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Digestive Disorders

Infrquent bowel movements

05/27/2011

Question:

My 13 year old son is significantly developmentally disabled and non-verbal. Most of his life he has had bowel movements every third or fourth day. In most cases we have to encourage him to go. On occasion we have used suppositories. The stool is always normal in appearance and consistency and medium large. He never displays discomfort and when we do get him in the bathroom, he is still in diapers, he goes within 5 to 10 minutes. He eats like a normal 13 year old boy,ie LOTS, he loves fruit and vegetables. He will eat an entire head of broccoli and often does. I can`t think of a vegatable that he won`t eat. We have fish twice a week,poultry once, pasta once, beef and pork once. His diet is extremely healthy. He is on human growth hormone if that has any significance. Is this infrequency a problem?

Answer:

It is not uncommon for children with developmental disabilities to have infrequent bowel movements or constipation. Many children do not have the normal urge to defecate and they may need stimulants such as Exlax or milk of magnesia to stimulate bowel movements. If your child's stools are soft and easy to pass and his diet is well balanced with good fiber content, his normal stool pattern may simply be every 3 days. Certainly, if he were uncomfortable or had large caliber stools a stimulant given daily may be sufficient to make him evacuate stool on a more frequent basis.

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Response by:

James E Heubi, MD James E Heubi, MD
Professor and Associate Chair of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati