* My son, who is 10, suffers from constipation. His diet is reasonably good — he has Weetabix for breakfast and eats brown sliced bread for lunch — but refuses to eat fruit or drink water. At the moment he has a bowel movement twice a week. This can’t be normal.
>>Constipation is a very common problem in children and it’s important to recognise and tackle it early on so that it does not become an ongoing problem.
As he seems to be suffering from constipation for some time, you should arrange to bring your son to your GP to make sure there is no underlying cause.
Your doctor will also be able to offer you advice and information on how best to treat your son’s constipation.
It is very important to make sure that he drinks water regularly throughout the day. It is also important he has a balanced diet which should include plenty of food that is rich in fibre, particularly fruit and vegetables.
Having a regular toilet habit at a time when he is not rushed, perhaps when he comes home from school or before he goes to bed, can also help. You might try some of the following suggestions:
* Explain what is happening in simple terms and what he needs to do to solve the problem.
* Encourage him to take either a fruit or vegetable portion with every meal. Stewed fruit makes for a healthy dessert and smoothies (when properly made) also contain a lot of fibre as well as fluid.
* Encourage him to have porridge, muesli or other high-fibre cereals for breakfast.
* Carbohydrate is important for energy but it needs to be balanced with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Too much pasta, potatoes and white bread may make the constipation worse. Encourage wholemeal forms of carbohydrate.
* Make sure he takes plenty of fluid throughout the day — water is much better than sweet drinks.
>>Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which was traditionally used as a painkiller. It has a number of complicated effects, some of them helpful; some of them potentially harmful.
As well as being a painkiller it has a protective effect on the lining of blood vessels, and it helps to prevent blood clots by thinning the blood. It also affects the lining of the stomach, where it has the effect of weakening the stomach’s defence against acid, which can leave it vulnerable to ulcers.
For people who have had a heart attack or stroke in the past, taking regular aspirin significantly reduces the risk of having another serious episode. However, the most recent research has shown that, for people who have never had heart problems, the risk of serious bleeding, usually from ulcers, as a result of taking regular aspirin, outweighs any heart benefits. The most recent advice from the European Society of Cardiology in 2012 recommends against taking regular aspirin for prevention, as the risk is greater than the benefits that it gives.
Deciding who should take regular aspirin can be complicated, and if you are thinking about it you should make an appointment to see your GP. Your own medical history and risk of a heart attack and your family’s medical history is important, as is any medical condition that could increase your risk of bleeding, and other medications you may be taking. You need to discuss all these areas with your GP, who will advise you as to whether taking a daily aspirin is appropriate.