By Emily Smith, DC, DICCP, Chiropractic Pediatric Specialist
Even though poop is something we are all intimately familiar with, the topic is often avoided in conversation…unless you work with kids!
Truly, having regular bowel movements is not only natural, but necessary for our health. Do you know anyone who has or currently does struggle with constipation? Did you know that 2 to 3 bowel movements a day is considered IDEAL? Now, do you know someone who is constipated?
Actually, constipation, in definition refers more to the compactness of the stools and effort needed to expel it, rather than the frequency. In order to have well formed and easy to pass poop, you need to have fiber (aka fruits and vegetables) and liquid (aka water).
Digestion begins within the mouth with adequate chewing, which breaks down the food into small particles prior to it entering the stomach. Once broken down further by stomach acid, it moves into the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed by the body before passing on to the large intestine (colon). The colon is where water is absorbed by the body and/or fiber bulk of the stools prior to it leaving the body. If there is not enough water available, due to inadequate intake of fluids the stools may sit for longer than needed, creating hard and difficulty to pass stools.
The muscle contraction of the intestines is also necessary in order for the waste material to be moved through the digestive tract. This is where chiropractic can be helpful! Chiropractic adjustments address the interference that occurs between the nerve and every cell, tissue, organ, and system of the body. If for instance a trauma, toxin, or stress has “muddled” the message from the brain to the digestive tract, it will not function properly, causing digestive disturbances. Symptoms may be infrequent or even too frequent bowel movements, altered consistency, altered color, or difficult with passing.
These are just some of the many reasons babies/toddlers/children/adults seek chiropractic care. Often the upper neck, lower back and/or pelvis may reveal areas of spinal misalignment. Correction of this misalignment, through gentle chiropractic adjustments, will allow the body to function optimally. If you can eliminate any interference with the nervous system, you can avoid the interference with elimination. For those of any age who have lived a lifetime with infrequent/too frequent bowel movements, this is a pleasant change!
So what’s normal for newborns/infants/children? As newborns, diapers are filled frequently with a seedy type of mustard yellow poop, typically along with each feeding, especially when breastfed. With careful observation, the diet of the mother can be modified to help eliminate any of the digestively offensive foods for the newborn or infant. The diapers of a formula-fed baby may be filled less often and of a firmed consistency, possibly due to the higher level of iron that formula contains. Modification can be made, through trial and error, to fin the formula that fit your baby and their digestive pattern best.
The frequency of infants’ bowel movements may slow as they mature and start taking in solids. This transition should be delayed until your baby is showing signs of interest and ability to take in solids, usually between 4 to 7 months of age. (Introducing solids before a baby is ready will NOT help them sleep better and may increase the risk of developing food allergies and can lead to digestive disturbances). Some signs that your baby is ready include the ability to sit up well on his/her own, showing interest in food that others are eating, increased hunger, and the ability to move the tongue back and forth, rather than just up and down in a sucking motion.
When introducing foods, there is no need to rush. Introducing new foods one week at a time gives the digestive system time to assimilate and lessens the risk of allergy or digestive disturbance. For some, the addition of solids can start a cycle of constipation and/or diarrhea that has never before occurred. Ruling out any allergies or sensitivities is an important step so that the offensive food can be avoided. Dairy is particularly difficulty for an immature digestive system to break down and if symptoms are noted, it is best to avoid it.
High fiber foods can be helpful to provide the bulk needed to move waste material through the digestive tract. However, as stated above, without adequate water intake, fiber will cause the stools to be harder, rather than softer, and more difficulty to pass. If your baby or child is experiencing constipation, despite eating high fiber foods, your best bet is to add more water to their diet.
For children, bowel movements should occur each day and possibly even multiple times a day. Our fast-paced lifestyle of activities and ever-present technology can interfere with kids’ ability to literally “unplug.” Our mind and body need to relax in order to “hear” the messages that our bowels are communicating. Making it a point to have quiet time each day will help with this process. Alternatively, exercise can also help, so move your body to help move your bowels!
Past/current intake of medications, especially antibiotics, can interfere with proper bowel function by eliminating the good bacteria from the gut and creating imbalance between the good, the bad, and the ugly (aka yeast). Taking probiotics can help to reintroduce the good bacteria and keep the bad and ugly in check.
If you are looking for foods to help keep things moving through the gut, focus on apricots, pears, plums, peaches, and prunes. If things are moving faster than you’d like (aka diarrhea), avoid dehydration by adding in more fluid (coconut water is a great option) and consider adding cinnamon to applesauce for a natural and delicious remedy.
Though her specialty is in chiropractic care at Smith & Prissel for children and pregnant women, Dr. Emily Smith enjoys caring for patients of all ages. Call 832-2223 or 495-4494 (cell).