While constipation is a common condition, holding in the poop out of choice is another concern among toddlers. A single experience of discomfort or pain while doing ‘potty’ is enough to make some children feel anxious and, in severe cases, develop a phobia of holding in the poop, a condition known as encopresis.
Encopresis takes place when a child resists having bowel movements, causing stool to accumulate in the colon and rectum. The process is also called stool holding or soiling. When the child’s colon is full of stool, it can leak out of the anus, leading to stains on the underwear.
Encopresis occurs after the age of 4, when the child has learned to use a toilet. Usually, it is a symptom of chronic constipation. Sometimes, it can be a result of developmental or emotional issues. This is how it affects your child.
- When your child tries to stop passing bowels, it can lead to the feces building up inside the colon, which can further stretch it and cause severe pain.
- When the colon is enlarged, it leads to a larger than normal amount of stool, which can cause the child more pain and discomfort, increasing the fear of passing bowels even further.
- The entire thing leads to a vicious cycle, where discomfort in the toilet stops your child from passing stools, which further increases the pain.
What Can Cause Encopresis
Constipation due to encopresis can set in a child due to various reasons.
- A child may have an uncomfortable time in the toilet and start controlling the urge to poop. It makes the stool become hard and big, leading to pain.
- A child who has just joined a daycare may find it uncomfortable to use the toilet due to a change of surroundings.
- Not drinking enough water can harden the stool, leading to constipation and then encopresis.
- Eating foods not rich in fiber or eating too many dairy products can also cause the stool to become hard.
- Many toddlers complain of constipation during the cold winter months, which can be due to lower levels of physical activity. This can also lead to encopresis.
How To Treat Constipation Caused By Encopresis
There are many natural foods that you can add to your child’s diet to improve his bowel movements.
- Let your child have prune juice on a daily basis along with fiber-rich foods such as carrots, cucumber and beetroot. Prunes are a rich source of antioxidants, fiber, minerals and other components that help soften the stool and relieve constipation.
- Apples contain pectin and vitamin C that reduce chances of constipation and prevent intestinal damage. They have a high water content that helps to flush out the toxins from your child’s intestines.
- Fenugreek is a known remedy for constipation. Soak some fenugreek seeds overnight in water, prepare a paste in the morning and let your child have it with a glass of water, or mix it in his soup or curries.
- Try giving your child lukewarm to hot water in the winter months to avoid constipation. Many parents also swear by sugar water to ease the bowel movements. Mix ½tsp sugar in an ounce of water and give it to your baby before meals, three times a day. Use brown sugar for better results.
- Orange juice is another tried and tested remedy for constipation.