Back in November 2011, I explained that children who "refuse" to have bowel movements in the potty or are "holding" their stool for days on end aren't misbehaving, they're constipated. Recently, I saw some published studies (click here and here) that showed that constipation can also cause pants-wetting and bed-wetting accidents. Those studies showed that the problem could often be solved by giving the child laxatives. A better solution would be to feed the child a diet that would prevent constipation to begin with: a plant-based diet with no dairy products.
The standard American diet is a recipe for constipation. That's because it is low in fiber and includes dairy products. Food that comes from animals (meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products) contains no fiber at all. Processed foods contain little or no fiber, because the fiber has been stripped out by the processing. Dairy products are also a major cause of constipation. The major protein in cow's milk is called casein. When you digest casein, you first break the casein molecule down into smaller pieces of protein, called peptides. Some of the peptides that come from casein are called casomorphins because they act a lot like the drug morphine. Besides being slightly addictive, casomorphins slow down the muscles that are supposed to move food through the intestines. The result can be severe constipation. In some people, even small amounts of dairy foods (milk, cheese, yogurt) can cause constipation.
Many people in the United States have always eaten a constipating diet. As a result, they may think that it's normal to go for more than two days without a bowel movement. They may think that it's normal for bowel movements to hurt. Parents are often unaware that they themselves are constipated. They might be even less aware that their school-age or teenage children are also constipated. If a child is passing small amounts of stool frequently, the parents may have no clue that the poor child's rectum is distended with stool. As a result, the parents may have no clue as to why the child is wetting the bed.
A constipated person's rectum may be so enlarged that there's not enough room for the bladder. As a result, the bladder simply cannot hold much urine. The pressure from the enlarged rectum can also put abnormal pressure on the nerves that serve the bladder. When you add these two problems together, the result can be loss of bladder control.
Of course, constipation can cause far more serious problems than bed-wetting. Constipation can also cause hemorrhoids and painful anal fissures. It can even cause appendicitis, which can be deadly. If the constipation goes on for years, it can cause other kinds of problems, such as varicose veins. Fortunately, constipation can easily be cured by switching to a high-fiber, dairy-free diet.
Many doctors are convinced that constipation results from people "holding it" for days on end. Dr. John McDougall debunked that idea. In his book Dr. McDougall's Digestive Tune-Up, he wrote: "One of my medical textbooks states that constipation is caused by failure to answer the urge to defecate. I challenge anyone to ignore the urge after following my dietary recommendations for just a couple of days."