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Constipation means a combination of infrequent bowel movements and the passing of hard motions. Food is normally actively passed down the intestines by regular wave-like contractions of the bowel (peristalsis). When the rectum is full, emptying (defecation) takes place as a reflex action. There is considerable variation in the frequency with which individuals open their bowels. Although it is quite usual for this to occur daily, a less frequent movement is quite harmless and should be considered to be perfectly normal so long as the motions do not become painfully hard to pass.

The diet should contain enough roughage (cabbage, oranges, bran, etc.) to stimulate normal peristalsis. Adequate fluid intake should be maintained because, if the child becomes dehydrated, excess fluid will be absorbed from the bowel, and a very hard motion will be produced.

Chronic constipation

If constipation continues, the muscles in the rectum gradually become stretched and lose their power to contract . There is usually a psychological and often a physical reason for this condition and medical advice should be sought before the problem becomes prolonged. Sometimes the doctor may suggest the physical emptying of the bowel by means of an enema (a fluid that is injected into the bowel), following which efforts need to be made to ensure regular emptying.

Medication : Over–use of laxatives is not only unnecessary but counter – productive as it frequently makes the constipation last longer. Short – term use of a mild preparation such as Milk or Magnesia may be appropriate to maintain a soft stool to avoid painful defecation, but it should never become a routine just in order to keep the bowels ‘regular’.

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