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January 5, 2010
My 3-year-old has severe pain and says he is "pooping." But his stool seems soft and there is often "diarrhea" in his diaper. He will be fine for a couple of days, then it starts again. Could this be a sign of something serious?
This is a very common situation and one that concerns parents and frequently brings them to the doctor. Alison Schonwald, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Children's Hospital, Boston has a great interest in helping families with problems like these. To help families, she has written The Idiot's Guide to Potty Training Problems. She kindly gave me her thoughts on this.
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January 4, 2010
I have heard about colon cleansers on the news and Internet. When—if ever—is colon cleansing a good idea?
A hundred years ago, it was felt that a daily bowel movement was important to good health. Prolonged retention of stool in the colon was thought to release toxins into the body and possibly be associated with colon cancer and other maladies. This was a driving force leading to the establishment of the breakfast cereal industry.
We now recognize that there is little difference in health between individuals who have three bowel movements a day and one bowel movement every three days—though we still do believe that adding fiber to the diet decreases the risk of constipation and helps to lower cholesterol. Whole grains provide better nutrition and are released into the body more slowly, thereby preventing reactive hypoglycemia. Apples, prunes, and bulking agents such as Metamucil, Citrucel, or FiberCon promote bowel regularity and can prevent some of the cramps and episodes of diarrhea and constipation associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Actual cleansing of the bowel is only necessary in preparation for diagnostic procedures such as colonoscopy or elective surgical procedures on the intestinal tract. Bulk electrolyte mixtures such as MiraLax can be taken in small quantities to keep bowels regular or in larger quantities to provide watery diarrhea, removing the vast majority of fecal material in the colon.