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Constipation in Children. One of the concerns my children caused me when they were toddlers, were the days that went by without going to the bathroom. I remember standing in front of the bathroom door, say a prayer, and wait for the miracle to happen. It could be days, even a week and my kids didn’t go to the bathroom. That was so frustrating!.
It took me a couple of visits to the doctor to understand that I needed to be patient. Constipation in children is something that although it can take time, it always ends up being resolved.
What’s normal for your child might be different from what’s normal for another one. Most children defecate 1 or 2 times a day. Other children may spend 2 to 3 days or more before defecating normally.
The American Academy of Pediatrics gives a good definition of the normal pattern of defecation and what we can define as constipation. Children with constipation may have hard, dry, hard-to-excrete stools, or pain. These defecations could occur every day or less frequently, causing discomfort.
However, if your child goes to the bathroom less than three times a week and clearly complains of abdominal pain, throws up, has blood in the stools, and/or has a fever, you must always take him to the doctor. Similarly, if you feel uneasy and have doubts about what’s wrong with it.
Symptoms of constipation may appear overnight, but also over the course of a few days. It is important to identify the cause, which may be associated with the following factors:
- Emotional factors: First day of school, a trip, a change of house or school, fear or shame of asking the teacher’s permission to go to the bathroom, parents’ divorce, and also the arrival of a new baby at home.
- Changes in diet: Not drinking enough water, low consumption of high-fiber foods, eating too many fats, and processed foods.
- Hold on: This often happens in young children who are in potty training.
What to do to relieve constipation in children?
- First, start with water consumption before introducing high-fiber foods. If your child doesn’t like to drink just water, try adding some type of flavored fruit (strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, blackberries). Good hydration is important for regulating intestinal transit.
- Include healthy fats in the diet to help soften the stool(coconut oil, avocado, almond butter, fish). You can add a tablespoon of coconut oil to a smoothie. My kids never detected it! And I don’t think yours will either.
- Offer foods high in water such as melon, berries, mango, watermelon, grapes, lemon, and oranges.
- Include whole-grain foods as they are a good source of fiber. Most children need 13 grams of fiber a day. Example: oatmeal in flakes, brown rice, quinoa, popcorn, beans, and lentils. If your child isn’t used to eat these foods, introduce them slowly to avoid gas and heaviness. While eating, it is important to drink enough water for the digestive system to function properly. Otherwise, the matter may get worse.
- Foods with probiotics. Yogurt (if it’s sugar-free and no added flavors much better), kefir, miso, are good options. (You can also use a probiotic supplement)
Giving my kids prune juice worked also. (Add 4 prunes without seed to the blender, with one glass of water and blend it during 30 seconds)
- Start exercising. Running, jumping, or cycling are very good options.
- Help your child to feel relaxed at the time of going to the bathroom. While sitting on the toilet, reading a book, or massaging his back could help.
- A bathroom stool is a great option that can help your child sit in a better position, as the legs shouldn’t hang from the toilet. The stool was pretty effective with my kids, as it helped them stay longer sitting in the toilet. You can also use a potty chair, as this helps them maintain a proper position with their knees bent.
- Establish a routine that can give your child the chance to go to the bathroom during the day. For example: after breakfast or dinner.
Dairy and other foods such as rice, bread, and bananas can make constipation worse in some children. With food allergies or a sensitive tummy, dairy can lead to constipation. Probiotics can help you with it.
If none of the above recommendations work in the short or long term it is very important to consult with your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe some laxative that can help your child improve this problem. In our case with one of our children, we used it temporarily.
This publication is not intended to replace your doctor’s visit. Always check with your doctor for any questions you have.
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