Encopresis is also known as stool holding or soiling and happens when the child holds back his/her bowel movements and will cause impacted stools to gather in the colon as well as the rectum. Once the colon is filled with hardened stool, some of the liquid stool may escape around the hardened stool out of the anus, thus staining the underwear.
Encopresis usually happens to children after the age 4 when the child is already familiar on how to use the toilet. Encopresis is a symptom of a chronic constipation. It can also be a result of developmental or emotional problems. Encopresis can be classified into primary and secondary. Primary encopresis occurs in a child who has never been trained in using the toilet while secondary encopresis develops in a child after having been successfully trained in using the toilet.
Symptoms of encopresis
- Experiencing constipation with dry, hard stool
- The leakage of stool or liquid stool on the underwear and if the leakage is large, it can be mistaken as diarrhea.
- Passing out of a large-sized stools that cause clogging of the toilet
- Avoiding passing out of bowel movements
- Diminished appetite along with abdominal pain
- Long periods of time between bowel movements reaching up to a week
- Repeated urinary tract infections
Causes of encopresis
- Chronic constipation where the stool is hard, dry and painful to pass out which causes the child to avoid going to the toilet and makes the problem worse.
- Emotional stress can also cause encopresis in children such as stress from premature training of using the toilet and some changes in life like a divorce of parents or a birth of a baby.
A child suffering from encopresis can experience a range of emotions such as embarrassment, frustration, anger and shame. When a child is teased by friends or punished by adults, he/she will feel depressed and will have low self-esteem. An early treatment like guidance from a mental health provider helps in preventing the social and emotional effect of encopresis.
Treatment and home remedies
- Let the child eat a diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and foods high in fiber which helps soften the stools. Feed the child whole grains which are brown.
- Let the child drink plenty of water in order to keep the stool from becoming hard. If you want to learn how to ease the symptoms, click here.
- Minimize consuming dairy products and fats
- Arrange toilet time for the child such as allowing the child to sit in the toilet every day for 10-15 minutes after breakfast and supper. The bowel becomes active about 30 minutes after eating, thus it is the natural time for the child to pass stool.
- Put a footstool near the toilet to make the child more comfortable and easy to change position of his/her legs and puts more pressure on the abdomen in order to make bowel movement easier.
- Stick with the program for several more months since the relapse rate for encopresis is high.