Your child’s toilet habits may not be a favorite topic in your daily conversation, but it is a strong indicator of your child’s wellbeing. Most of the times as doting parents we are worried about nourishing our children with the right nutrition without paying attention to what comes out at the other end.

Studies show a strong connection between what’s happening in the gut and your brain. An unhealthy gut can translate into complications such as anxiety, poor memory, attention issues and more. Even though your child’s poop is a waste, it is an indicator of how well they digest food and whether their gut microbes are in balance.

Here’s how you can tell if your child’s stool is normal and if not what you can do to respond:

1. Normal Bowel Movements

Your child should poop at least once a day without straining or pain. It should take under 5 to 10 minutes to empty their bowels. The stool should be brown and shaped like a tube or banana. It should clean up easily without clogging or sticking to the basin. Gas, burps and stomach aches should be minimum.

2. Undigested Food in Stool

Chewing food properly is the basic start of the digestion process. Proper digestion will not take place if your child rushes food into their mouth. Also, it indicates that there isn’t sufficient stomach acid to break down the food properly.

How to Respond: Set aside ample time for the child and ensure that they chew their food properly to encourage better digestion. To stabilize stomach acid production, incorporate ginger and limit processed foods. A balanced diet rich in healthy fruits and vegetable will do the trick.

3. Small Pellets or Dark Brown Balls

Infrequent, hard and painful stools are an indicator of constipation. When the stool sits in the colon for a prolonged time, water is reabsorbed back in the intestinal wall and so it becomes hard and shaped like small balls. Constipation can be caused due to inadequate nutrition especially a diet low in vegetables and fiber, stress, imbalanced gut flora, food allergy, dehydration or parasite.

How to Respond: Encourage the child to drink more water and include healthy vegetables, probiotics, and a diet rich in fiber to improve gut flora. Raisins, prunes and Ayurvedic formulation of Triphala help to support regular bowel movements.

4. Loose Stools

If you find your child’s stool to be too soft, mushy, liquidy or too frequent, it might be a sign of diarrhea. This can happen due to infections, food sensitivities, low stomach acid, stomach virus and even when taking antibiotics drugs.

How to Respond: Help to firm up the stool by consuming food on the BRAT diet – Bananas, Rice, Apples, and Toast. Arrowroot is also another natural herb that you can try to soothe digestion problems. Consume foods rich in probiotics to rebalance the child’s gut flora.

5. Stool lighter in color with greasy appearance and floats

This may be a sign of poor nutrient absorption especially fat. It can occur due to digestion problems when children consume too much oil.  It also signifies absorption problems in the intestines due to an unhealthy gut. Small bits of white matter in the poop can signify fungal infections like candida yeast. 

How to Respond: Watch your child’s processed fat intake, it is OK to consume healthy fats like ghee, olive oil, coconuts, etc, however, when it comes to processed foods that contain trans fat and unhealthy saturated fat, it is a big no-no. Promote greater gut health with favorable food for gut microbiomes and if they still don’t resolve with dietary changes, consult with your physician.

6. Toxic Poop

If your child’s tool contains blood or mucus, you should see a healthcare practitioner promptly. If you see dark stools that stink too much it can mean that your child is ingesting chemicals from unhealthy processed foods.

How to Respond: Consider a dietary reset to lower your child’s toxic load. Encourage them to eat natural foods that are fresh, organic and wholesome.

Every poop can tell a story and so by keeping an eye on what comes out, parents can better understand their children’s digestive health and take the right measures to improve it.

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