Are you worried over your child’s abnormal bowel habits? Different children have different bowel habits – and all of them may be normal. What may seem fine for one child may be different for another. In some cases, what is normal for one child could even be the regular changing of color and consistency of his stool. Ordinarily, moms shouldn’t need to worry about this.
What you should worry about is when stool becomes harder and less frequent, which means your child might be suffering from constipation. At least once in their young lives, children will experience a bout of constipation. If not addressed early, what could have been a rare but normal occurrence becomes chronic constipation.
If constipation in children becomes chronic and none of the prescribed remedies work, that’s when you should get serious about seeking further care for your child. Often, constipation that isn’t easily treated by natural home remedies is a sign that there’s an underlying, serious problem that is at the root cause of the symptoms. Such problems could include neurological disorders, an under-active thyroid or rare diseases that disrupt the normal development of the child’s digestive tract. It could also be a negative side effect of another drug your child might be taking.
Most of the time, however, constipation in children is idiopathic. This means there are no serious diseases that are causing the problem. However there are risk factors you can mitigate.
You’ll know if your child is having difficulty with his bowel movements when they are limited to less than three times a week. You’ll know you have a problem when the stools are harder and larger than usual, or when there are bloodstains in the toilet paper.
And if your child says his tummy aches, or when he won’t eat what he would normally enjoy, or when he starts feeling unhappy, fidgety or restless, it’s a telltale sign that something’s up. Then it’s time to do a little more investigation.
Why constipation occurs in children
Having an unhealthy gut is a major risk factor for constipation in both children and adults. When your child was born, he inherited your own gut flora which passed through the birth canal. This means if you had a poor diet or took antibiotics while you were pregnant, the effects manifest themselves in your child’s digestive tract.
If a child has poor gut health, he is more prone to contracting infections early in life. And when his pediatrician attempts to treat these infections with antibiotics, the gut problem increases because antibiotics kill the good bacteria that your child needs to maintain a healthy gut.
Put simply, poor intestinal flora is at the center of several health problems in children. It is a major risk factor for all common digestive problems, including colic, gas, diarrhea, bloating and, of course, constipation. A healthy digestive tract with an abundance of good bacteria counters this problem and ensures the proper formation and elimination of waste in both children and adults.
The following are safe and natural ways to keep your child’s digestive tract healthy and solve the problem of chronic constipation in children for good.
1. Supplement with probiotics.
The presence of good bacteria in your child’s bowels stops the formation of bad bacteria, which is mainly responsible for many of the digestive problems your child might be experiencing. It also strengthens the immune system and enhances its ability to fight infections. Plus, it builds up the layer of mucous around the digestive tract that protects it from the harsh environment.
One study that focused on the particular strain Lactobacillus reuteri showed that children who took the probiotics passed more stools and with less difficulty than children who didn’t.
2. Encourage children to drink more water.
Children may form the bad habit of getting all their fluids from the milk they drink. This isn’t very helpful for their nutrition because milk can make them feel full and not want to eat or drink anything else.
Water is essential. Our bodies are made of 60% water, which facilitates a wide range of body processes. By lubricating the intestines, water regulates the fast and easy flow of waste matter through the bowels. Teach your children the habit of drinking more water.
At the same time, discourage them from drinking too many soft drinks, canned fruit juices and fizzy beverages. These are full of sugar and artificial flavorings that stop up the intestines and will not help with gut problems.
3. Remove processed carbohydrates.
Generally, refined, processed foods such as boxed cookies, potato chips, snack crackers and candies are nutritionally empty. But more than that, they disrupt the healthy balance of good bacteria in your child’s intestines, which encourages the spread of harmful bacteria.
An unhealthy gut filled with bad bacteria is the breeding ground for digestive problems. It means waste material, composed of feces, mucus, dead tissue and possibly worms, doesn’t move easily because it is impacted against the walls of the intestines.
When waste isn’t eliminated, it is reabsorbed back into the bloodstream and can cause even more health concerns for your child.
4. Eat more fiber.
Many fruits and vegetables are foods that are natural laxatives because of their rich fiber content, which helps eliminates stools faster. Cabbage, coconuts, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, bananas and melons are high-fiber fruits and vegetables that help with constipation.
Switch from simple carbs, such as pasta, white rice and cereals, to complex carbs that are also rich in fiber, such as whole-grain bread, brown rice and sweet potatoes. Add beans and lentils to soups and salads and dried fruit to yogurt. Limit muffins and other sweet to occasional treats.
When increasing your child’s fiber intake, make sure you provide plenty of fluids as well. Fiber works by absorbing water and waste materials and sweeping them out of the intestines. When there isn’t enough water to absorb, fiber can actually make constipation worse.
If you’ve taken all these steps but still find it difficult to introduce enough fiber through diet alone, consider a fiber supplement. A fiber supplement like this one, can be stirred into fruit juice. This formula dissolves clear and without taste or grit. It is also designed to stimulate probiotic to further enhance gut health.
In most cases, with just a few dietary modifications, your little one’s bathroom habits will improve. And since so much of our health begins in the gut, you’ll be laying the groundwork for you child to experience a lifetime of better health.