written by: Rose Kivi
• edited by: Diana Cooper
• updated: 1/27/2011
Constipation caused by hard stools is a common problem. Stool softeners relieve constipation by pulling water into the intestines to soften fecal matter so it passes through the intestinal tract easier. Using a home remedy stool softener is often effective at relieving constipation.
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Karo Syrup as a Stool Softener for Infants and Toddlers
Corn syrup, popularly known by the brand name Karo, has been a long standby home remedy stool softener for babies. There is some disagreement among medical professionals about the safety of giving infants under the age of one year old corn syrup. Dr. Jay L. Hoecker warns on MayoClinic.com that corn syrup may contain botulism. However, Dr. Randolph from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center says that "the risk of botulism is theoretical but not well established." To be safe, consult with your physician before giving your infant corn syrup.
Pediatrician, Dr. Jeffrey W. Hull suggests adding corn syrup to baby formula. He explains that the excess corn syrup softens the stool without getting digested, since the infant's body is busy digesting the sugars from the formula. Add 2 teaspoons of corn syrup to each bottle of formula says Dr. Hull and adjust the dosage higher or lower depending on how soft your infants stools are. Continue adding the corn syrup at each feeding until your babies stools are consistently soft. You can also add corn syrup to a bottle filled with breast milk. Add the corn syrup to a cup of fruit juice or water for older children who are not bottle fed.
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One sign of dehydration is hard stools. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to soften stools. The small intestine absorbs water, making fecal matter softer and easier to pass through the intestinal tract. Drink eight 8-oz glasses of water a day. You can substitute a couple of glasses of water with fruit juice, if desired. Prune juice is an excellent stool softener.
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Eat a diet rich in fiber. Fiber serves two purposes. It adds bulk to fecal matter to form well-shaped stools and it attracts water to fecal matter to help it pass through the intestinal tract. MedlinePlus recommends that older children and adults consume 20 grams to 35 grams of fiber a day. Whole-grain bread, oatmeal, brown rice, beans and whole fruits and whole vegetables are all fiber-rich foods. Eating a high-fiber diet may cause gas and bloating in some people. If gas and bloating becomes a problem, introduce fiber into your diet slowly, to allow your body time to get used to the dietary change.
Another way to increase fiber intake, besides through diet, is to take fiber supplements. Psyllium is an excellent high-fiber supplement that is derived from the plantagoovata plant. Metamucil is one popular fiber supplement brand that containspsyllium as a main ingredient. Follow the manufacturer's directions or your doctor's instructions on psyllium dosing.
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Exercise to stimulate movement in the intestinal tract. Fecal matter that sits too long in the intestines becomes dry and difficult to pass. Keeping your intestinal tract moving to encourage frequent elimination, helps keep stools soft. Infants, children and adults can benefit from exercise. Walking, swimming and biking are good examples of exercise for older children and adults. For infant exercise, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends adult-supervised water play, where the infant is encouraged to kick his or her legs.
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Stool Softener Medications
If a home remedy stool softener fails to soften stool and relieve constipation after one week, consult with a physician. Your physician may recommend over-the-counter or prescription stool softeners or laxatives. Do not take over-the-counter stool softener products without a doctor's advice. Failure to obtain relief from dietary changes is a possible sign of fecal impaction or other medical condition.
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MayoClinic.com; Jay L. Hoecker; Infant and Toddler Health; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/karo-syrup-for-constipation/AN01826
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; Dr. Randolph; Constipation in Children; http://www.rubinstein-taybi.org/bluebook/constipation.html
Dr. Jeffrey W.Hull; Constipation, Infant; http://www.drhull.com/EncyMaster/C/constipation_infant.html