This article can be summed up by the following:
Yes, your body produces the digestive enzymes needed to break food down. That being said, you must ask yourself, “Am I actually eating real food?”
Let me back up for a moment and give you a bit more background information.
Our intestines receive bile and enzymes that work together to break food down to be passed from the body. These enzymes also aid in feeding the body the nutrients from the foods consumed. When everything works as it should, there is no bloating or gas, and bowel movements are regular, easy, and normal. This is typical within the few humans who truly eat a whole foods diet and lead lives unexposed to toxins and stress. As you can understand, that is a very slim margin of people, if any.
Sadly, most children and adults in our society consume processed foods, foods containing pesticides and carcinogens, toxins like dyes that are not even food, and more sugar – in too many forms to name – than could be imagined. It’s easy to find the research that links these bad habits, along side of the environmental toxins known to affect the gut, to the decrease seen in bile and pancreatic enzymes within the intestines. The body cannot properly break them down because they are not meant to be there. The bile is blocked from the intestines, preventing the enzymes to reach and aid in pushing these items from the body – or releasing the nutrients properly throughout the body. This is when constipation and mushy poop start occurring; stomach aches, bloating, gas, heartburn, nausea, discomfort, low energy, and allergy-like reactions, as well. It’s no wonder kids are mean, unfocused, and pretty cranky today. (As are most adults when you really pay attention.) Their guts need mending.
While the true answer is to heal the gut and consume 100% organic whole foods, while also leading a stress-free life outside of toxins, it might be easier said than done. I do truly encourage you to eliminate wheat (all gluten) and dairy, and consider a full elimination diet – even with your children. While doing so, digestive enzymes can still be used to aid in healing the gut.
Digestive enzyme supplementation is all the rage right now, and I am completely in favor of it being added to your vitamin shelf (It can’t go without mentioning that it needs to be a high-quality version). However, it is not a cure all, and should not be depended upon with every meal, every day. It doesn’t make eating fast food okay. The gut should be healthy, and digestive enzymes should be used when foods such as gluten and dairy are consumed to help the body digest them without triggering inflammation.
Irritation to the gut from stress, pollution, pesticides, and processed foods can cause the tiny hair-like structures along the sides of the intestines to become clogged, throwing off the balance of bacteria, stomach acid, and forcing the toxins back through the liver for detoxing. The liver can become congested and trigger a slower and thicker bile and enzyme production. With less of bile and enzymes, it becomes harder and harder for the intestines to do their job well. Taking a digestive enzyme supplies the body with the needed enzymes to break these items down.
Not only do digestive enzymes aid in the digestion process, but they also allow the body to absorb more nutrients. They break food into amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol (the good kind), simple sugars, and nucleic acids. They also may aid in easing or eliminating chronic symptoms from digestive disorders, which are of course commonly linked to diagnoses such as Gluten Intolerance, IBS, Lactose Intolerance, ADHD, Autism, and even schizophrenia.
In a world where food is more fillers and less nutrients, and a society with sky-rocketing chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases, a little help through enzyme supplementation provides ample benefits. Digestive enzymes will take the stress off of the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and small intestine when hard-to-digest foods are consumed, so why not add them to your health arsenal?
While you can find over 40 enzymes currently available; you want to look for a high-quality, broad-spectrum enzyme supplement. This covers the bases and works well with those wanting help in basic digestion and nutrient absorption.
Pooping Should Not be Difficult.
As you have read here before, the use of Miralax is on the rise and sadly, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I am extremely disappointed in the medical profession as a whole over the use of this gut-ruining product, and that it is not only being recommended, but that it is being given out as candy and expected to cure all of the poop problems in our younger generation.
I could go on and on about this awful product (again), but today, I want to address something that may aid in everyone’s bathroom troubles. You know that I am a huge fan of elimination diets and healthy lifestyle choices, including preventative care through a chiropractor. I am also a fan of naturally helping the body as it performs its necessary tasks.
This leads me to the topic of poop.
Close to 75% of adults have hemorrhoids either internally or externally, but not all experience disruptive symptoms. By age 50, more than half of Americans have chronic or active hemorrhoid symptoms. What is worse is that bloody stools, strained stools, and digestive pain is affecting younger generations more and more each year. According to the Mayo Clinic, hemorrhoids are caused by straining while having a bowel movement, along with other factors like diet and weight.
