About Constipation in Adults and Children

What is constipation?

Constipation is the infrequent passage of stools (less than three stools a week) that are difficult and painful to pass. Constipation symptoms include feeling bloated, strained bowel movements, abdominal pain and gas.

How does constipation in seniors differ?

Although constipation can affect people of any age, the risk and rate of constipation increases considerably with age. Among people 65 years of age or older, 26% of women and 16% of men are constipated. That being said, constipation is not caused by simply getting older; rather, it is caused by other age-related problems such as decreased mobility, age-related medical conditions, changes in diet and an increased use of medications that cause constipation as a side effect.

What are common causes of constipation?

Some common causes of constipation include a lack of physical exercise, poor dietary habits — such as a low intake of dietary fibre or inadequate fluid intake — and the side effects of certain medications.

What are some other ways to relieve and prevent constipation?

Certain lifestyle changes can help to relieve constipation. These include eating more fibre, staying well hydrated and being as physically active as possible.

  • Eat more fresh fruits, dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and figs, cooked or raw vegetables and whole-grain cereals and breads
  • Drink lots of water, juices and other fluids
  • Do things that keep you moving and active like going for walks or taking care of your yard

How can I tell if my child is constipated?

Some guidelines for identifying constipation in children and infants include:

  • Experiencing no bowel movements for two to three or more days than usual
  • Less than three bowel movements a week
  • Hard or painful bowel movements
  • Large stools that may clog the toilet or drops of blood on the outside of their stool

What can cause constipation in children?

Constipation in children can be related to many factors including:

  • Eating too many foods that are high in fat and low in fibre, like fast foods
  • Not drinking enough water or fluids
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Not wanting to use public bathrooms
  • Feeling stressed because of school, friends or family matters
  • Changes in routine like starting a new school year or not having enough breaks to use the bathroom

Is constipation in children different than in adults?

The symptoms of constipation in children are the same as they are in adults, but children can develop constipation differently. Children may be reluctant to use a stranger’s bathroom or interrupt playtime with friends, thereby disrupting their natural clock.

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