A megacolon is a much enlarged colon that results from a reflexive fear or habit of clamping up against voiding. This is sometimes called “stool-hoarding,” and the behavior can become so automatic that it is NOT UNDER VOLUNTARY CONTROL. Parents and too many doctors can see all of this as representing willful behavior, which it is not. As a result, the colon becomes backed up, which results in constipation.
The danger of megacolon is a very possible rupture of the colon, along with an internal infection. Did you know there are some children with half their body weight in feces? Megacolons are frequently associated with difficulty in bladder control, because of the mixing of pressure cues, pelvic floor dysfunction, and pressure through the abdominal region.
The earlier bowel control is achieved, the less likely an enlarged or megacolon may result and can be avoided altogether.
Children are especially subject to forming a megacolon during stressful periods, such as:
- Toilet training
- Start of school
- Prolonged periods of parental conflict
- Extended use of diapers and training pants
Fun fact: Cats can also develop megacolons. They may hold stool for prolonged periods before feeling that it is safe to poop. Holding back stool repeatedly can result in a buildup of dried putty or stone-like stool, resulting in painful bowel movements and an enlarged colon. Like humans, cats seek privacy and calm in order to go in a litter box.
When Dr. Collins restricted his cat’s feedings to a half-hour once in the morning and again in the evening, it made predicting his cat’s litter habits a snap. Similarly, physicians who suggest sitting your child after a meal also have the idea of this as the best time to take advantage of your child’s most likely time for the urge to go. However, your child’s habits may be unpredictable in today’s busy culture. For most school age children, the best time is usually right after school and a snack.