Oh What A Mess!

This last week has been a very shitty one. Literally!! It started last week Saturday with an elderly patient who has not had regular bowel movements for months and  ended on Friday with a 4 year old who had a distended abdomen and palpable fecaliths. In between, I had six seriously constipated patients, with the youngest being 22 months old. I ended up administering 5 enemas with excellent, but stinky results.

This experience got me to thinking about the condition of  constipation.  It is a serious health issue that is underestimated in my opinion. Most parents know exactly what their child eats, how fast they eat and how much they eat. However, once their child is out of diapers, these parents have no idea about their bowel movements. This is unfortunate, because I believe it trivializes the importance of monitoring the character of the stool and consistency of  bowel movements. Children whose stool is not monitored, will grow up not monitoring their own stools when they become adults. It is important to Look, Listen and Smell before you or your child flushes the toilet. Ideally your stool should be:

  • medium to light brown in color
  • formed into one long shape of soft consistency
  • up to 12 inches long, and 1 to 2 inches in diameter
  • normal stool smell, not too strong or offensive
  • make a quiet splash, not plop down into the bowl
  • should sink slowly to the bottom of the toilet
Ideally, stool  should be Types 3, 4 or 5.

Ideally, stool  should be Types 3, 4 or 5.

Constipation is defined as having three or fewer bowel movements per week. If this occurs for more than a few weeks, it is defined as chronic constipation. Some signs and symptoms of constipation include: 

  • having to strain to pass stools
  • having lumpy or hard stools,  like Types 1 or 2
  • having the sensation that your rectum is still full after you pass stools
  • needing to press on your abdomen to assist in getting the stool out.

Constipation happens when the stool is kept in the  large intestine too long and then too much water is re-absorbed from the stool, causing it to become very dry and hard. Common causes of constipation are:

  • not drinking enough fluids, especially water
  • not eating enough fiber, such as fruits (with the exception of banana), vegetables and cereal
  • ignoring the urge to defecate
  • lack of exercise
  • being overweight or underweight
  • stress, anxiety and depression

Medical conditions that can cause constipation include:

  1. Diabetes
  2. Hypothyroidism
  3. Pregnancy
  4. Hyperparathyroidism
  5. Hirschsprung's Disease
  6. Cystic Fibrosis
  7. Spina Bifida/Cerebral Palsy

Certain medications are also known to cause constipation.

 Stool is waste matter that the body does not need, when it builds up it can adversely affect your health in several ways including but not limited to;

  • bad breath
  • coated tongue
  • urinary tract infections (especially in children)
  • distended abdomen
  • anal fissures
  • hemorrhoids
  • rectal prolapse
  • fecal impaction and when severe intestinal obstruction

It is important to keep your bowels moving regularly, by eating right, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and not ignoring the urge to go poop. Monitor your stools more closely and that of your children, and don't be surprised if your doctor asks you specifics about your bowel movements, since it is a matter of your health.

Yours in health and wellness,

Kecia Lowe