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Constipation in Children

Constipation in adults can be uncomfortable and painful. How much worse is it then, to see a child in such duress? Children often cannot communicate what is wrong with them and are more likely to ignore minor aches and pains or not mention them for fear of missing playtime or other desirable activities. Also, constipation in children can be caused by stressers affecting their regular bowel movements.

constipation in childrenIn some cases, constipation in children is caused by a medical condition such as hypothyroidism or diabetes. Most cases of childhood constipation, however, are due to improperly balanced diets and minor mental stress. Teaching a child to reduce or manage stress early on, as well as enabling the child with good eating habits, will help to prevent constipation in the future.

Symptoms and Effects of Constipation in Children

Children who experience less than 3 bowel movements per week are subject to having constipation. Children who produce difficult bowel movements are subject to having constipation. Although not universal, similar patterns of constipation in children can arise.

Watch for the following signs of constipation in children:

  • Infants may extend their legs and squeeze their buttocks to prevent bowel movements
  • Small toddlers and children often rise up on their toes, rocking, holding their butt and legs stiff
  • Small bouncing movements in the attempt of suppressing the urge while sitting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diminished appetite or nausea
  • Bed-wetting, frequent urination, or complete incontinence
  • Frequent urinary tract infections

Some children experience the onset of constipation due to mild stress factors, like simply not having enough time to perform a bowel movement. The result is—these kids are “taught” to hold it in for the sake of convenience and this can become a lifelong habit. By doing so, children set their bodies up for improper digestion and poor nutrient absorption in the future.

Constipation in children may also lead to IBD’s (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), such as ulcerative colitis, in their early adult years. Constipation in children may also lead to Encopresis (false diarrhea) wherein either the sphincter is so weakened the child loses control or severe blockage permits only loose or liquid fecal matter to pass through.

In both Encopresis and false diarrhea, the lack of bodily control over the sphincter may contribute to further emotional harm. If children begin suppressing bowel movements, or show signs of abdominal pain or nausea, this may indicate a serious underlying mental stress in their lives.

Diet for Childhood Constipation

In this fast food, no time, rush-rush world, we seem to be substituting smart nutritional values for easy to eat “tube” foods. Many pre-processed foods contain ingredients that actually promote constipation and other digestive ailments.

It all comes down to shelf life. Chemically processed and packaged foods simply last longer. In our fast-paced society, grabbing a quick snack bar or food on a stick makes it easier to reach the next situation or appointment e.g. the office, school, sports, etc. on time. However, these garbage foods are a critical factor of the poor nutritional standards creeping into the lives of children and young adults.

Preventative tips for constipation in children:

  1. Never give adult laxatives to children. The effects of an adult drug on a child can be magnified many-fold.
  2. In toddlers and older children, a bowl of natural bran cereal may relieve some bowel obstruction problems
  3. Liquids! Purified water is the best substance you can drink. Stay away from anything with caffeine, as this can irritate the bowels. Remember this simple rule of thumb—anything other than water requires water to break it down.
  4. One tablespoon of corn syrup in an 8 oz glass of purified water will help stimulate the intestines and colon
  5. Drinking organic honey in a glass of milk twice a day can also promote normal and healthy bowel movements

Once an episode of constipation is finished, begin monitoring the child’s diet with more fervor. Substitute processed snacks with fresh fruit. Dried fruits are not as good as they have little or no water in them and this may cause more blockages. If you feed your child dried fruits, give them plenty of fresh water to wash it down.

In younger kids, don’t push the issue of toilet training too soon. Their bodies are rapidly changing. Being able to process solid foods is still a bit tricky until age three or four. Plus, the emotional duress of giving up diapers may inhibit your child’s ability to digest food well, and this can easily lead to constipation in children.

Junk Food and a Sedentary Lifestyle – The Building Blocks of Poor Health

Junk food has no nutritional value, hence the “junk” part of the name. The high-sugar filler foods may satisfy a temporary craving, but they also lead to the “need” for more processed foods and sugars just as in addiction. Natural foods, including organic fruits and raw vegetables, provide a natural form of sugar in the amounts your body can utilize. Many of these healthful items will also satisfy your psychological need for sweets.

If taken in moderation, junk food can still be in enjoyed in very small amounts on an infrequent basis. However, fast food is no substitute for an organically home-cooked meal. Proper diet will almost certainly aid in preventing constipation in children.

After meals, constipation in children can be further avoided by encouraging the child to be active for at least twenty minutes. A simple walk or play activity together with your child will help both of you properly process and digest food. Moreover, this is an opportunity for both of you to benefit psychologically, emotionally, and physically. Increased activity means the body can make better use of what it has just ingested, and this also helps lower the craving for sweets as “energy food”.

Decades of research has expressed that leading a sedentary lifestyle early on can lead to a multitude of health problems as children grow into teenagers and young adults. Not all of the instances of constipation in children stem from physical problems. Poor feelings of self-esteem can aggravate emotional issues. By modeling for your child that an active lifestyle (with a variety of stimulating exercises on a regular basis) is best, you will help them more than you may realize.

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