If you watch an infant grow into a toddler and begin consistently eating solid foods, you will notice the natural instinct to squat while pooping. Rarely will a toddler run and sit down to have a bowel movement. He would rather stand or squat. This is the point that we begin training him to break his natural instincts and sit on a toilet. Yes, toilets are wonderful. No, I do not want us all squatting in the woods to poop. But just because the toilet works, doesn’t mean that it allows for us to utilize it in a way that aids the body in releasing poop. At least our feet touch the floor though; a toddler or young child is expected to poop easily with his legs dangling.
Bringing a stool into the bathroom, more specifically, a stool meant to fit around the toilet – such as a Squatty Potty – can help every member of the family, even those potty-learning. The idea is simple, and it can make all the difference. The angle at which we are currently pooping at is causing strain, possible pain, and other issues. When we sit, it creates an anorectal angle, which cuts off the flow of the waste being processed. It creates an upward, unnatural pressure on the rectum making it unnecessarily hard to poop. By squatting on the stool, the angle created removes that blockage and allows the waste to pass easier and without strain.
Other problems that come with straining to eliminate body waste:
- Pelvic Floor Issues: Sitting causes extreme pressure on the anorectal angle of the colon causing the colon to protrude into the wall of the vagina. This puts pressure on the pelvic floor and causes unnecessary strain.
- Constipation: Diet plays the largest role in constipation, but improper positioning also triggers this painful ailment.
- Urinary Infections: Research has found that squatting allows you to truly eliminate the bladder with a stronger, more consistent urinary flow reducing risk of UTI’s and bladder infections.
- Colon Disease: Build-up of waste is linked to colon disease. It is important to eliminate completely and often to help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
- Investing in a Squatty Potty or similar bathroom stool will allow your colon to relax and your stool to be released quicker and easier. Your body will thank you! (I recommend the adjustable height stool if you have younger children.)
Countless children in the United States are diagnosed with chronic constipation every year. Many pediatric GI specialists will tell you that it is the most common condition that they see, accounting for nearly 25% of all visits. There are many factors that can cause this, and most cases of constipation require a variety of treatments to resolve. Each family must take the time to discover both the physical and environmental factors that are contributing to their child’s problem, as constipation tends to have both a physical and emotional component.
Many of us have heard of the ‘gut brain’ but don’t really know what it refers to. This is the enteric nervous system, which can not only send and receive messages, but also respond to emotions. Your gut, or entire digestive system, contains over 100 million neurons – this is more than are found in the spinal cord! It is no wonder that gut health is so influenced by emotions. For this reason, almost all children and adults who are diagnosed with digestive diseases and disorders must address both physical and emotional symptoms.
For children who are diagnosed with chronic constipation, there is likely more than one factor involved. If a child has even one episode of constipation that results in hard and painful stool, they may internalize a feeling of fear or expectation of pain when the need to pass the next stool arises. Some children will instead hold the stool in, rather than face the pain of attempting to pass it. Like the colon, the rectum can also absorb water, so stool that remains unpassed in the rectum gets harder. This can make it even more difficult and scary for the child to pass. It becomes a vicious cycle of withholding and subsequent painful stool! This can cause both a rectal and bowel impaction if not addressed in a timely manner. Sometimes small pieces will break off, so called ‘rabbit pellet’ stool that some parents observe in their toddlers and young children. Parents might think this is just their kids ‘normal’ stool, and not know that it’s because there is a large mass stuck inside. Withholding for long enough can cause such a large blockage that only soft or liquid stool can fit around it. Children with this condition will pass frequent very small loose stools. In younger (and occasionally older) children this may present as encopresis, or soiling. This occurs when small amounts of soft or liquid stool leak from the rectum without the child’s knowledge, staining the underwear. Many parents won’t realize that the cause of this is either chronic constipation or a rectal or bowel impaction. Other signs of a rectal impaction include increased urination or wetting accidents. An overly full rectum can put a large amount of pressure on a small child’s bladder, causing accidents or bedwetting.
