This post is part of a continuing series, The Top Fifteen Things a New Parent Should Know which was written to the parents of a particular baby boy who has Down syndrome. These are the things I wish I had known from the beginning when my own daughter was born.
Constipation is a gut wrenching problem in our kids. Literally. If you spend any time at all on Down syndrome related forums and email lists, you will see this problem discussed. Yes, we moms actually get on the Internet and talk about poop.
There is a comprehensive collection of parent solutions to constipation elsewhere on this site, so I won’t list them here. Instead, I’ll look at three areas to focus on preventively to keep the gut healthy.
First, a healthy gut is lined with a carpet of microvilli on the ends of the absorptive cells. These tiny tendrils produce enzymes for digestion. A healthy gut hosts billions of friendly bacteria which also digest food, and which form a protective wall against unfriendly bacteria and parasites which attempt to set up residence. These friendly bacteria form an important part of the immune system. Finally, a healthy gut has regular, strong peristalsis, the rhythmic squeezing that moves food through the gut.
Problems in any of these areas are interconnected. (more…)