Constipation in Children

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While toilet training is one long haul struggle, fighting constipation is another. Constipation is a common problem among youngsters.

How can you tell if your child is constipated? If he passes less than three stools per week or passes hard, dry stools or experiences bloating and blood in stools; he is constipated.  Constipation causes painful bowel movements and reduces a child’s appetite. Fortunately, constipation among kids can be easily cured at home. But that doesn’t mean, it can be neglected.

Stools are an important indicator of a person’s health. So let’s learn more…

What causes constipation?

  • Withholding the urge to pass stools. Most kids are too engrossed in playing, they see answering nature’s call as a disturbance. They try to hold it in and neglecting the natural urge causes stools to harden. Even though their diet might be high in fibre postponing the urge for a long time will lead to constipation.
  • A diet that’s low in fibre and high in sugars. Needless to say, it is a battle at the table to make some children eat more vegetables and fruits. A diet that is low in fibre and is high in sugars like cereals, candies, sweets, chocolates, biscuits, wafers and other ready to eat snacks is more likely to cause constipation.
  • Side effects of some medications. Certain medications like iron supplements may cause constipation in some.

How can it be tackled?

  • Routine establishment – Set aside a regular time every day to pass stools, either in the morning or evening. Wake your child up 15 minutes earlier to find time in the morning before school. Take advantage of the body’s natural reflex to empty bowels after every meal. This can also be a good time to start establishing a routine.
  • Role model – children see and learn. We can teach them the importance of establishing a regular routine by following it ourselves.
  • Find out why the child is withholding the urge. Is it because he is in a new, unfamiliar place, is he uncomfortable, is the restroom dirty or crowded? Talk it out with your child or notice his behaviour to find out.
  • If your child is too engrossed in play and it’s been a while since he’s used the restroom, don’t abruptly take him. Instead, remind him and give him two minutes before he can mentally prepare and pause to take a break. Children appreciate being given some importance too. Make sure trips to the restroom are not accompanied by distractions like screens or books. Let it be a solo activity.
  • Are you trying to impose potty training too hard on him? Do not compare your child with another of the same age who is potty trained. Each child functions at his own pace. Take potty training easy, don’t be too harsh and let it be a time where you inculcate good toilet habits rather than it being an unpleasant memory for the child and you.
  • Positive reinforcement – Don’t punish, or shout at your child. Instead, encourage him and reward him every time he poops or tries to poop. Stickers, a star board, stamps on the hand might encourage him. A hug or a clap will also do. Progress might be slow but don’t lose patience.
  • Increase fibre in the diet –. This is a foolproof way to ease constipation among children. Increase his fruit and vegetable intake. Be on a constant lookout for recipes that incorporate more fibre into his diet.

Where can you start?

There are plenty of homemade remedies that relieve constipation.

  • Prunes and/or prune juice.
  • Raisins (and/or juice of raisins for younger children). For infants, 6 months and older, soak raisins overnight, grind well, strain and feed the juice to relieve constipation.
  • Fruits and vegetables in its natural form or pureed. Juicing and straining them will remove all the fibre which adds roughage to the diet.
  • Green Leafy Vegetables.
  • Whole grains contain comparatively more fibre than their refined counterparts as the outer covering is retained.
  • Apple and apple juice.
  • Water – Most children fail to drink water which can also cause dry stools. Encourage and remind your child often to drink more water.
  • Limit the amount of processed foods consumed by your child. They are usually loaded with sugar and stripped of nutrients, particularly fibre.
  • For younger children using the restroom, it is easier if the feet are on the floor or on a footstool. Make sure your child is comfortable.
  • Physical activity gets the colon moving. Ditch the couch and get the child to move.

These remedies work in most cases. In the case of chronic constipation, medical intervention may be required.

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