Do you or your child struggle with constipation? Are you or your child stuck on miralax? This post will help explain what constipation can look like, how to tell if you actually are constipated, and some amazing natural remedies for constipation.
Let’s Talk Poop
Do you ever talk about poop? In our house it’s a common topic and I’m often called the poop patrol. I’m not sure if I should be proud of that or embarrassed? I’m sure you’ve heard this before but did you know that your poop tells a lot about your overall health?
Our bowel movements are a sign of what’s going on on the inside of our body. It’s super important to be tuned into what’s going IN and what’s coming OUT of us. When we really start to watch and listen to our body we often start to make wiser decisions and start to feel better.
For adults this can be easier than for a child. As a pediatric feeding therapist I work with many babies and children that have constipation. Many of whom the parents didn’t realize their child was constipated until we started talking about it in detail.
My goal is to help them learn the reason why behind constipation and a few natural remedies for constipation in children that can help move them along in the right directions. Once you know what to look for you are better equipped to get to the root and start moving to a healthier gut.
I hope this post helps you understand how constipation is happening and find some natural remedies for constipation in kids that will work for you and your family.
What Is Constipation?
According to the Mayo Clinic constipation is generally described as three or less bowel movements per week or difficulty having a bowel movement. It’s also having infrequent bowel movements over an extended period of time.
Some people think if they are having a bowel movement every day then they are fine. But really, we need to look further into that because you can still be constipated and have a bowel movement everyday? What? How can that be?
What Does Constipation Look Like?
Dr. B from The Plant Fed Gut recently spoke with Plant Proof about trying to figure out one’s cause for bloating and gas. In the podcast Dr. B shares that essentially 100% of people with constipation have gas and bloating. In this podcast Dr. B talks about how important gut health is and I think you will find some natural remedies for constipation after listening to this podcast.
Yes, you can be constipated and not know it. But guess what your body is signaling when you have gas and bloating? You could be constipated.
Constipation can look different and some ways it can really surprise you. Below is a list of different ways to tell if you or your child is constipated.
Signs You Or Your Child May Be Constipated
- Gassy or bloated feeling
- Stomach cramps or aches especially before or during pooping
- Excessive burping
- Difficulty pooping (straining)
- Poops that are hard and/or dry looking
- Infrequent bowel movements
- Bed Wetting (this is a biggie that often gets overlooked)
- Watery stools/Diarrhea
- Larger than normal stools (especially in babies/toddler/children- the kind that you ask “How did my little 2 year old produce a grown up poop?)
- Snake like poops (very long and very thin, almost string like poop). **A smooth and snake like (that’s not too thin) is considered normal.
- Poop that’s in the shape of balls
- Traces of stool in your child’s diaper or underwear (sign it could be backed up)
- Blood in stool (could be a sign of other things not just constipation)
- When your child is scared to go to the bathroom for #2 or when they hold it in (could be a sign that it is painful and your child is trying to avoid that not so good feeling)
- Loss of appetite or having a child that doesn’t seem hungry. Likely to be able to go a long period of time without feeling hungry. Constipation plays a big role in hunger cues. You often see this in picky eaters.
What Causes Constipation In Children and Adults?
There are several different reasons for constipation and actually several natural remedies for constipation too. Below I’ll explain some common reasons for constipation in kids. Hopefully this will help you think about your own child and what their cause could potentially be. You’ll feel better prepared to tackle this issue because you may learn the reason behind constipation.
Learning and/or finding the cause of constipation is the key because you are actually beginning to identify the root cause and then you start to work on fixing the foundation. I’m always trying to help find the root cause to issues when working with families.
When you identify the root cause you are going to work towards healing for the long term rather than finding a band aid that may stay on forever.
Below are some causes that contribute to constipation. This list is just a few things that could be going on but not the only things contributing. They are the main causes that I see as a feeding therapist.
Before jumping straight into natural remedies for constipation lets look further into why your child is constipated.
Diet is a big player in the game of constipation. Often the offenders that contribute to constipation include processed foods, dairy foods, high saturated fat foods (greasy/fried) foods, and sweet foods. It’s everywhere and these foods are all around us.
These are the foods that should be eaten sparingly or not very often and in small amounts. Foods high in fiber are the foods we need for a healthy poop. We’ll talk about those foods in a bit.
Holding it in
Toddlers are famous for this and honestly even my oldest child who is 8 can do this from time to time. Kids are playing and having so much fun that they don’t want to take a minute to stop and leave the action.
I get it. I’ve been into a movie or writing a blog post that next thing I know I’ve got my legs crossed and my stomach is extended. I’ve had to go to the bathroom for an hour but don’t want to actually get up from what I’m doing. Not good and for being 40 I should really know better.
But just like holding in our pee it isn’t good for us either to hold in poop. If you see your little one holding onto his buttocks, crossing legs, shaking hips back and forth, or starting to do the pee/poopy dance then you know it’s time to hit the potty.
Fear Of Going To the Bathroom
Some children that have constipation may have a fear of going because it hurts to go. If you’ve ever dealt with constipation then you know it’s a horrible feeling. When I was pregnant with my second child I was on medicine to help with vomiting. One of the side effects was constipation and let me tell you it was awful.
So children learn very quickly how to protect themselves from what doesn’t feel good. You may see your child holding it in and this could be a sign that it may hurt to go. You may also see your child become very upset when you try to put them on the potty. Be aware of this behavior because it could very well be a sign that there is more going on than just a child not wanting to sit down for a minute.
In all the blogs and websites I look through I don’t know if I’ve seen muscle tone mentioned on many of them. It’s definitely not something talked about enough in my opinion. This is when the pediatric therapist in me kicks in.
As a pediatric speech-language pathologist and feeding therapist I’m a huge believer in treating through a whole child approach. The systems in our body are designed to work together. Often times we treat areas in our body like they are out on their own but reality is they all work together.
According to Breakthrough Intensive Physical Therapy, muscle tone is defined as “the tension in a muscle at rest”. It’s the “muscles response to an outside force, such as stretch or change in direction”. It’s there to respond and protect you from injury.
Some kids, and many that I’ve worked with over the years, have low tone or “Hypotonia” which is when the muscle tone responds slower and is unable to sustain a prolonged contraction. Often kids with low muscle tone appear to be “floppy”, like their limbs appear to be limp or they may seem to have increased flexibility in their joints.
Tone plays a big role in my therapy sessions for helping children learn to talk and eat. It’s something I’m always looking into.
What you get ON the body you get IN the body. So think about it this way. If your child has difficulty with muscle tone then they will also experience that same muscle tone on the inside of their body. Low muscle tone can slow the movement of bowel movements therefore contributing to constipation. Since the muscle is slower to respond the bowel movements are going to be slower to move through the GI system.
An OT or a PT can identify this and help give you some pointers as how to work on this.
Other GI Complications
Other GI complications can contribute to constipation. Things like leaky gut, unidentified food allergies (immediate or delayed), Crohns, IBS, Celiac, imbalance in good and bad gut bacteria, difficulty digesting foods fully, etc. There is more to this but I’m gonna leave this section up to the doctors since obviously I’m not one. But seriously, your child could be experiencing one of these or something else which could be contributing to constipation.
If you have a suspicion or that gut feeling us parents get then make an appointment with your GI doc in your area. Dr. Sheila Kilbane out of Charlotte sees children from all of the country and is a wonderful pediatrician that helps get to the root of children’s health issues. Check her out HERE.
Miralax (Not One Of The Natural Remedies For Constipation)
Are you stuck on miralax? We dealt with constipation starting at about 12 months. We immediately started miralax and it helped some, but I had this feeling there had to be more to the reason as to why my child was constipated. I also had this feeling like I was happy to have miralax because it made pooping easier. I also had this feeling like “how long are we gonna be on this stuff?”
If you are a parent and your child is on miralax then I’m sure you are doing the best you can for your child but you could have those same feelings like I once had. Honestly, if you’ve asked your doctor like I did for other options they may not have been able to give you one.
Three and half years later we were still dealing with constipation which was impacting my child’s hunger cues and increasing picky eating. We were actually still needing miralax everyday. What? How could that be? I noticed that all the babies I worked with were also on miralax and as the years went by they stayed on it. Hmmm I thought.
So I dove deep into gut health. I’m no doctor and don’t claim to be but I sure searched and studied like I was. LOL I wanted to get to the root of all this. Surely there is a better option out there right? At the time I didn’t know much about gut health and I’m still learning everyday. But what I found out was that miralax was basically a bandaid. It doesn’t get absorbed into the GI tract and then kids end up getting stuck on it.
Fast forward several years and we are off miralax. We were actually able to decrease miralax within a few weeks and fully get off within a month. Some of the babies/children I worked with it took a little longer because other complications like tone and GI issues played a role too. Each child is different so time can vary depending on the circumstances.
I’m not here to bash miralax. In fact I’m actually thankful for it at that time. I hope this posts educates parents on what other options are out there because the sooner we address the real cause the sooner we can began to heal and make progress with our health.
Natural Remedies For Constipation In Kids
Did you know that a majority of children that deal with chronic constipated need more magnesium? Did you know that magnesium is a natural stool softener and it calms the central nervous system. So not only is a great for pooping it’s great for helping kids focus, helping relieve tics, falling asleep, and staying asleep through the night. Win Win right there.
