Do you have questions about poop? Hosts Alok Patel and Bethany Van Delft are here to help:
“Should I worry if my baby isn’t going to the bathroom enough?” Knowing your child’s standard frequency of evacuation—whether it be 2-3 times a day or 2-3 times a week—is what’s most important. As long as your child’s poop is well-formed, not causing them any trouble to pass, and free of any worrisome markers (i.e., blood), then you probably don’t need to worry.
“Why can we hold onto poop better than pee?” The locations of where your body stores feces versus urine have different holding capacities. These “different containers” work differently, Alok explains. “If you try not to pee, a little bit might leak out. Your rectum can actually stretch and accommodate the stool, becoming like a poop reservoir.” The body also has an anorectal angle—a kink at the end of the gastrointestinal tract that stops poop from sliding out. When potty training a child, it helps to raise their knees a bit because it straightens out the anorectal angle, making poop easier to pass.
“What are the differences between laxatives?” There are many different types of laxatives, each helping you add more water to stool to make it easier to pass. Osmotic laxatives draw more fluid into stool; bulk-forming agents add fiber to stool; stimulant laxatives make your intestines contract faster, and lubricant laxatives line the wall of your gut so water doesn’t escape. Laxatives may seem like a quick fix, but they can be dangerous for young children. It’s best not to give children laxatives unless recommended by your doctor. And remember: Fruits and vegetables—nature’s laxatives—are excellent and safe alternatives.
“Why does poop smell worse when kids are sick?” Sure, poop almost always smells really bad. But when kids are sick, say with a bacterial infection, they’re more likely to produce gas that smells sulfuric (like rotten eggs). And children with malabsorption may pass gas and stool that includes fat and undigested bits from their food, which may smell worse than average poop. If either of these situations persists, it’s best to talk to your doctor.
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What's Up With Your Kid's Poop? We're Here to Answer
Published: June 8, 2021
Bethany Van Delft: One of the first gifts you get as a parent is when you open that diaper and you realize the type of stuff you’re gonna be dealing with. We’re talking about poop.
Alok Patel: Poop is a glorious substance.
Bethany Van Delft: Glorious?
Alok Patel: Glorious!
Bethany Van Delft: Okay. So how worried should I be if my kid is not going to the bathroom enough?
Alok Patel: Honestly you have to know your baby or your child’s normal. Some kids go to 2-3 times a day, others go 2-3 times a week. As long as the stools are still well formed and your child isn’t having trouble passing them, it’s usually not a problem. But if there’s a deviation from your child’s normal or if you have any questions, ask your doctor.
Bethany Van Delft: So if that’s true, why did I have to keep track of every poop and every pee for what seemed like months?
Alok Patel: Well, we definitely ask you to track all the excrement in the newborn period while babies are developing, or if there’s a special situation. In the newborn period, a breastfed baby can actually stool with every single feed. And then after about a month, because they absorb and digest breast milk so well, that’ll drop down to once every few days, maybe a week. Whereas formula-fed babies may actually stool with every feed for a longer period of time.
Bethany Van Delft: Alright, here’s one. Why is it that we can hold onto poop better than pee?
Alok Patel: Well, think about the differences in where pee and poop are being held.
Bethany Van Delft: No.
Alok Patel: Different containers for pee and poop. If you try not to pee, a little bit might leak out. Your rectum can actually stretch. If you decide not to poop, this thing will stretch and accommodate the stool and become like a poop reservoir.
Bethany Van Delft: That’s a fun visual.
Alok Patel: There’s one more thing I have to mention.
Bethany Van Delft: Oh my God, is it about poop? I can’t wait.
Alok Patel: The anorectal angle.
Bethany Van Delft: Did you pull that out of your butt?
Alok Patel: No, but it represents something in all of our butts. So the anorectal angle, as you can see, usually sits at about 90 degrees. And it makes it really hard for poop to leave your body. Which is the point. It holds it in. But when it’s time to go number two and you strain, you actually might straighten this angle enough to get the poop to evacuate, making it easier to drop down into the toilet.
This is why when children are potty training, it helps to bring their knees up, making it easier for them to go number two.
Bethany Van Delft: I hear a lot about laxatives. Like, what are the differences in laxatives?
Alok Patel: There’s so many types, and it can be overwhelming. Basically, laxatives are broken down into different groups about how they add more water or make stools easier to pass. You have osmotic laxatives, which basically draw more fluid into stool. Then you have bulk-forming agents, like metamucil, which add fiber, which are easier to pass. Then you have stimulant laxatives, which basically make your intestines contract more. You have lubricant laxatives, which literally line the walls of the gut so that water doesn’t leave.
Laxatives might seem harmless and like a quick fix, but they can be dangerous, especially for young children. So never give a laxative to a child unless it’s recommended by a doctor. And don’t go overboard with the laxatives. You want to use the smallest dose necessary to treat the constipation while reducing any potential risks. And for children three and younger, try using a different kind of laxative, like nature’s laxative — fruit. Think plums, pears, papaya, or prunes.
If you have any questions, call your doctor.
Bethany Van Delft: So, a friend of mine has a teenager who’s been complaining about pain in her bowels, bloating, constipation. What’s going on?
Alok Patel: This is a tough one. And I feel for your friend’s teenager cause it’s not comfortable. But this teenager should really talk to a doctor cause these symptoms could be part of a dozen different conditions. It could be something as simple as a dietary intolerance, it could be an acute or chronic illness. It could even be a medication side effect. It all depends.
Bethany Van Delft: Why does poop smell funkier when your kids are sick?
Alok Patel: Poop usually always smells not the best. But when kids are sick, it can smell especially weird. In some cases, kids with bacterial infection can actually produce more gas that smells like sulfur — and to us that can be like rotten eggs, super funky.
In other conditions, kids that have malabsorption or bad absorption of foods they eat, they might wind up passing extra gas, fat, undigested food and other nutrients which smell really weird in stool.
So if your kid’s poop smells like rotten eggs, really funky, or just plain different, talk to your doctor.
I’ve never had more trouble blowing up a balloon in my entire life. What on Earth is wrong with this balloon? Alright, I got this.
Hosted by: Alok Patel and Bethany Van Delft
Producer/Director: Ari Daniel
Producer/Camera: Emily Zendt
Production Assistance: Diego Arenas, Christina Monnen, Arlo Pérez, Amanda Willis
Senior Digital Editor: Sukee Bennett
Rights Manager: Hannah Gotwals
Business Manager: Elisabeth Frele
Managing Producer: Kristine Allington
Coordinating Producer: Elizabeth Benjes
Director of Audience Development: Dante Graves
Director of Public Relations: Jennifer Welsh
Legal and Business Affairs: Susan Rosen and Eric Brass
Director, Business Operations and Finance: Laurie Cahalane
Executive Producers: Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt
Kyle Staller, MD, MPH
Claire Zar-Kessler, MD
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