Do you notice your child putting off going to the bathroom because they are busy doing more important things? Do you notice avoidance of the bathroom for fear of a painful bowel movement? Is your child not experiencing daily bowel movements? All of these situations may be signals that your child is experiencing childhood constipation.
Parents often hope their worries about their children’s bathroom habits will end with the final diaper. But successful toilet training doesn’t prevent occasional concerns with bowel movements. Constipation is among the most common concern but should never be considered normal.
Unfortunately, most of the medical literature defines childhood constipation, not as the frequency of bowel movements but the hardness of the stool. According to the Physicians’ Manual for Patients, “Daily bowel movements are not essential to health.” Parents are told that as long as the child has three bowel movements a week and they are soft, this is totally normal. Not so! Just as we eat three meals per day, a child should be experiencing between 1 to 3 bowel movements per day. Food should never be sitting in the digestive tract longer than 24 hours. Ideally, everyone should have comfortable, unforced bowel movements 20-30 minutes after every meal.
Because the discussion of bowel movements between child and parent usually brings out total dread in parents, it is often ignored and assumed that the child is experiencing bowel movements each day. Many of us can remember cringing when a grandparent asked us, often out of the blue: “Have you had a bowel movement today?” The cringe was because they often asked the question during what we would consider a very inappropriate time. You see, in the generation of our grandparents and great grandparents, bowel health was considered a vital function for good health and was often a topic of interest. But somewhere along the line, we stopped looking at bowel habits as an important clue in overall health. A good natural health practitioner will consider your digestive tract health to be the most important function in keeping your body healthy. If they don’t, it’s time to find another practitioner.
Causes Of Childhood Constipation
Diet & Nutrition – Not eating enough foods with fiber; Dehydration; Consuming a lot of sugar and desserts; Gluten sensitivity; Milk and dairy products; Food Allergies; Acid forming foods (meat).
Lack of Exercise – With the popularity of computer games and TV, many children lead a very sedentary lifestyle.
Emotion Upsets & Anxiety – Fear, grief, worry, and frustration affect the digestive tract.
Holding stools – This means the child has the feeling of needing to have a bowel movement but ignores the urge. Reasons such as not wanting to take the time to go to the bathroom, unfamiliar bathrooms, or pain in passing a stool are prevalent.
Medications – Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Temaril or Benadryl), found in nonprescription cold medications; Antidiarrheal medications; Antispasmodics, such as atropine and scopolamine; Narcotics, such as codeine and hydrocodone; Chemotherapy; Anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine and valproic acid; pain relievers; Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline hydrochloride or doxepin hydrochloride; Iron supplements.
Other less common causes of constipation are depression, attention deficit disorders, and sexual abuse.
Childhood Constipation Symptoms
- Less than 1 bowel movement per day.
- Stools that are hard and difficult to pass.
- Headaches, fatigue, and/or depression.
- Encopresis, or accidental fecal soiling. If a hard stool is present in the rectum, liquid feces can leak around the hard stool and pass out the anus without the child’s control. This can happen many times during the day. The child cannot do anything to prevent or withhold it.
- Abdominal pain near or around the navel.
- Decreased appetite and nausea.
How to Prevent Childhood Constipation
While a healthy diet is crucial for a healthy digestive tract, increasing fluid intake is crucial when dealing with constipation. Unfortunately, many children get into the habit of drinking sodas or sugary drinks to satisfy their thirst. They become dehydrated from sugary drinks and from not taking the time out to quench thirst with purified water. Children should be drinking half of their body weight in water each day. It’s important to include lots of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables in your child’s diet. Teach your child to eat as much raw as possible–healthy smoothies can also help with this. Try to make 50% of each meal fresh, raw, unprocessed foods. Include nuts and seeds in the diet. Limit white flour, chocolate, refined sugar, and grocery store dairy products. Train your child to eat slowly and moderately and to express thanks for their food. Provide a relaxing environment while eating. Include an advanced formula probiotic supplement daily to facilitate the growth of “friendly bacteria” in the colon.
Your child should be taught not to wait to have a bowel movement. To establish a regular bowel habit, ask your child to sit on the toilet for at least 10 minutes at about the same time each day, preferably after a meal. Ensure that your child can place their feet firmly on the floor while sitting on the toilet. If this is not possible, put a footstool in front of the toilet. While your child is sitting on the toilet, you might let your child read a storybook or listen to the radio. Educate your child, at an early age, on the importance of good bowel habits. Let them know that this is not something to be embarrassed about, but instead a normal and necessary function for good health.
Make sure that your child is getting enough exercise. Our children often spend too much sedentary time in front of computers and TV. Encourage outside activities as much as possible. Physical activity speeds the movement of waste through the digestive tract and helps the lymph system drain.
Yes, children experience stress! Children are some of the busiest people I know. Stress causes the body to break down, and constipation can be a result. Talk with and spend time with your children. Teach them how to relax and to be calm. Encourage them, support them and speak encouraging words to them. Teach them how to handle difficult situations, be happy, and communicate their concerns. Most important—model this behavior in front of them.
Keep The Bowel Clean
Keeping the bowel clean is a great preventative step and necessary to keep the body in good health. A safe and effective oxygen colon cleansing product is a natural way to cleanse the whole digestive tract while also providing the body with oxygen. Consult your healthcare practitioner for dosages appropriate for children.
Chiropractic adjustments help to promote daily bowel movements. Peristaltic action that moves material through the colon occurs due to nerve excitement that originates at the spinal nerves. Adjustments also help normalize the action of the ileocecal valve, the valve that separates the large from the small intestine.
Constipation can undermine the whole body, including the immune system. In fact, we now know that irregular bowel movements can be directly related to serious health conditions. Constipation does not have to be a concern if you practice prevention with your children and implement the suggestions found in this article. Regular bowel movements are an important mechanism for removing toxins from the body and thus keeping the body healthy. Remember: Prevention is always the key to good health and wellness. As always, if severe symptoms persist, do not hesitate to see your trusted healthcare professional.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace your doctor’s advice. Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician of choice.