Is your child backed up? Constipation in kids is one of the most common things I see in my office and at the hospital each day. Many parents don’t even know that the cause of their child’s relentless tummy troubles, pain and poor sleep is related to their child’s poop.
The reality is, we parents focus (and sometimes obsess) about our kids’ poo when they are babies, and this can continue for years afterwards. Hopefully by the time they are teens we relent!
Constipation isn’t just about how often you stool, but about the consistency as well. Your child should ideally stool at least once per day, it should be soft, should not hurt to push out and it should take less than a few minutes.
Many adults and kids are used to sitting on the toilet for long periods of time and pushing out hard, large volume, very thin or marble-like stools. This is not normal and it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are some simple things you can do:
EAT MORE FIBRE
This involves more fruits, vegetables, and trying more brown pasta, rice, bread than white versions. Some veg and fruit are lower in fibre than you may think! It’s not that intuitive.
Kids less than three years of age need about 20 grams of fibre a day and kids four to 10 need about 25 to 30 grams.
Teens and adults need 30 to 40 grams per day.
It’s good practice to start reading nutritional labels. Aim for at least two grams of fibre per serving of grain products like cereals, breads and pasta.
Choose high fibre fruits and vegetables versus low fibre more often. Here is a list for your reference:
Low Fibre: Peaches, Melons, Grapes, Cucumber, Fruit juices, Tomato, Cauliflower, Creamed corn, Potato with no skin, Squash, Spinach, Lettuce, Cabbage
Medium Fibre: Oranges, Peeled apples and pears, Pineapple, Banana, String beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Corn on the cob, Potato with skin (white or sweet)
High Fibre: Pear and apple with skin, Mangoes, Berries, Dried fruits, Green peas, Snow peas, Legumes, Air popped popcorn (older kids)
DRINK LOTS OF FLUIDS
Most children require one or two litres of water per day!
Some kids drink too much pop and other caffeinated beverages. These can act as diuretics, causing you to pee out precious, poo-softening fluid. Ideally your child should not drink any pop.
I suggest encouraging your child to use the toilet or potty after every meal. Yes, after breakfast, lunch and dinner. This makes it so you don’t have to battle about going to the washroom. It’s routine.
Years after toilet training, my two older boys still only poo after meals!
Once constipated, the bowel starts to stretch out, and this can take a number of months to go back to normal. Therefore, treating constipation is not a quick fix.
In addition to starting more fluids and fibre, I often use medication that brings fluid into the stool, called Peg 3350. Discuss this with your doctor, as well as any other concerns you may have with your child’s health.
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