Chronic constipation can be a traumatic experience for a child. In my last article, ”how to help a child with constipation” I talked about some general ways to address constipation in your child. But what if you have done all those things and nothing is helping. You need to dig deeper into the root cause
I have explained the strong correlation between cows milk intolerance and constipation. That is one common, overlooked reason for constipation.
There are other, less common reasons why you might not be getting anywhere with your child’s constipation.
Other reasons for chronic constipation in children
This is an issue I see all too often in clinic. Lead may have got into your child’s system through renovations, old ceramic crockery or even lipstick! I do hair tissue mineral analysis with kids to see if lead could be an issue. If lead is the issue, all the fibre in the world isn’t going to fix the constipation problem.
This is an autoimmune reaction to gluten, which can cause a wide array of symptoms, including chronic constipation. It is definitely worth invegiating if there is a family history of auto-immune disease (Hashimotos, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes etc)
A slowing of the thyroid gland will slow down the motility of the gut, causing chronic constipation. Although this is more common in adults, it can be a problem for some kids too.
Some kids need iron supplementation as they are anemic. If this is the case, you need to work with a holistic practitioner to work out why (hint: if they are a fussy eater and don’t eat meat, that would be why. Talk to me about my fussy eating program!).
Some kids are just told to take iron by a well-meaning person, as a bit of an insurance policy. Either way, many iron supplements can cause severe constipation. You need to work out why your child needs iron and address that. In the meantime, choose a more tummy-friendly iron supplement.
What happens when severe constipation in children is left untreated?
Fissures can occur when poos are too big and difficult to pass. These are little tears around you child’s anus. Each time your child tries to pass a bowel motion the fissures will lead to pain, which can lead to withholding.
It is definitely recommended to seek professional help before this happens, or as soon as it happens.
Natural laxatives for children with chronic constipation
This is a great bowel mover for kids. They can take it orally, as a supplement or in the bath. Either Epsom salts or magnesium salts in the bath will do the trick.
These can be helpful, but not all strains. You need to work with a professional to decide what strains will work best for your child
Cod liver oil
Cod Liver Oil is one of my all-round favourite supplements for kids. It has so many benefits, one of them being acting as a lubricant to pass a stool
If you take too much vitamin C, it will give you diarrhea. You can use that to your advantage if your child tends to get constipated and give them a big enough dose of vitamin C to move their bowels. What that dose is depends on many factors specific to your child, so you need to do a bit of test and learn to work it out.
What do I not recommend for chronic constipation in children?
I do not recommend the heavily promoted osmotic laxatives which you can buy over the counter.
These contain an ingredient called PEG 3350.
This is often recommended for use for years on end, as it apparently is totally safe. I disagree.
Funnily enough, the same ingredient (PEG 3350) is used to clear out the entire microbiome (gut bacteria) of mice who are to be used for scientific experiments. Given that mice studies are used to assess attributes of human health, it would be fair to assume that anything that wipes out the gut bacteria in a mouse, would do the same in a human. Once you wipe out bacteria, they are gone forever. No amount of probiotics will bring them back.
In the US, the product information for the most commonnly used osmotic laxative states that this should be taken for up to 2 weeks. Not the 10 years it is often taken for. The FDA recommends it for 7 days, to clear impaction.
Also, in the US between 2007 and 2017, 1564 adverse symptoms (AS) were reported on 645 children between the ages of 0‐21 taking this product. Of these, 919 (58.75%) were neurological, 770 of these were neuropsychiatric (83.8%), such as anxiety, anger, abnormal behaviour, etc. Certainly, this is something to be aware of!
Getting to the root cause of your child’s chronic constipation
As a Naturopath, I help you get to the root cause of your child’s constipation. This might mean doing some advanced stool testing that your doctor will not have done unless you see an integrative doctor. Pinpointing why your child is constipated gives you the chance to resolve the issue – permanently. Make an appointment for a FREE 20 minute chat with me to assess if I can help your child.