Constipation occurs when waste material moves through the bowel too slowly. It is characterized as infrequent bowel movements and the passage of hard and painful stools. Usually constipation is caused by a diet low in fiber, ingesting too much dairy products such as milk and cheese, not drinking enough water or waiting too long to go to the bathroom. Waiting too long to go to the bathroom is very common among young children. It is amazing how kids will ignore the urge to use the bathroom until they are two seconds from wetting their pants. Talk about procrastination!

If a child has hard and painful stools, he will typically hold in his bowel movements to prevent it from hurting again. This makes the constipation continue and worsen. Remind your child to go when they have the urge and not wait until the last minute.

Constipation is best treated by making dietary changes. Until the constipation has improved stool softeners and natural remedies may be used. Some measures that can be used to treat and prevent constipation in your child include:

Increasing fluids: Increase the amount of water and fruit juice that your child drinks each day.

Increasing fiber: Increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables. Raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables such as beans, sweet potatoes, peas, turnip greens, raw tomatoes and corn contain an excellent amount of fiber. Vegetable soups are especially high in fiber and also add more liquids to your child’s diet.

Increasing bran: Increase bran in your child’s diet with bran cereals, bran muffins, shredded wheat, graham crackers, or whole wheat bread.

Reducing constipating foods: Foods that cause constipation include cow’s milk, yogurt, cheese, cooked carrots, and bananas. Drinking too much milk (your child may only be drinking 2-3 cups a day, but it may be too much for his system to handle) is heavily associated with having constipation. Soy milk has been shown to soften stools.

Stool Softeners

Many medicines used to prevent constipation can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy. They include Colace Syrup, Maltsupex, Metamucil, Milk of magnesia, Citrucel, mineral oil.

Unlike laxatives, stool softeners are usually not considered to be habit forming. You should use them once or twice a day and work up on the dose until your child is having a soft stool each day. If you child starts to have diarrhea, then you are giving too much and should cut back on the dosage.

Acute Constipation

If your child has been constipated for a long time he may need to be “cleaned out” before the stool softeners will work by using an enema, a glycerine suppository or high doses of mineral oil. A stimulate laxative such as Senokot can also be used. Miralax is an effective medicine used to treat constipation but is available only by prescription. Avoid the frequent use of enemas, suppositories and laxatives because they can become habit forming. Contact your physician before treating a child with acute constipation.

Natural Remedies

Natural remedies and dietary supplements that aid in the preventing constipation are:

*Garlic – destroys harmful bacteria in the colon.

*Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids – has a cleansing and healing effect.

*Chlorophyll Liquid – eliminates toxins and bad breath.

*Vitamin E – helps heal the colon.

*Aloe Vera – heals and cleans the digestive tract and softens stools when taken internally.

*Ginger – stimulates the digestive system and helps food pass through the intestines.

* Flax seed – You can buy flaxseeds and crush them yourself and add it in your food. Make sure to drink plenty of water.