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Learning the Art of Elimination


Ancient humans lived on whole, raw foods and had few, if any, restrictions on bathroom times. They probably didnâ??t need to think much about it.

Ancient humans lived on whole, raw foods and had few, if any, restrictions on bathroom times. They probably didn’t need to think much about it. Modern humans, however, need a good grounding in elimination basics, starting from childhood.

Babies often get red in the face, grimace or grunt during bowel movements. As long as the stool is soft and the baby is not in pain, this isn’t cause for alarm. However, there are other signs that could indicate your baby is constipated.

A breast-fed infant may change her bowel pattern, passing fewer, harder stools during the transition to solid foods. The switch to cow’s milk and dairy products may also have a binding effect. Watch the diet carefully; provide whole, organic baby foods should minimize this first experience with constipation.

Toilet training can also trigger constipation, particularly if the child isn’t ready. The child may respond to the parent’s efforts by holding onto the stool. This can lead to dry and compacted feces and painful bowel movements. A good strategy in this case is to hold off on toilet training a little longer. In the meantime, increasing the pure water, raw fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the child’s diet will help relieve and prevent constipation.

Part of the Process

Elimination is the last step in the digestive process. A food allergy, the after-effects of infection or immunization can cause a weak digestion pattern. The child may have a pale face and tend to sleep during the day. Another cause may be liver congestion, which prevents the normal flow of digested matter through the system. accumulated food can interfere with the digestive process. If you suspect either of these causes, see your natural health practitioner.

Usually we can prevent constipation with proper eating, living and awareness. As early as possible, we should help our children make the connection between what goes in and what goes out of their bodies.

All food, bad or good, goes into the mouth and works its way through the digestive system. This system involves the esophagus, the stomach, the small intestine and the large intestine. Another name for the large intestine is the bowel; it’s divided into the colon and the rectum.

The colon is shaped like an upside-down U. Its main function is to absorb water from the processed food residue from the small intestine. Part of the food remnants is decomposed in the colon by intestinal bacteria. (Up to half the stool weight can consist of bacteria, including lactobacillus and bifido bacteria.) These bacterial swelling agents bind toxic heavy metals, pesticides and harmful decomposing materials that are formed in the intestines. They also provide bulk, which smooths and speeds up the elimination process.

The rectum is a reservoir for feces, which is stored until the urge to evacuate the bowel is felt.

Constipation occurs when this process happens too slowly. (A healthy colon eliminates waste in six to 18 hours.) Children who are raised with a low-fiber, high-sugar diet develop sluggish peristaltic muscles (the muscles that move food through the digestive system.) They may begin life in a constant state of constipation of one degree or another. If they identify this as "normal," it could have drastic consequences for their health.

Don’t Hold It

"Normal" eating for adults should include four cups of fresh, raw vegetables, one cup of fruit, one bowl of whole-grain cereal and eight glasses of pure water. Children will of course eat less, but should have a similar ratio of food in their diet.

It’s important to go to the toilet when one feels the urge to go. It could take hours before the body gives another signal. If you ignore this natural signal often, chronic constipation results. This may seem basic, but think of how many times children are told to "hold it" because their bowel movements didn’t coincide with the timing of a car trip or an appropriate moment at school. Our society has been designed by constipated people who "hold it."

Other factors, including stress, can contribute to constipation. Occasional constipation may result, even when following a fibre-rich, whole foods diet. There are many natural solutions that are mild enough for children and which promote bowel health, not just symptomatic relief.

Certain fruits and vegetables double as excellent mild laxatives. A glass of lemon and hot water in the morning helps promote normal bowel function. Sauerkraut contains choline, which activates peristaltic movements. Foods rich in magnesium, such as dark green, leafy vegetables and figs, draw water into the stools, increasing their volume and softness. Papayas have a stimulating effect on the bowels and are mild enough to be fed to infants.

Prunes are a time-tested effective remedy. Soak five to 10 prunes overnight and take in the morning with the soaking water. Flax seeds are an excellent source of mucilaginous fibre. They absorb up to eight times their weight in water, thereby softening stools and making them easier to pass. The fibre of wheat bran, oat bran and psyllium husks also acts as a natural laxative. One tablespoon of licorice tea, twice daily for four days will soothe your child’s intestinal walls. A nursing mother can also take licorice tea and pass it on to her baby through her milk.

Syrup of figs, stewed prune juice and fresh pears will also help relieve constipation in a baby. Older children can eat figs, prunes, slippery elm, bananas, pears or licorice root.

Although there are some herbal laxatives mild enough for young children, they should never be given regularly to babies and toddlers. There is no substitute for early elimination awareness.



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD