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Constipation and Kids

An Aussie Mum's Guide To Eco Friendly Babies: Constipation and Kids

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Constipation and Kids

Maybe it's due to the large amount of processed foods kids at these days... maybe it's the lack of water during the day... maybe this is an issue that's been around forever and I'm only finding out about it now... whatever the reason, kids seem to increasingly suffer from constipation.

For little bubba's,  watching water intake (if they are on formula or starting solids) and minimising big changes to diet seems to do the trick in most cases.  Because their digestive systems are still growing, they can find it hard to deal with any sort of change- breast to formula, formula brand changes and the introduction of solids can all cause constipation  diarrhoea or fluctuations between the two.  In hotter weather breast milk is produced with a higher water content to prevent dehydration in the baby- formula of course doesn't have this ability.  Some health nurses will recommend giving small amount of water through the day to keep baby hydrated and keep bowels in top shape.  Same goes for the introduction of solids- giving a little water once bub is up to a couple of feeds a day makes sure stools don't dry out and become hard to pass.  Make sure to include plenty of fruit when introducing solids- pears are great, and you can even steam and puree organic, pitted prunes.  Yoghurt that contains acidophilus will also help to ensure bacteria in the gut stays healthy.

If water isn't working, you can try a little diluted (50/50) pear or prune juice from the age of about 4 months- but go easy on the prune, it can work a little too well if you give too much!  Some nurses will recommend sugar water for small babies.  Brown sugar in boiled water is apparently safe when used in the right ratios, but call a health nurse (in Australia, 13HEALTH will put you on the phone to a qualified Child Health Nurse) to get exact amounts for your baby.  If you see a Naturopath, they can prescribe a strain of infant specific flora supplement that can be mixed into water or milk and can be used from birth to regulate the gut, as well as provide immunity and help allergy or skin conditions.

Once kids get a bit older it does become easier.  Increasing fruit in the diet, making sure they are drinking plenty of water (not juice or soft drinks) and keeping them active will all help to keep the digestive system healthy.  Excess sugar, lack of fibre and good fats, too much processed food or not enough fresh fruit and veg will all contribute to bowel trouble.  Make sure kids are getting a varied diet and include fats from oily fish, wholegrains, nuts (where age appropriate) and seeds- these will not only provide excellent food for growing brains, but lubricate the bowels and promote regularity.

Be really careful about giving kids fibre supplements- if given too much or with not enough water, they can actually worsen constipation or cause blockages in the bowel.  It's better to make sure they are getting enough fibre through general dietary sources like good quality breakfast cereal (be wary of claims on commercial cereal), fresh produce and brown, grainy bread.  Sugary treats and processed foods including white bread should be kept to a minimum as should drinks other than water.  Natural yoghurts are great as mentioned above, or consider using a probiotic suitable for the child's age.

For kids over the age of four with ongoing issues, you can use a bit of flaxseed oil to soften stools and lubricate the bowel- this is very safe and doesn't present dependency issues like a lot of pharmaceutical options.  Magnesium powders are usually pleasantly flavoured and work really well in most cases- these draw water into the bowel to soften and provide bulk (softening can reduce the pain associated with a hard, dry bowel movement) and also relax muscles that may be tensed and preventing bowel evacuation.  Some kids get magnesium deficient very quickly- signs include muscle cramps or twitches, insomnia, irritability and constipation.  These kids may need to take magnesium on and off all their lives.  See a Naturopath for an appropriate recommendation.

Of course, it's always important for severe constipation to be checked out by a doctor.  There may be a blockage in the bowel and that will mean some treatments cannot be used.  These can be very severe and must be dealt with quickly.  Symptoms include pain, vomiting and abdominal distension or bloating.  If in doubt, see you doctor as soon as you can.


At May 13, 2011 at 1:29 PM , Blogger Rachel said...

Chiropractic can also help wish is NATURAL! I found your blog on the NPN. I started a new link up for sharing healthy ideas, suggestions, going "green" tips, etc., thought you might want to join in and I hope you'll join me next Wednesday! (Healthy 2day Wednesdays) Have a great weekend!

At May 14, 2011 at 12:16 AM , Blogger Amy B said...

Rachel I can't find it! Can you please pop a link up?


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