Constipation is a condition in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels due to hardening of stools and is commonly observed in children. If your child strains, grunts or turns red-faced during a bowel movement, drawing his legs up his abdomen, then it is likely that he/she may be constipated. A point to remember here, in children, infrequent bowel movements do not indicate constipation. Smooth and normal stools once in three days is also considered normal. Apart from consulting the doctor, as concerned parents, it is vital that you identify the cause of constipation in your child. Medication is available but your child may not be old enough for it, besides it could lead to dependence on medication for bowel movement.
There are primarily two ways to overcome constipation in children. One, by facilitating the easy passage of stools by placing a glycerin suppository in the rectum which would work as a laxative. Or by using natural laxatives like prune juice and stewed apricot. These are considered to be the best constipation remedies. Before we take a look at some effective home remedies, it must be kept in mind that doses mentioned here are suitable for children and infants, unless specified.
Natural Laxatives for Constipation
Soaked Raisins and Prunes
Soak 1 tablespoonful of raisins, pitted prunes and dates in a glass of water overnight. Drink the water and eat them the next morning. Prunes are rich in fiber and contain sorbitol that is a natural laxative. Besides tasting great this concoction will help in regulating the bowel and provide relief from constipation.
Olive or Castor Oil
Take one tablespoon of pure olive oil first thing in the morning. If the taste makes your child nauseous then have it with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Another option is to use olive oil as a salad dressing, the combination of fiber from the salad and oil is bound to work. Baring the taste, castor oil can work wonders. Add half a teaspoon to a glass of fruit juice and give it your child, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
Honey and Lemon Juice
Mix a teaspoon of honey with a tablespoon of lemon juice and have this mixture twice a day. A point to remember though, this remedy is not suitable for infants due to the risk of botulism. Also, honey is high in calories so use this laxative occasionally, not daily.
Flax helps to maintain a healthy colon and the seeds are high in fiber and helps relieve constipation in children, too. So, two teaspoon of flaxseed, not oil, can be mixed with some high fiber cereals and given to your child everyday. Flaxseed is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Psyllium husk is nothing but flakes of psyllium bran that is available at any nutrition store. This is a bland laxative and 1 teaspoon can be sprinkled on your child's cereal. Starting the day with a bowl of high-fiber cereal can be a smart move.
Warm Bath and Massage
For children 1 year or under, a gentle belly massage can stimulate digestion and provide relief. Another option is a warm bath in a tub, this will relax his/her rectal muscles and stimulate bowel movement.
This remedy is for children aged 12 and above only. You can mix 2 teaspoon of Epsom salts in 8 ounces (1 cup) of water once in a day. Remember, do not administer more than two doses a day. Do not use Epsom salt as a laxative for children below 12 years of age.
Some Dos and Don'ts
- Along with regular exercise your child should also cut down the consumption of processed foods like fried chicken, French fries, fatty meat, canned juice, and sugary foods like soda, ice cream and candy.
- Consuming too much milk is also known to cause constipation. So limit the consumption of milk in your child's diet and feed him high-fiber foods like plums, prunes, apricots, peas, beans, and other foods as mentioned under the laxative foods section.
- You could also try making a simple change for better toilet health - squat instead of sitting. Try the squat posture or place a footstool that is as high as the potty. You will be amazed at the difference, as squatting posture could definitely help reduce constipation and decreases straining, too.
- Last but not the least, drink plenty of warm water, preferably 6 - 7 glasses everyday. Children drinking less water suffer from constipation because, the colon does not get sufficient water, and extracts too much water needed by the body from the waste material. It causes the stool to become hard, dry and moves through the colon very slowly, resulting in constipation. So, you must insist your child to drink water or fresh fruit juices daily.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, children should consume 10 g of fiber daily. Now this doesn't mean you suddenly stuff your plate with fibrous foods. The ideal way to restore digestive strength and health is to gradually increase the amount of fiber, at the same time balancing it with adequate intake of fluids. Besides food, exercise also plays a vital role in curbing bouts of constipation. Activity or exercise stimulates the intestinal functions thereby aiding proper digestion. The CDC recommends an average of 60 minutes of exercise daily for children ages 5-17. Considering the importance of both these factors, here is a short list of foods that help in preventing constipation and aid in strengthening digestion.
Fruits & Nuts
- Green Beans
- Brown Rice
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.