Is watching your child struggle, strain, push and cry every time they have a bowel movement breaking your heart?
Are you waking up in the morning hoping that today is the day your child finally has another bowel movement and that it is going to be easier than the last time?
And is the topic of elimination already causing you discomfort or even anxiety?
Well if that is you, chances are your child has been struggling with childhood constipation for a while leaving you as a parent helpless and worried.
Believe me, I get it! Childhood constipation can be distressing for both moms and their little ones, but holistic medicine is actually pretty good in restoring healthy bowel movements without using medications like MiraLAX.
In this blog, we will dive into the world of childhood constipation, exploring its causes, symptoms, and most importantly, how we can overcome it together through holistic medicine.
My aim is to empower you with knowledge and practical tips so that you can help your child find relief and regain their natural balance.
So let’s dive into the world of poo!
Poo has a lot to tell...
Poo really has a lot to say - it can tell us if we’re dehydrated, not eating enough fiber or fruits or veggies.
Besides that it is also a good indicator of how well your child is digesting their food and whether or not the food they are eating agrees with them.
Talking about your child’s bowel habits and characteristics is actually an important part of the intake conversation I have with parents at the beginning of working together to overcome their children's health issues.
I ask them about frequency, smell, shape, color and firmness or lack of firmness and if having a bowel movement is causing their child any difficulty or even pain.
Parents often have a hard time with answering those questions because poo has become such a sore subject in our society, that we tend to pay as little attention to it as possible.
So if that is you, I am sorry I have to break it to you, but we HAVE to look at it and we have to talk about it!
So let’s start by talking about what a normal bowel movement should look like for your child…
What is normal poo?
A normal bowel movement in a baby or child who eats solid food should be formed and eliminated in one piece without difficulty and pain.
We want 1 to 3 bowel movements per day. Their color should be a shade of brown with some variety depending on what they are eating.
Food also shouldn’t take longer than 24 hours to move through and out of the body after eating. A good way to test that is feeding your child corn and looking out for the corn grains to appear in the stools the days after.
For stools to have an odor is normal but it shouldn’t be offensive or foul smelling.
When cleaning their bottom it shouldn’t take much. If you need wet wipes to even get them clean, something is up.
The Bristol Stool Chart gives you a good idea of what different shapes and types of stools look like and can be a tool to help you figure out if your child really is constipated.
How do you know your kid really is constipated?
In holistic medicine constipation is on a spectrum ranging from difficulty passing stool to irregular elimination that can cause discomfort and abdominal pain.
Stools will typically be dry, hard, small “rabbit” poop or large bulky difficult to pass pieces.
If your child doesn’t have a bowel movement every day or struggles and strains when they go then they’re constipated.
Tummy aches, bloating and gas are common companions of constipation.
What causes constipation?
The most common cause for constipation is diet that…
- includes too many refined carbohydrates as found in foods containing white flour
- not rich enough in vegetables and fruits, and the fiber they are providing
- too much dairy
- doesn’t include enough water
If your child is suffering from chronic constipation an imbalance of the gut flora and/or an issue digesting certain foods due to a food sensitivity is most likely one of the root causes.
Food sensitivities cause an inflammatory reaction in the gut which leads to a disruption of the gut flora and constipation.
If your kid is delaying the bowel movement, holding them back because they are expecting them to be painful, stools remain in the large intestine for too long, drying them out more which makes them even harder to pass.
Conventional approach to treat constipation
The standard conventional medical treatment of constipation is often to prescribe a laxative like MiraLAX or Milk of Magnesia.
Laxatives are designed to be used for short periods of time, especially in kids, in other words if constipation is a one time thing.
If they are being used over and over the body will get used to them, will get even more lazy about eliminating its waste and eventually even the laxatives won’t work any more.
Believe me when I say, you really don’t want to go there. It’s actually fairly easy to completely resolve your child’s long term constipation by using a holistic approach focusing mostly on their diet and utilizing a simple remedy I’ll share with you in a bit.
Treat the root cause of long term constipation by including these foods to your child’s diet:
- Make sure your child is getting enough essential fatty acids as can be found in coconut oil, avocados, almonds and flax seeds.
- Include fermented foods in your child’s diet that are not made of dairy like miso, sauerkraut or other fermented fruits and vegetables.
- Make sure your child eats a diet rich in fiber-rich vegetables, in example sweet potatoes, asparagus, beets, broccoli and cauliflower.
- Make fruits a daily part of your child’s diet. Especially figs, prunes, apples, pears, peaches and apricots help to moisten and lubricate the bowels.
Natural DIY Laxative
- Soak 5 prunes in a cup of purified water overnight.
- Then serve your constipated child the soaked prunes first thing in the morning either by chopping them up and including them in their breakfast or adding them to a breakfast smoothie.
- For toddlers 18 months or younger give them a teaspoon of the water the prunes were soaked in to avoid too much purging or else they may have diarrhea. If one teaspoon doesn’t do the trick, slowly increase until you notice that it’s working.
- For toddlers 18 mother and older and children, in addition to the prunes for breakfast you give them 1/2 a cup of prune juice plus 1 cup of water in the evening before bed.
The TCM Approach to treating Constipation
In addition to dietary changes I use herbal formulas and Pediatric Tuina Massage to promote the free flow of Qi in the intestines.
There are many Chinese herbal formulas for constipation. Because they are so specific to the type of constipation, I recommend consulting a pediatric acupuncturist and herbalist who can prescribe the right formula.