5 Natural Ways to Manage Constipation for Your Child
Constipation can be a chronic issue that adults suffer through and struggle to manage. It can be especially hard watching your child struggle through these same issues, including infrequent bowel movements, a difficulty passing stool, pain with passing stools, hard stools, hospital visits, and much more. The way that doctors and pediatricians manage and relieve constipation in many young children is to prescribe medications such as Miralax for long-term use. However, Miralax and these medications are only FDA approved for adults and, in addition, they are not FDA approved for long term use. Still, many pediatricians recommend Miralax regardless of a child’s age, sometimes as young as 6 months old! Because of this, many parents are searching for natural, safe ways to manage their child’s chronic constipation, and so we’ve prepared a list of some options that you could try right now to help your child.
If your constipated baby is 6 month old or younger:
Because babies don’t start solid foods until around 6 months of age, if your baby’s diet consists of breast milk exclusively, the biggest thing you can do to help your constipated baby is to watch what you eat. Babies can have food sensitivities when it comes to dairy, soy, gluten and others, so you might want to consider cutting or reducing these from your diet and then seeing if your baby’s constipation improves or is eliminated. Keep in mind, we don’t expect your baby to have a bowel movement the same day you apply these changes, as it can take 2-3 weeks before your baby’s body can eliminate the foods you suspect they are hypersensitive to, so definitely be patient and give your baby enough time to go through this elimination phase!
On the other hand, if your baby is supplementing or exclusively fed with formula, consider switching to a hypoallergenic kind. Standard formulas can have proteins that are hard for babies to digest, but hypoallergenic formulas are processed in a way that makes them much more readily digestible. Again, give your baby 2-3 weeks and note if symptoms improve or are eliminated.
If your constipated baby has started eating solids:
Once your baby starts solid foods, consider purees for your baby. Purees are an excellent way to have them consume watery, high-fiber foods and pull water into the colon. This helps soften your baby’s stools and make them easier to pass. When it comes to purees, consider the 4 Ps: peas, prunes, pears, and plums. These are especially great to ‘get things moving’. However, if you’re getting store-bought purees, avoid buying those that have added sugars, dyes, or are highly processed!
You can also make some purees at home by washing the fruit and then blending them with a bit of water!
Movement and physical activity:
One of the reasons why older people and people who are wheelchair-bound struggle with constipation is because they have reduced mobility. The more you move, the quicker gut motility occurs, and the quicker you are able to pass bowels before they begin to harden. Going to playgrounds, doing sports, going for walks, or keeping kids active through fun or silly physical activities at home are a great way to achieve quicker gut motility and have the whole family be active together!
Fluids and fiber:
Similar to purees, fluids and high-fiber foods as a part of your child’s diet are an excellent way of pulling water into the colon, softening hardened stools, and getting things ‘moving’ quicker. Aim for foods that have natural sorbitol, such as prunes, berries, apples, avocados, apricots, peaches, and plums. You can definitely try fluids such as water and juice, but be wary of juices with tons of sugar and dyes. We recommend avoiding store-bought juice altogether and encourage juicing fruits and veggies at home for natural and organic juice.
Although we don’t claim that chiropractic care cures or directly treats constipation, in order for your child’s body to digest, process, and eliminate food from their body, many cells, organs and tissues have to effectively communicate, coordinate, and function appropriately. If your child has bony misalignments that are putting pressure on the nerves that supply the digestive system, chiropractic care aims to correct this nerve interference and have their whole body, digestive system included, functioning optimally. In our office, many parents report their children having better digestion and increased bowel movements since starting care.
Supplements can be overwhelming for a lot of people, but today we’ll mention big players you may want to ask your doctor or specialist about when it comes to relieving constipation.
- Magnesium: there are many different forms of magnesium that tackle different issues, but magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate are the two variations you want to consider for managing constipation. Magnesium has laxative properties because it helps bring water into the intestines.
- Vitamin C: to a lesser extent compared to magnesium, Vitamin C helps pull water into the colon. On the other hand, it does not have laxative properties.
- Prebiotics and probiotics: this form of supplementation is huge because prebiotics help build healthy gut bacteria while probiotics help maintain this balance. When searching for prebiotics and probiotics, make sure that you find clean options that aren’t highly processed.
Constipation in kids can be a chronic issue that is both scary and traumatic for children, as well as their parents. There are many natural remedies that parents can consider to manage and prevent constipation in their kids. If you’re looking for natural laxatives, natural stool softeners and home remedies to try to treat constipation in your child, consider these 6 options:
- Watching your diet while breastfeeding or getting hypoallergenic formula.
- Natural, high-fiber purees.
- Movement and exercise.
- Fiber and fluid intake.
- Chiropractic care.
- Supplements such as vitamin C, magnesium, prebiotics and probiotics.
One thing to consider when you’re in this whole process is that you have to give your child’s digestive tract and system enough time to respond to these options. It’s also not advised to try all of these options at once, but to instead take things slow and gradually add something new.