Bowel regularity in children can often be overlooked. It's an important aspect of digestive health that can impact a child's overall well-being. Bowel regularity refers to the frequency, consistency, and ease of passing stools.
Why Is Bowel Regularity Important?
Bowel regularity affects the body's ability to eliminate waste and absorb nutrients. When stool remains in the colon for an extended period, it can become hard and difficult to pass, leading to constipation. Constipation can cause discomfort, bloating, and abdominal pain, and can also impact a child's appetite, mood, and sleep patterns.1
In Australia, constipation is a common problem among children, with up to 30% experiencing constipation at some point. It is more common in girls than boys, and the prevalence increases with age. According to a study conducted by the Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, constipation is the most common gastrointestinal problem in Australian children.1
Lifestyle tips to help bowel regularity
- Encourage a High-Fibre Diet - One of the best ways to promote bowel regularity in children is by ensuring they consume a diet that is high in fibre. Fibre-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, children aged 4-8 years should consume 18 grams of dietary fibre per day, while those aged 9-13 years should consume 25-26 grams per day.2
- Stay Hydrated - Adequate hydration is essential for maintaining healthy bowel habits. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially during and after physical activity.
- Get Plenty of Physical Activity - Regular physical activity can also promote bowel regularity. Encourage your child to engage in physical activity each day, such as riding a bike, playing sports, or taking a walk.
- Promote Regular Toilet Habits - Establishing regular toilet habits can also help promote bowel regularity. Encourage your child to use the toilet at regular intervals, especially after meals.
- Consult a Doctor - If your child experiences persistent constipation or other digestive problems, consult a doctor. They can provide further guidance and treatment options, including dietary changes and medication.
Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne. (2017). Paediatric Constipation: An Unsolved Problem.
National Health and Medical Research Council. (2013). Australian Dietary Guidelines (1-5).