Diet of course plays a crucial role in helping your child get relief from constipation. Children should be drinking plenty of water every day. If constipation is severe, try organic no-sugar-added juices such as apple, peach, pear, plum, or prune. (Fun fact, many ‘p’ fruits are also high in fructose and promote bowel movements!) Adding 2-4 oz of aloe juice to other juices will soothe and lubricate the intestines. Many kids are resistant to high fiber foods, but encourage them to eat carrot sticks or celery sticks with almond butter and raisins – (bonus for more fiber!), or other crunchy raw veggies that they like. Many kids become constipated from an excess of pasteurized dairy products. Eliminating all dairy other than butter and yogurt might help your child. If your kids will eat broccoli with cheese try buying a raw milk cheese from your local health food store as raw milk tends not to have the same constipating effect. Adding organic raw coconut oil, organic ground flax seeds, or organic chia seeds can also encourage softer bowel movements. Many kids love the texture and taste of chia pudding which can easily be made or purchased already prepared at most health food stores.
Over the counter laxatives and enemas should be avoided until needed as an absolute last resort. Some GI specialists will recommend a ‘clean out’ for your child to relieve the impaction. They will likely recommend senna-based laxatives, Miralax, magnesium citrate, or a combination of all of the above. If your doctor recommends this, ask if it can be done with magnesium citrate only. Senna-based laxatives not only cause painful cramping, but can quickly becoming habit forming. Miralax is also habit forming, and while less so than senna laxatives, has never been approved for use in children, despite the fact that many doctors prescribe it regularly for long term use. There are many natural products that can be used to keep the stool soft and moving that are not habit forming. Organic oils are very lubricating to the intestines and can be given daily – raw organic coconut oil has a laxative effect for many people. Others to try are organic sesame oil or olive oil.
In addition, address any emotional issues that your child might be having. Is there a negative attitude in the home surrounding defecation? Does your child feel the need for a certain amount of control? Harsh punishment for encopresis or soiling will only make the problem worse. Many kids thrive on somewhat of a schedule during the day. No need to be militant, but kids like to know what’s coming up next. A particular effective strategy is that of ‘toilet sitting time.” Pick one or two times during the day when you know you will be home, and have your child sit on the toilet for 10 or 15 minutes. Give them a book to look at it if they’d like. Have a stool for their feet to encourage a more squat-like position, and give them some time to see if their body will relax enough to have a bowel movement. Having ‘sitting time’ at the same time every day will encourage your child’s body to move the bowels at that time. Many adults naturally have a bowel movement in the morning. If mornings are not rushed and there is time for your child to sit on the toilet for a while, try that. If evening is a more calm time in your house, try sitting time after dinner. Don’t expect immediate results. This is a complex problem that will involve a fair amount of work on both you and your child’s part. Seek help and support from other parents or a professional if you are getting frustrated or not seeing progress.
Regular chiropractic care can be a critical aspect of managing your child’s chronic constipation. The message that a child needs to defecate is sent from the intestines and rectum to the brain. If the spine is maladjusted in any way, a young child will not receive the message, so to speak. If your child is not consciously realizing that they need to defecate, stool will continue to harden in their rectum. In addition, many children will have been constipated or withholding stool for a long time before parents realize that something is actually amiss. By this time, the child’s rectum can be stretched out, and they won’t even receive the message that their rectum is full and needs to be emptied until the stool is too large to pass comfortably. One simple adjustment may be all your child needs to break the cycle! Other children require more frequent and regular care to maintain a healthy frequency of bowel movements. A case study presented here http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1479235408000588 demonstrated that chiropractic care not only increased the frequency of bowel movements in constipated children, but that the stools were “described as soft without the accompanying straining, pain and rectal bleeding.” A more in-depth study can be found here: http://drdianemeyer.com/Dr%20Meyer.pdf
Chiropractic America describes in easy-to-understand terms how chiropractic care helps relieve both the symptoms and some of the underlying causes of constipation: “Chiropractic adjustments (particularly in the lower spine) may help relieve constipation in certain individuals. Muscles in the intestine push stool to the anus, where stool leaves the body. Special nerve cells in the intestine, called ganglion cells, make the muscles push. These nerves connect directly to the celiac ganglion, which also innervates the stomach, liver, gallbladder, spleen, kidney, small intestine, and the ascending and transverse colon. The celiac ganglion, in turn connects to the spinal cord (and the brain) through nerve roots that exit the spine in the lower thoracic and upper lumbar region. Pressure on these nerve roots caused by misalignment of the vertebrae in this area may interfere with the normal function of the bowel as well as other organs of the digestive system.”
If your child is suffering at all from constipation, even just occasionally, come see us at Pea and the Pod. Like many health issues, constipation is easiest to relieve when addressed early.