Building Block 3: Exercise
It’s good for your heart, it’s good for your lungs, it’s good for your immune system -- it makes perfect sense that exercise would be good for your digestive system as well. So the final piece of the digestive health puzzle for your child is plenty of physical activity.
“Exercise just helps keep things moving along, as opposed to when you’re sitting there,” says Pinkos. “Any physical activity will stimulate activity in the gastrointestinal tract and help you to digest your food better.”
When they’re exercising or just very busy playing, kids may not want to take a break to go to the bathroom. Especially if they’re younger, you may have to make sure that they stick to a regular toilet schedule, since frequently holding in urine and waste can lead to bowel problems and constipation.
Another factor that can play a big role in digestive health, particularly for kids, is stress. “Stress can definitely lead to constipation,” says Goldberg. “It’s often also a factor in other digestive problems, like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.”
If you’re working with your child on toilet issues, don’t put on too much pressure. “Sometimes children will retain their stool because they’re afraid of potty training, or it hurt at one point and they’re a little fearful, so they make themselves not go,” says Goldberg. “It’s very important that if kids are potty training, or they’ve had a bad bathroom experience, that you don’t make it overwhelming for them. Talk to your child and help them feel reassured and relaxed, and consult your pediatrician.”