One of the most frequently asked questions that I hear from my peer moms is: “What to do if your child is constipated.”  Some of them are looking for a short-term solution, but most are wondering about what to do in the long run to help their kids.  My children rarely have any problems, so I would like to share some insights on what in my opinion can help.

Children of any age can have constipation issues: newborns, toddlers, and older children.  There are typically two main reasons for it: child’s diet and gut flora issues – and frequently both are at work at the same time.

Diet

Grains

5419299_mBabies on breast milk rarely have any complications, and most of the time problems start when dietary fiber is introduced to their diet. Children’s intestines are very delicate.   When veggies (especially broccoli and cabbage), fruits, breads, pasta, cereals, rice, cheerios, crackers, etc. come into babies’ diet, their digestive system gets overloaded.  Children snack a lot, eating chips, rice thins, crackers, bread and gold fish crackers.  Those small snacks such as rice puffs, cheerios and crackers are the worst in my opinion, because it is very hard to keep track of how many of them babies eat per day.   Reducing consumption of grains in any form can help to unload child’s colon.  Cutting fiber slowly and substituting it with other foods: yogurts, kefir, eggs, meat, broth, soups, some fresh vegetables and fruits, can have a great positive effect.

Healthy Fats

Increased consumption of healthy fats will help your child.  Coconut oil, flaxseed oil, cod liver oil, avocados, and organic butter are all excellent sources that not only help with digestion, but also benefit children tremendously in other ways.

Milk

Cows milk should be cut out as well from your child’s diet.   Pasteurized cows milk cannot be digested properly and can cause constipation, allergies, and bloating.  If you like dairy, make sure yogurts in your fridge have no more than 2-3 ingredients, including real organic milk (goat preferably) and beneficial bacteria.  Just add some honey (as long as your child is older than 1 year old) or berries for sweetness.

Healthy Gut Flora

Our gut flora, (responsible for digestion and absorption of the nutrients, as well as the state of our immune system) gets killed by antibiotics, drinking tab water, pesticides and herbicides in our food, and using chlorinated pools.  To replenish child’s gut flora, probiotics could be taken following the course of the antibiotics, or as a preventive measure.  There are so many brands out there to choose from.  Any health store/organic store carries different kinds, depending on your needs and your child’s age.  It would take at least couple of months to replenish lost bacteria; however, most naturopaths would recommend taking them for longer periods of time.

Bathroom habits

The last very important rule that we often forget to teach our children is: “If you have to go, you go right away”.  No waiting till the game or movie is over, stopping at the nearest restaurant or a gas station rather than waiting for 10 minutes to get home. I have seen a lot of children who would go only on a special potty, or just at home, or only with a book (or worse, an iPad).   Untitled

All of these habits formed in the early childhood can interfere with healthy bathroom hygiene (which should really be “if you have to go, you go ASAP”).  Help your children avoid these problems, and make sure they are comfortable with the concept of going when they need to.  The earlier parents start, the better.  The best age in our experience has been from 12 months to 18 months, when children are exploring and do not experience fear or diaper dependence.

 

Quick fix remedies

At the end I wanted to summarize several quick fix recipes that would bring some immediate relief:

1. Prunes and dried apricots contain sorbitol that has stool-softening properties.  Unfortunately, it can help a few times only, until child’s body would addict to it.

2. Prepare some extra warm water with lemon or herbal tea that would help to soft child’s stool.

3. Try to cut dietary fiber as fast as possible – you may see the results in a matter if days.