There are different brands to use for magnesium. We use a brand by Orthomolecular called Reacted Magnesium.
We also take 3 epsom salt baths a week. The skin absorbs epsom salt during the bath. Don’t forget your skin is your largest organ. I use about 1-2 cups for my kids bath of pure epsom salt (no fragrances or other ingredients). You can buy the generic brand at Walmart.
There is also magnesium CALM at Whole Foods, Amazon, or other health stores.
Consult your doctor before taking a magnesium supplement to find out what dose is appropriate for you or your child.
Foods High In Magnesium
- Pumpkin seeds (you can grind these down in a food processor and keep in a bag. Put a tbsp in muffins, pancakes, waffles, baked goods)
- Cashews (almonds and cashews are great. You can buy individual packs of these for snacks or lunches)
- Tofu HERE is a video on how to fry tofu for kids
- Flax, Chia, Hemp seeds
- Whole Grains (oats, steel cut or old fashioned, Buckwheat pancake mix, brown rice, quinoa, chickpea or lentil pasta) **I place oats and pumpkin seeds in a blender and process until fine. When making muffins or pancakes I add this to them)**
- Fatty Fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut)
- Bananas (the more unripe bananas are more of a resistant starch)
- Leafy Greens (can also put small amounts in a smoothie for kids)
- Baked Potato with skin (can make small roasted potatoes, potato skins with crispy skins)
Powdered Produce/Plant Powders
This is by far my greatest Mom Hack to date. I found out about these plant powders five years ago and what a blessing they have been. They are non gmo, NSF certified (even better than organic), and a food label. Yay! Not a vitamin label but an actual food label. Fruits and veggies are absorbed in the body and these are show to do the same as when you eat that apple.
Basically, the whole fruit, veggies, and berries are picked at the peak of ripeness, ground down into tiny particles, then dehydrated. This is the short version but that’s the basics of it. They are put into a vegan capsules or chewable. My kids started on them at the ages of 13 months and 3.5 years old.
This is what got us off miralax. This was one of our first natural remedies for constipation. This is what helps build immune systems and my kids went from being sick to barely being sick ever. How? Because our body need a variety of plant foods to be the healthiest we can be. Many kids, especially picky eaters, are not eating enough fruits and veggies.
Fruits and veggies provide us with fiber and fiber is what keeps our bowel movements running smoothly. I love this hack and I use these plant powders as a resource everyday because people need this. Everyone needs extra fruits and veggies. We can’t deny that so this is why this an easy natural remedy for constipation in kids.
Fiber- Best Natural Remedy For Constipation
Fruits and veggies and plant foods provide us with fiber! In my opinion this is super important when learning about the best natural remedies for constipation. Fiber is what our gut bacteria eats and helps flourish the good bacteria in our gut. Say bye bye to the bad gut bacteria when we eats lots of plants. So this sounds pretty easy right? Well, not so fast there especially if you have a picky eater.
You will want to start slow because too much fiber too fast is not a good thing either and can actually cause constipation to get a little worse. You need to start slow. Remember slow and steady wins the race. If your child is a picky eater and you know getting them to eat a bunch of different fruits and veggies will be hard then here are some tips.
Tips For Getting In More Fiber
Have your child pick out one fruit and one veggie for lunch that day
Offer choices so they feel they somewhat in control too
Add chia, hemp, or flax seed to waffles, pancakes, or muffins when baking/cooking. You can buy a pancake mix (look for a whole grain mix) and add some ground flax to that too)
Look for granola bars or other store bought items with 3-4 or more grams of fiber
Incorporate oats into diet
Offer smoothies. It’s a great gateway to veggies and fruits. Start very simple and start with a preferred flavor for your child. Maybe you start by getting one from a local smoothie shop first to try. Making “milkshakes” together may get your child more interested
Using Chickpea pasta or 100% whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta.
Offering fruit or veggies with every meal
Offering fruit or veggies with fun dips like chocolate hummus, favorite dressing, nut butters, or even whipped cream. We love the So Delicious coconut milk cool whip
Offer fruits and veggies as family style (in a big bowl or plate in the center of the table)
Benefiber in water (ask doctor if concerned about age of your child)
Psyllium Husk (made from psyllium husk seeds. I believe this is for children ages 6 and up but ask your doctor before trying)
There could be several causes to you or your child’s constipation but my hope is this post helps guide you to learning more about your unique situation. I also hope you learned about several natural remedies for constipation that you can incorporate into your own lifestyle.
If you want to learn more and get some more ideas for feeding your family foods high in fiber plus recipes then visit this post RIGHT HERE that I recently shared.