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Constipation in Children
Constipation usually means difficulty passing stool; decreased frequency of bowel movements or hard, dry stools. Constipation is a common problem in childhood.
Signs that a child may be constipated include:
pain and pressure when going to the toilet. Hard stools can tear the lining of the anus, causing pain and bleeding.
- diarrhea or soiling. When the bowel is blocked, such as in constipation, the body tries to pass a bowel movement by becoming fluid and moving around the blocked area. During physical training, the child may have traces of underwear or soil. Constipation can also cause a lack of sensation in the anus muscle itself, so the feeling of needing to go to the toilet disappears.
- stomach or abdominal pain.
- other problems such as headaches, skin problems, difficulty concentrating, muscle aches, bad breath and fatigue. All of these are related to the reabsorption of toxins from the intestine and their retention in the general circulation.
What are the causes of constipation?
The most common cause of constipation is a diet high in processed foods and low in roughage. However, these are not the only reasons. Other reasons are as follows.
Not drinking enough fluids.
- Food allergy or intolerance. Allergies are often associated with grain and dairy products.
- Eating too many wheat-based products such as bread and pasta.
- An imbalance of bacteria in the digestive tract. A recent course of antibiotics or a diet high in processed foods and sugars can throw your gut flora out of balance.
- Children who are too involved in what they are doing sometimes ignore the urge to go to the toilet, causing the movement to become dry and difficult to pass.
- Ferrous sulfate is added to some foods such as rice cereal, formula and drinks such as Milo. It can cause constipation in sensitive children.
- Stress and anxiety. Like adults, children’s digestive tracts contract during times of stress. This can cause the bowels to move too quickly (causing diarrhea) or too slowly, causing too much fluid to be absorbed, resulting in constipation.
- Inadequate exercise. Exercise is necessary to activate the gastrointestinal muscles and move waste products through the intestines.
What can you do for constipation?
You need to treat the existing problem, i.e. clear the bowels of hard stools, and then work to prevent the situation from recurring. What you can do:
Massage promotes movement through the large intestine. Have the child lie on their back with their knees raised. With warm hands, press gently. Start at the right lower abdomen, move up towards the ribcage, then across the abdomen and down the left side. This is roughly the direction of the bowel and is useful for stimulating the muscles to move hard stools.
- Use juice to help your bowels. Juices can include plums, apples and lemons. Spinach, watercress and dandelion leaves can be added to milder juices such as carrot, cucumber, beet and celery. They can be used in small quantities or diluted.
- Increase your intake of fiber-rich foods. These include vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, while reducing the consumption of sweets, chocolate, cakes, bread and white rice. Don’t overdo it with nuts, as this can actually cause constipation.
- Eat regularly so that your bowels get into the habit of moving at certain times of the day.
- Increase the amount of water the child drinks. Children should drink 6-8 glasses a day. The use of milk, pulp and soft drinks can cause additional problems, so use filtered water and fresh natural juices as much as possible.
- Encourage plenty of physical activity.
- Increase the number of friendly bacteria in the gut by using probiotics.
- Remind children to go to the toilet.
- Change the child’s position when he goes to the toilet. Place a small stool in front of the toilet so they can put their feet on it. This raises their knees and changes the angle of their hips. This places the baby in a position that requires less pushing. Squatting is the ideal position for all people to defecate.
- Eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium is important for muscle contraction, and magnesium deficiency can cause constipation. Foods rich in magnesium include nuts, whole grains and beans.
- Add some psyllium seeds to your diet. Children prone to constipation may benefit from a daily dose of psyllium seeds. It is a fiber that helps regulate bowel movements. When mixed with water or diluted juice, they can produce larger and softer stools. To work effectively, the seeds need to absorb water, so the child needs to drink plenty of fluids. The dose for children from 3 years of age is 1 teaspoon twice a day, added to diluted juice.
- Talk to your child about any problems or stress they may be experiencing. Expressing concerns and gaining reassurance can greatly reduce the stress that can cause or contribute to constipation.
You need to see a healthcare professional if the constipation is difficult to relieve, if it is associated with a lot of pain or blood, or if the child is doing everything right and the problem persists. Your healthcare professional will consider the possibility of allergic problems and should investigate further.
Brewin, L. 2002, Natural health for children. ABC books.
Hoffmann, D. 2000, A new holistic medicinal plant. Element Pub.
Romm, A. 2000, Naturally healthy babies and children. Books on the floor.
Smith, L., Walker, L. and Brown, E. 2002, Natural pharmacy for children. Three Rivers Press
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