how to “hold it” until it’s an emergency (or their parents make them go).
- Holding can get even worse when kids go to school and may have limited access to the bathroom or simply be too afraid or shy to use it. All that holding can lead to a clogged system.
- Lack of exercise.
How does constipation lead to bedwetting?
When kids are constipated, their intestines can become packed with stool. The bladder ends up getting squeezed out of the way and not able to hold as much urine, says Dr. Hodges. Enlarged intestines can also irritate the nerves that control the bladder, leading to bladder contractions (and accidents).
What should you do for a constipated kid?
“The key is to get ahead of the constipation,” says Dr. Hodges. “Get the poop soft again so they don’t develop the habit of holding. And get rid of the backed-up poop that they haven’t emptied.” He recommends:
- A serious intestinal clean-out, usually with MiraLAX (or the generic equivalent). Unlike other kinds of laxatives, you can use MiraLAX long-term. It’s easily mixed into liquid and is tasteless. Dr. Hodges provides guidelines and dosing suggestions in his book It’s No Accident
- Asking your child to sit on the toilet for five minutes after breakfast and dinner (the reflex for emptying the bowels is usually strongest in the morning)
- Getting more fiber in the diet (see below).
What are the best foods to ease constipation?
Kids’ diets should include lots of foods that are naturally rich in fiber to help keep poop soft. Whole grains, nuts and seeds, and beans are high in fiber. Fruits and vegetables are especially great because they’re high in fiber AND fluid–and fluid is vital for keeping stool moving through the system.
Some high-fiber fruits and veggies include:
- Pears & apples (with the skin)
- Brussles sprouts
- Potatoes (with the skin)
For a free download of the chart above–plus a kid-friendly, illustrated “poop chart” to help you and your kids keep tabs–go here.
To learn more about this issue, the book, and the authors, visit their website.