A day without a bowel movement isn’t necessarily a cause of alarm, but if your child is experiencing chronic constipation then your little one needs attention. Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems affecting children these days. If this problem is not treated appropriately, it can cause harmful effects on the child’s health. It can cause physical as well as emotional distress in childhood, and this can have an impact on the lives of children, particularly in the young child for years to come. Constipation is a difficulty in passing the stool, which is a common problem in children. A constipated child has infrequent bowel movements and hard, dry stools that cause discomfort and pain. Approximately 5% of school-going children suffer from constipation. Around 90%-95% of constipation in children is functional, and the children are developmentally normal. Many children avoid going to the toilet because they are busy playing or in other activities, so when the stools remain in the colon for a long time the water is absorbed from the stool, thereby making it harder and dry.
Constipation is commonly observed in:
- a) Infants at weaning
- b) Toddlers acquiring toilet skills
- c) School-going aged children
The causes of constipation are usually related to the food and the drink that the child is consuming.
Causes of Constipation in Children
Here are some common causes of constipation in kids.
- Less water intake
- A low fiber intake in a diet can lead to constipation. A child who does not eat fruits and vegetables may suffer from it.
- Unhealthy diet, which comprises junk food and high-fat food.
- Underfeeding or malnutrition
- Toilet phobia or toilet training anxiety
- Excessive parental interventions
- Certain medicines and dietary supplements are linked to constipation.
- Eating plenty of dairy products or drinking a lot of whole milk
- Child eating less
- Erratic meal timings
- Some hormonal disorders, such as Hypothyroidism
- Some of the rare causes are tumors, spinal cord injury, and lactose intolerance
Sometimes, it becomes a vicious cycle if once the child experience pain and difficulty while passing the stool and then the child becomes fearful of repeating the experience so the child starts avoiding going to the toilet and withholds the bowel movements, and, later, the child starts to have hard painful stools.
Symptoms of Constipation:
Here are some common symptoms that indicate the child is suffering from constipation.
- Passing stools 1-2 or 2-3 times a week
- Hard, dry stools
- The need to strain to pass the stools
- Incomplete evacuation and needs help
- Difficulty in passing the stools
- Experience pain while passing the stool
- Some children may complain of abdominal pain and, sometimes, nausea.
- Severe constipation may cause a tear in the rectum leading to bleeding
- Occasionally vomiting
- Poor appetite
- Bloating and gases
- A loss of taste
- Irritable, crankiness, and unhappy
17 Helpful Tips to Manage Constipation in Children:
Let us look at some tips that can help counter the problem of constipation in your child.
- Encourage your child to drink more water.
- Give your Child High-Fiber Foods: Include wholesome grains, soaked quinoa, green vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, fruits, oatmeal, and nuts in your child’s daily diet.
- Add probiotics-rich foods like yogurt to your diet.
- Reduce the quantity of milk
- Take your child for a short walk after dinner
- Schedule plenty of playtime for body movement. Exercise or physical activity can help to improve bowel movement by decreasing the time it takes food to move through the large intestine.
- Let the child sit in the squatting position.
- Give the kid lukewarm water to drink in the early morning, and ask the child to drink the water in a squatting position before passing the stool. And, immediately after drinking water, encourage the child to do some abdominal stretching exercises which help in the intestinal motility and pass the motion with ease.
- Raisin water is good for alleviating constipation.
- Give papayas, plums, prune juice, apple juice, or pear juice.
- Avoid giving the child anything which is made from Maida, such as white bread, cakes, muffins, and junk food.
- Limit cheese
- The intake of dried beans and lentils that have been soaked for 24 hours can help.
- Fruits with skin, such as apples, pears, and peach with its skin can be effective in mitigating the condition. Other fruits, such as raspberries, blackberries, are also beneficial in treating constipation.
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and flaxseeds or chia seeds’ powder can be sprinkled on the food.
- Highly processed and packaged foods
- Behavioral Changes: Inculcate regular toilet time.
If your kid is purposely avoiding going to the bathroom then find out the reason and try talking to him or her to get rid of the habit of avoiding going to the bathroom.
8 Helpful Tips for Managing Constipation in Infants:
In the case of infants:
- Keep the baby active; encourage crawling and walking.
- Massage the tummy in a circular motion by using a little coconut or castor oil.
- Bicycle baby’s legs
- Avoid giving cow’s milk
- A few foods are not good for the baby’s developing digestive system, and that includes milk protein, rice cereal, unripe bananas, white bread, cookies, pasta, carrots, and potatoes. So, avoid them.
- Feed only breast milk.
- Give prunes, apricots, and plums.
- Avoid giving any grains before 10 months of age.
To diagnose constipation, we need a detailed history and clinical examination of the child. Occasionally, the doctor may want to do an abdomen x-ray.
Conventional Treatment for Constipation in Children:
The treatment includes modifying and improving the diet, following specific nutrition recommendations, and supportive treatments, such as laxatives, suppositories, stool softener, and enemas.
Homeopathic Approach in Treating Constipation:
Homeopathic medicine helps to regularize bowel function, facilitate bowel movements, and promote the development of well-formed normal consistent stools. The beauty of Homeopathy is that it is not habit-forming as laxatives.
Constipation in children is not serious. Most of the time, home remedies, simple dietary and lifestyle changes, regular exercise, abdominal massage, and having 6-8 glasses of water per day may help restore the child’s daily trip to the toilet, thereby treating constipation effectively without any need to visit the doctor. However, even after changing the diet and lifestyle factors, if it persists then you can see the doctor or visit the doctor. If constipation affects the child’s daily activities and if it is causing more discomfort to the child, see a doctor. And, do not resort to laxatives and enemas immediately as they are habit-forming.
- Written by Dr. Mithila K, Associate doctor to Dr. Rajesh Shah, MD (Hom.)