Symptoms of Constipation
Many people assume that if you (or your child) is constipated, you cannot have a bowel movement at all. However, that is not the only sign of constipation, especially in kids. Having to strain or experience pain during bowel movements, as a result of large or hard bowel movements, are also signs of constipation. And some people don’t have a bowel movement every day but they are not constipated because their stools are still soft and easily passed.
Kids Suffering from Constipation
Constipation among kids is very common. It often occurs after a change in their routine, such as starting school, a new daycare, birth of a new sibling or even after an illness. Many kids are reluctant to use public restrooms and we often see an increase in visits for abdominal pain shortly after school starts for this reason
So what to do? Here are a few things to help out:
- Make sure your child is getting enough fluid. A lot of kids don’t drink much while at school, so encouraging them to use the water fountain every chance they get or seeing if they can keep a water bottle with them can help a lot. There are also some juices that can help, such as prune, apple, white grape, or my personal favorite, plum!
- Increase the fiber in your child’s diet. The best sources of fiber are from food, not supplements. But fiber supplements are better than nothing! There are even fiber gummies for those very picky kids. Also, look at the nutrition labels on bread, cereal, pasta, etc. Some things that look like they would be full of fiber really aren’t. Here is a link to a list of high fiber foods.
- Schedule potty time. Kids are often so busy they don’t take the time to fully empty out their large intestine. The longer stool stays in the intestine, the harder it gets because the body absorbs more water from it. Take advantage of the body’s natural reflex to empty the bowels after eating by having your child sit on the toilet for 5-10 minutes (actually set a timer) shortly after finishing a meal. Let them look at books, color, whatever keeps them sitting there for the whole time. Another advantage to this is that these kids will often start to go at a set time at home and thereby avoid having to go at school, which is a bonus for them!
- If none of this is helping, go see your doctor. There are various stool softeners and laxatives that can be used but are best with a doctor’s guidance.
Keep Healthy Habits
Once your child is starting to have soft, non-painful bowel movements on a regular basis, don’t let them slide back into their old habits! The large intestine (colon) gets stretched out when it fills up with stool and it takes time for it to go back to a normal size. A stretched colon will take longer to send the message to the brain that it is time for a bowel movement. Stopping the lifestyle changes too soon can result in going back to square one. I recommend continuing the changes for at least a month or more, depending on how long your child was constipated before treatment was started.