HEALTHY LIVING

Constipation in children and how to combat it

Constipation can be defined as bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass.

In Summary

• A child may become constipated due to many reasons including, diet, lack of exercise, emotional issues, an underlying physical problem. 

• Making a few diets and lifestyle changes can help combat and prevent constipation.  

Constipation can be defined as bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass.
Constipation can be defined as bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass.
Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

Constipation can be defined as bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass.

The stool is often hard and dry.

Other symptoms include; abdominal pain, bloating, and strain, or feeling as if one has not completely passed the bowel movement. 

One is considered constipated when they pass fewer than three bowel movements per week.

A child may become constipated due to many reasons including, diet, lack of exercise, emotional issues, an underlying physical problem. 

Whatever the cause, constipation is a common problem among kids. 

Due to this, they may become irritable or lose their appetite, experience stomach pain, and/ or exhibit low energy levels.

Making a few diets and lifestyle changes can help combat and prevent constipation.  

However, this is not to guarantee that your toddler 100 per cent won't experience constipation at all keeping in mind it's brought about by various factors as earlier mentioned. 

Signs Your Child May Be Constipated:

  • Newborns – Firm stool less than once a day
  • Toddlers/ older Children – Hard compact stools with 3 to 4 days between bowel movements
  • Any Age – Large, hard and dry stools associated with painful bowel movements. Episodes of abdominal pain that are relieved after a larger bowel movement. 

Note: Don’t administrator an enema, laxative, or stool softener to a child without consulting with a paediatrician first. 

If your child is constipated, try these home remedies first to offer them relief before seeking medical intervention.

Foods to help with constipation 

Prune juice – this is a mild, natural laxative that works in some children. Prune juice tastes better and is easier to consume when mixed with another juice, such as apple or cranberry juice.

Alternatively, you can freeze the juice to make ice lollies or popsicles to encourage your little ones to consume it without a fuss. 

Oatmeal - a packet of plain, instant oatmeal has 4 grams of fibre which helps to move food through the intestines and push waste material out. 

However, it can be a little bland, to encourage kids to eat the meal, top it with sliced fruits of choice for flavour and colour.

You can also choose to add a little honey or maple syrup for sweetness.

Flaxseed-  purchase ground flaxseed or you can opt to grind them yourself to get the full health benefits of these tiny nutrition powerhouses.

 Alternatively, you can add flaxseed to baked goods such as cupcakes, pancakes, or waffle batter. Or you can blend it into smoothies and juices to help the kids consume them.

Avocado  - A quarter cup of mashed avocado has three grams of fibre, plus heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

The beauty of this fruit is that you can have it in so many ways, as a juice, a fruit, a dip for meals, or topping for your toast among other options.

Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, chopped onions and tomatoes, and some salt to mashed avocado for easy guacamole to serve with your accompaniment of choice (like crisps.)

Pears - One medium pear has five grams of fibre—that's a quarter of what kids need each day. For healthier benefits, it is advisable to consume the fruit with its skin instead of peeling it off.

Pomegranate seeds - These sweet little seeds have three grams of fibre per half-cup. You can choose to have them consumed as they are or add them to yoghurt or oatmeal.   

In addition to eating a diet high in fibre, encourage your child to drink more water and limit their drinks with caffeine. 

For infants and toddlers, it is advisable to hold the baby in a position that is going to facilitate them to belch after feeding them.

Most people cuddle the baby on their chest then rhythmically pat their back to help them release gas. This reduces the chances of the child getting constipated.

For older children, encourage them to be more physically active as physical activities help to move bowel contents through the body.

Edited by D Tarus