Is the Child Resisting Toilet Training? Or Merely Constipated?

Yesterday, a friend of mine told me about a four-year-old boy who was “resisting” being toilet trained. She said that the child would urinate in the toilet but that he’d “hold it” for three days rather than defecate in his potty. I told her that I couldn’t imagine that anybody who eats a high-fiber vegan diet could “hold it” for three days, even if he tried, unless he was taking morphine or some other drug that shuts down gut motility. I said that the child’s problem didn’t sound to me like resistance to potty training. It sounded like constipation. His refusal to go on the potty probably reflects the fact that his bowel movements are uncomfortable or even agonizingly painful, and it’s probably because he’s being fed dairy products and a lot of processed food. She admitted that the poor child was being fed cow’s milk and wasn’t eating much fruit and vegetables or even whole grains.

Think about it. If you are a toddler or preschooler and have had some painful experiences on the potty, wouldn’t you avoid the potty the way you’d avoid any torture device? Painful experiences have trained the child to avoid the potty. I can only hope that the poor child’s caregivers aren’t adding to the child’s misery by punishing him for failing to use the potty.

Bowel movements aren’t supposed to hurt. If a child’s bowel movements are infrequent or difficult, there is something wrong. The usual cause of the problem is the diet.

Cow’s milk and other dairy products are a common cause of severe constipation in children. The digestion of casein, which is the major protein in cow’s milk, produces protein fragments that are called casomorphins because they have drug effects that are similar to those of morphine. Besides being slightly addictive, casomorphins can cause severe constipation. Fortunately, human beings do not need to consume any cow’s milk products at all, ever.

A low-fiber diet is also a common contributing cause of constipation in children. Animal-based foods all contain zero fiber, and refined plant foods contain very little fiber. As a result, the standard American diet, which is based on animal-source foods (including dairy products) and refined foods, is a recipe for constipation. It is also a major cause of appendicitis, which can be deadly. If all of the foods that a child is offered contain fiber, the child will eat fiber.

Often, a child’s refusal to use the potty is viewed as a problem with the child’s behavior. However, I think that when a child doesn’t poop for three or more days, it’s probably the caregiver, not the child, who is misbehaving. The caregiver is probably failing to feed the child the kind of diet that would enable the child to have normal bowel movements. Any healthcare professional who suggests drug treatments–even over-the-counter laxatives–or behavioral interventions without teaching the caregivers how to correct the child’s diet is also misbehaving, in my humble opinion.