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Childhood Constipation

baby-constipationChildren can become afflicted with constipation pretty easily. Today’s family has so many obstacles to developing healthy eating habits, it’s a wonder children don’t become constipated more often.

A child is considered to be constipated when they have three or fewer bowel movements a week. He or she will have difficult bowel movement s and their stool will generally be large, dry, and hard. Childhood constipation does not require a visit to a doctor, but you should be aware of the differences between a harmless case and a serious health condition.

To illustrate, most cases of childhood constipation last only a day or two. If your child’s constipation lasts longer than two weeks however, they have chronic constipation and you’ll have to intervene to resolve the underlying health problem.

Common Causes of Childhood Constipation

Today’s children are left to their own devices moreso than any previous generation. Many families require multiple incomes to maintain the lifestyles they perceive as being “successful”. You may think extra money means you can provide better nutrition for your kids, but this increased earning poses a dietary problem for the whole household.

Poor Nutritional Choices

At one time, mom was waiting for their child to come home from school with a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of grape juice ready on the counter. Now, children often arrive home hours before either parent. This leaves the refrigerator and pantry open to the child’s momentary and often nutrition-less cravings.

More often than not, kids will choose on the side of sugar and salt—they choose what tastes good over what’s good for them. Diets high in processed sugars, preservatives, and man-made chemicals are the leading cause for childhood constipation. Most children eat a sugarcoated cereal for breakfast. Throughout the day, your child has access to candy, colas, and other empty calorie treats from vending machines at school (positioned there because of lucrative contracts with the district). After dinner, most families feel they’ve “earned” a snack like cake or ice cream … every day!

Some foods you may think are good for your child can cause constipation. Bananas, carrots, yogurt, and cheese are known to give children constipation if consumed in large quantities. These foods are very healthful otherwise, so just monitor your kids’ bowel movements if they eat them now and then. You can modify their consumption habits if a problem begins to arise.

Not Enough Water

Your child very probably isn’t obtaining the dietary fiber needed to aid in their bowel movements. Drinking large amounts of milk in place of purified water can also cause childhood constipation. This relates back to the soda issue as well, because anything kids drink in place of water requires water to break down in the tummy.

Childhood Lethargy = Lifelong Obesity

Sometimes, kids don’t want to interrupt recreation with a trip to the bathroom, so they begin to develop the bad habit of holding it until the urge passes. This practice keeps the stool in the colon and it’ll just continue to harden the longer it’s there. Ironically, today’s children don’t get as much exercise from playtime anyway. Computer games, the Internet, and television are like chains around the ankles of America’s youth. This lack of exercise contributes greatly to the epidemic of childhood constipation.

Imitating Bad Behavior

A child’s bad eating habits almost always mirror those of the parent. With the present economy, it’s more affordable to purchase processed and chemically laden foods rather than fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Therefore, childhood constipation is literally a microcosm of adult constipation—if the parent eats garbage, chances are they feed it to their kids as well. Sadly, many adults do not recognize they are obese and this “blindness” extends to parents wanting their kids to look like them even when that form is dramatically unhealthy.

Effects of Constipation on Children

Childhood constipation can have many negative health effects:

  • Irritability
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Excessive gas
  • Lack of appetite
  • Cramping
  • Anal fissures
  • Bloated or hard abdomen

Remedies for Constipated Children

You can help your child avoid constipation or ease its symptoms several different ways.

  1. Increase your child’s water intake.
  2. Get them off the couch and outside for plenty of exercise daily. Exercise stimulates the digestive system and can kick start a sluggish colon.
  3. They can’t eat junk if you don’t buy it.

Reducing the amount of junk food you purchase at the grocery store is perhaps the most vital component of avoiding childhood constipation. It may be difficult to monitor your child’s eating habits while they’re at school, but you have complete control at home. Don’t be an enabler to your child’s poor eating habits. Buy fresh fruits and locally grown vegetables instead of candy and chips and educate them to eat likewise at school or friends’ homes. Introduce your children to a high fiber diet.

Studies have shown that eating organic, high fiber foods can greatly improve everyone’s health. If you want your children to be as healthy as possible, teach them to make correct choices as early as possible. The lessons they learn now will guide their decisions throughout their lives. Constipation can become a difficult problem if ignored, especially for children.

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