Kids With ADHD Often Prone to Bowel Problems: Study
Bodily cues often overlooked, experts say
Lorber said children with ADHD also might digest food more slowly or irregularly than children without ADHD. "Physiologically, that can lead to problems that cause constipation or fecal incontinence," he said.
Parents can help by setting consistent times for their child to go to the bathroom, such as before going to school or to bed, or before a long car trip, Lorber said.
He also said parents shouldn't "yell at their children for 'accidents.'"
Dr. William Muinos, associate director of pediatric gastroenterology at Miami Children's Hospital in Florida, agreed that children with ADHD often are distracted and forget to go to the bathroom.
"What we do is place them on lubrication therapy -- medication that will lubricate the bowel to help stimulate defecation," he said. "The other thing we do is simple behavior modification." This involves teaching the child to go to the bathroom at specific times, usually twice a day -- once before going to school and once in the evening, he said.
For the study, Nylund's team collected data on nearly 750,000 children, aged 4 to 12 years, who had a parent on active military duty. Among these children, nearly 33,000 were identified as having ADHD.
The researchers found that 4.1 percent of the children with ADHD suffered from constipation, compared with 1.5 percent of children without the condition.
In addition, 0.9 percent of the children with ADHD suffered from fecal incontinence, compared with 0.15 percent of children without ADHD.
Even when adjusted for factors such as age, gender and birth order, the researchers found the risk for fecal incontinence was more than six times greater among kids with ADHD and the risk for constipation was almost three times higher.
Although the research showed an association between ADHD and increased instances of constipation and incontinence, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.