Constipation is defined as less than one motion daily, or incomplete emptying of the bowel. Abdominal pain, and straining when passing a stool may or may not be present. Regular bowel motions and a feeling of complete emptying is crucial for good health, so normalising bowel function is a priority for any condition with constipation.
Diet and Lifestyle for constipation
1. Water. Ensure your child is getting plenty of non-sugary drinks. Water is best.
2. Fibre. Ensure they are eating enough fruit and vegetable especially raw fruits and vegetables. Examples High fibre food are, berries, lentils, beans, cabbage, Avoid processed foods.
Water and fibre together combine to form a nice soft formed stool, which passes without straining.
If your child’s fibre and water intake is adequate and still constipated.
3. Avoid foods that bind. Eg. Bananas, cheese, white rice, white bread
4. Food intolerances. Check for common food intolerances, such as, dairy, gluten, sugar. Ask your Naturopath about which test is most appropriate for you.
5. Foods with laxative effect. Prunes have a mild laxative effect. Prune juice, figs, apricots, rhubarb and pawpaw seeds
6. Fats – Increase good quality fats such as avocado, olive oil, oily fish such as tuna, salmon. Linseed oil, olive oil or coconut oil taken regularly act as internal lubrication, making the stool easy to pass.
7. Probiotics – together with prebiotics can help maintain good gut flora assisting in correct gut function.
8. Bulking agents such as Psyllium husks with plenty of water.
9. Toilet habits. Try to establish a toilet habit by sitting on the toilet ten minutes after each meal to see if a regular pattern emerges. Answering the urge to go to the toilet and not put it off. Using a Squatty Potty may help as it positions your body correctly for elimination.
10. Exercise. Encourage more physical activity, especially abdominal exercises, this improves sluggishness of the bowel
11. Chamomile tea.– help relax the intestinal muscles. And Helps calm an anxious or wired child.
12. Abdominal massage. Helps the stool make it’s way to the rectum. Start from the bottom right of the abdomen, stroke up to just under the rib cage, across to the left side then down to the lower left of the abdomen.
13. stress/anxiety reduction. Magnesium, B and C vitamins, bach flowers. Get into a routine with your child to talk about things that are bothering him/her without any judgment or lectures attached. It can be a problem solving session that can give them alternates to their problems.
14. Protein – sometime constipation can be caused by too much protein other times it may be not enough. Protein is needed to make your digestive enzymes. If there is inadequate protein digestion/absorption these enzymes may be reduced and thereby inhibiting proper digestion of food which may lead to constipation. Taking digestive enzymes may help.
It is interesting to know that the appearance of healthy stool should be about the length of a banana, walnut coloured, have the consistency of toothpaste, be easy to pass with minimal odour, should settle in the toilet water then gently submerge. Food normally spends longer in the colon than anywhere else but the timing of its passage depends on its type and on the individual person’s transit time. Ideally an evacuation once a day is good but three times a day after meals is perfect.
When all said and done it is mainly diet that stands as both the cause and the cure for most cases of constipation. Poor eating habits should be gradually replaced by the unrefined high fibre foods which should be chewed well, three satisfying meals a day, with time taken to sit quietly and digest. Eating on the run and animated conversation during meals should be avoided. It is better to drink fluids in-between meals rather than with food as it is more beneficial to digestion.
There could be many different reasons for constipation. If symptoms persist please seek professional advice from your health care professional.