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Dealing with your child's constipation

Constipation is a frustrating problem for many parents and their children. One problem is that it is often mistaken for a potty training problem in younger kids and for older children; you usually don’t know how often they are having bowel movements.
What causes constipation?
For the average child, constipation is usually caused by a combination of a high fat and low fiber diet. This might include drinking too much whole milk, eating a lot of other dairy products, and not eating a lot of fruits and vegetables.
Some quick and easy changes to your child’s diet that may make it less constipating can include:
  • Changing to low fat milk or soy milk (as long as your child is at least two years old), both of which can be less constipating than whole milk
  • Limiting your child’s intake of milk to about sixteen ounces a day
  • Avoiding/limiting foods that are traditionally thought to be constipating, such as:
- Bananas
- Most dairy products (cheese, yogurt, ice-cream, milk) – NOTE: if limiting dairy because of constipation, be sure to find an alternative source of calcium such as calcium fortified foods
- Cooked carrots
- Most high fat foods such as French fries and processed foods
- White rice
  • Increasing the amount of fiber and bran in your child’s diet by feeding him more high fiber foods
  • Increasing your child’s intake of fluid each day, especially water
Preventing constipation:
Foods and drinks that are often thought to help prevent constipation include:
Many fresh fruits that are eaten with the skin on (apples, grapes, peaches) Fresh fruits with high water content (watermelon & cantaloupe)
Raw vegetables Vegetable soup
Legumes Prunes & Figs
Foods made with whole grains (shredded wheat, bran cereals & bran muffins) Popcorn (Note: this is a choking hazard for younger kids)
Fiber wafers Dried fruits (raisins, prunes, dates & figs)
Constipation treatment tips:
  • Learn to read food labels to choose foods that are high in fiber
  • Consider using a stool softener/laxative if dietary changes are not
  • quickly helping your child’s constipation
  • A schedule of having your child trying to have a bowel movement twice
  • a day can be helpful to get her in the habit of going. Choose a time, such as
  • right after meals, when she is most likely to have a bowel movement
  • Don’t force her, but simply encourage her to try to go for a few minutes.
  • Regular exercise can sometimes help children have more regular bowel movements
  • Be sure to see if constipation is listed as a side effect of any medications that your child is taking on a regular basis
  • Encopresis (in which your child has 'stooling accidents') can be a complication of constipation
  • Keep in mind that constipation often takes many months (if not longer) to correct, and that constipation can sometimes be cause by something more serious than a simple diet problem, and therefore requires an evaluation by a Pediatric Gastroenterologist for more help.
By:Raya M. AbuYounis
Registered Clinical Nutritionist (King's College London -UK)
MSc International Health Management (Imperial College London -UK)