What Is Constipation?
Constipation is defined as infrequent bowel movements in addition to a hard and difficult to pass stool. Fewer than four per week or every other day is a good indicator of constipation. Check out the Children’s Bristol Stool Chart for visualization of constipated, normal, and diarrheal stools.
What Causes Constipation?
The microbiome (the trillions of organisms that populate the gut) is one of the key players in intestinal function. These organisms are responsible for our digestion and gut motility. When there is disharmony in the gut, a.k.a gut imbalance or dysbiosis, our bowel patterns are affected.
Early Causes of Constipation in Young Children
Causes of a disrupted microbiome can start at birth. The following may be early contributing factors:
- Delivering via a c-section
- Not being exposed to breast milk
- Medication use such as antibiotics, antacids or PPIs (proton pump inhibitors)
The first three years of life are a crucial period for the gut microbiome as the “gut bugs” are becoming established for a lifetime.
Causes of Constipation in Adolescents and Adults
Contributing factors to constipation seen later in life often include the following:
- A diet high in processed foods attributing to a low fiber diet
- High fat diets which slow down digestion
- Consumption of too much dairy
- Avoidance of foods that feed the healthy bacteria in the gut
- Exposure to pesticides
- Withholding stool
Constipation Medicine – Know the Risks
There are over the counter remedies for constipation which are convenient and more natural remedies that take discipline and time. Over the counter remedies are frequently prescribed for the treatment of constipation. The concern with the daily use of medication is the body becomes dependent on the medication for passing of stool. The root cause is not addressed. Medication is recommended for occasional use though, too often, kids are treated daily. The long term effects have not been studied and there are natural remedies that can be quite effective without the side effects or long term concerns.
Combat Constipation with a Well-Balanced Diet
The first place to start is with a diet that is well balanced, rich in fiber and mostly whole foods.
Foods to Include for a Healthy Gut
- Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes are loaded with fiber and should be incorporated daily into meals.
- Healthy fats from avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil and nut butters should be included too.
- Don’t forget the importance staying well hydrated. Fluids are important in the elimination process.
Foods to Avoid for a Healthy Gut
- Processed foods, white foods such as white bread and fried foods should be avoided as they can contribute greatly to the problem.
- Milk can be a contributor to constipation so eliminating dairy from the diet for at least 2 weeks can be helpful.
How Can Probiotics Help with Constipation?
A high quality probiotic can help repopulate the gut. Probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt (watch the added sugar), kefir, pickles, miso, kombucha and tempeh are great add-ins to meals and can be very beneficial to the microbiome. Probiotic foods are just as beneficial as they feed the probiotics and help them flourish. Foods such as bananas, apples, kiwi, garlic, onions and asparagus are all excellent sources of probiotics.
Relieve Constipation with Magnesium
Magnesium is another great way to combat constipation. Getting the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium from food has become a challenge. Our food tends to be deficient in magnesium because the soil has become depleted due to over farming and all the pesticides used on vegetation.
Magnesium citrate can be purchased in powder form and is an excellent way to alleviate constipation. The mechanism of action is it pulls water into the intestines to soften the stool and makes it easier to pass. Magnesium also has a calming and relaxing effect on the body.
Another way to supplement with magnesium is by taking a warm Epsom salt bath for 20-30 minutes. The Epsom salt contains magnesium and the mineral will be absorbed through the skin. This also relaxes the body and allows for the bowels to relax as well making it easier for peristalsis to occur.
Juicing Can Cure Constipation
Aloe vera juice mixed in a small amount of juice can help to get things moving. Other juices to consider are prune juice, cherry juice and pear juice. Small amounts are all you need to offer.
Set Bathroom Routines & Remain Active
Setting up regular bathroom time 30 minutes after meals is a good way to train the body to go to the bathroom. Allow 15 minutes on the toilet in a relaxed environment with feet grounded. Having the feet grounded allows for bearing down and passage of stool.
Being active and moving the body is just as important. Moving the body helps to move everything.
If your child is battling with constipation and the above has not manifested any improvement, schedule a visit and let’s get to the root cause. I have many more remedies and natural solutions to recommend.