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Bowel Blues: How to Get Things Moving

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Constipation is thought to affect up to 30% of the population, and seems to be increasingly common in small children – but this doesn’t mean that it’s normal, or that it's something you have to live with. Occasional constipation is usually harmless, but regular constipation over a longer period is something that should be checked with your doctor, as this could be a symptom of an underlying condition or related to a food allergy or intolerance.

How Do I Know If I'm Constipated?

Constipation is most commonly associated with lack of or infrequent bowel movements (generally less than three per week), however if you’re still having bowel movements but these are difficult or painful to pass; hard, dry or lumpy; or you have a feeling of incomplete evacuation, these can be signs of constipation. Constipation can also lead to other symptoms including bloating and fatigue.

In children, constipation can not only be painful and uncomfortable, but can also create anxiety when going to the toilet is associated with discomfort and pain, and can make matters worse if they try to hold on to avoid pooping.

Finding Relief

Laxatives are often prescribed for constipation, but these aren't intended for long-term use, so it's important to find and resolve the underlying cause of constipation. Your doctor should be able to help you investigate this, and rule out any potential underlying conditions or allergies. If your constipation is related to a food intolerance, this can be slightly more challenging to diagnose, and usually involves elimination and reintroduction of suspected allergens or foods.

In the meantime, here are a few things that can help to relieve constipation in the short term:

💧 🥑 Make sure you're getting enough fluid, good fats and fibre. It's important not to overdo it on the fibre though, as too much can actually give the opposite effect and cause constipation.

🚶🏽‍♀️Physical activity and movement can help get things moving. For babies and small children, try making gentle "bicycle" movements with the legs.

🚽 Try a step stool under your feet when sitting on the toilet - this gets your bowels in the right position to help everything come out more easily. For babies or small children: holding the legs up against their tummy in an 'M' position gives the same effect.

🥝 50g prunes or 2 kiwifruit per day has been shown to help increase bowel movements

👐🏽 Gentle tummy massage may also help (in both adults and little ones)

🎈 To help kids relax when sitting on the toilet, ask them to breathe out, blow bubbles or blow up a balloon (this helps them relax the bowel muscles if they're holding on tightly )

You can also check out my reel for more tips on constipation here:

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