Effective home remedies for constipation in children consist in taking away the reasons for constipation by:
- increasing the amount of fibers and fluids in the diet
- avoiding laxatives but using stool softeners instead
- reducing foods that cause constipation and
- making sure your child has enough daily exercise.
Constipation in children
Children’s constipation is a recent and quite common problem: children will pass hard and painful stools less than 2 times a week. Due to the painful passing, children with constipation tend to make their condition worse by delaying their next toilet visit as long as possible.
This post is only about constipation and children:
- find more info about natural remedies for constipation in adults in this page,
- Did you know that breast-fed babies digest their milk so well that babies sometimes only produce stools once a week without being constipated? Breast-fed infants are not constipated when their stools are watery or soft.
When non of the further mentioned constipation remedies for children work and you also notice that your child is overall weak and has a poor muscle tone, do ask your doctor to check for botulism.
Reasons for constipation in children
Constipation for children is usually caused by what they eat and what is lacking in their diet:
- not enough water
- not enough fiber
- too much milk (like more than a pint – half a liter – a day).
Children can make this situation worse by postponing going to the toilet due to previous painful hard and constipated stools.
Home remedies for constipation in children
The best cure is changing the diet. Since a constipation diet needs some time to kick in, you better add some home remedies for constipation relief until your child passes 1 – not hard – stool a day.
1. Take away the causes:
- give your child more fluids to drink: at least 3 glasses of water and fruit smoothies – all fibers included – (minimum of 2-3 glasses) that your child drinks each day.
- give your child more fibers to eat which can be found in fruits and vegetables. A trick to make children eat more veggies: puree veggies into soups (and tomato sauces). A similar trick can be used for fruits making: both smoothies and soups have the benefit of not only adding fibers to your child’s diet, but also increasing your child’s intake of fluids.
Beans, peas, sweet potatoes, peas, turnip greens, raw tomatoes, corn – as well as popcorn – contain high amounts of fiber. When eating grain products, make sure it contains the bran: this is the part of the grain that contains most of the fibre, but is removed when the grain is milled to produce white flour.
2. Reduce the intake of foods that cause constipation like banana, cooked carrot and diary products like yogurt, cheese and more than 2 to 3 cups of milk a day. If you decrease the amount of milk your child is drinking, e.g. by switching to soy milk, do make sure he or she still gets their daily dose of calcium (don’t start drinking calcium fortified fruit juices, but go for a more paleo diet approach like eating more dark leafy veggies, sardines…).
Stool softeners are different from laxatives, that they don’t promote bowel movements to force the stools to come out faster. As such, laxatives can cause cramps in the bowel or make your bowels get "addicted" to the laxative and cause chronic constipation.
In stead, stool softeners simply hold the water within the fecal mass and provide larger, softer stools.
Fiber is a natural stool softener as fiber draws water to the stools.
Psyllium husk, bran cereals and oat bran are commonly used as natural dietary fibers. Make sure that your child’s daily diet includes a source of bran and choices are a plenty: high-fiber cookies, so called "natural" bran-cereals, unmilled bran, bran flakes, bran muffins, shredded wheat, graham crackers, oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat bread all contain lots of bran.
When your child is more than 4 years old, popcorn is one of the best and most delicious high-fiber foods your child will love to consume.
Your child also can get constipation relief with a bit of mineral oil. Mineral oil makes it more difficult for the bowel to absorb the water from the feces. Add 1 ounce (30 ml) in a glass of orange juice .
Only in case of an acute constipation, clear the bowel using high doses of mineral oil, suppositories or enemas. In any other case, natural remedies for constipation need patience. Once you start changing your child’s diet, the constipation should improve in 2 weeks. However if after 3 weeks still not change for the better is noticed, do ask your pediatrician for better advice.
Since children’s constipation is chronic, an effective lifestyle change could easily take up to 6 to 12 months until your child no longer needs to use stool softeners.
Your aim from the beginning is to make sure your child has 1 or 2 soft stools a day. Once that is achieved, you can slowly reduce the amount of stool softeners slightly every 2 weeks. Once you notice that the stools are too soft, you also need to reduce the dose of stool softeners: decrease with 1/3th of the dose that is causing too soft stools.
We mentioned lifestyle change: apart from following a constipation diet, the other important remedy is making sure your child has enough daily exercise!