One of the common health symptoms that we need to address as parents of babies, toddlers and young children is constipation. And there is nothing more traumatic than seeing your little one suffer with the abdominal pain and discomfort associated with it. Whether it is a one off occasion or an ongoing problem, the optimal result would be to find out the cause and prevent the problem from recurring.
More often than not, you will be offered a variety of medicine, laxatives, stool softeners or in extreme cases, enemas to ‘assist’ your child to go to the toilet. The downfall of these treatments is that the underlying cause still exists and the problem occurs again. And by using these products for long periods, you can make the muscles around the bowel lazy, causing even bigger health issues.
In Natural health, we tend to look at the child as a whole and work out why they became constipated in the first place. There are numerous causes and often simple inexpensive treatments that correct the imbalance causing the problem.
So what causes the constipation?
Some common causes:
1) LOW FLUID INTAKE. Although babies and toddlers require a lot less fluids in the day than adults, they still do require about 600ml – 1000ml a day (depending on age). It is easy to keep track of fluid intake whilst you are breast or bottle-feeding but when children get more physically active and busy, it can be harder to monitor. The hot weather, physical exercise, growth and air-conditioned / heated environments can further increase requirements.
2) LOW FIBRE DIET. Children and diet! Need I comment any further? When kids start on solids, we become increasingly challenged with the variety, amount and types of foods that we can get into them. Many would rather play than eat, eat much less than we would like to get into them and tend to stick to the foods they like rather than be adventurous. It gets even harder when toddlers learn they can refuse to eat the things they need. Fibrous foods such as vegetables and whole grains are not usually on a toddler’s agenda. Even if you can get fibre in, remember you need adequate fluids for everything to work properly.
3) GOOD BACTERIA. We all need good bacteria to protect our gut and assist with the manufacture, breakdown and absorption of many nutrients. So if children eat poorly, have gastro illnesses or have antibiotics to treat infections, like adults, you need to replace the good bacteria in their bellies. We often forget that even when mum’s have antibiotics during pregnancy, delivery or whilst breastfeeding, the babies good gut bacteria can be affected as well. This can leave you with a baby that has colic, reflux and constipation. This in turn will leave them in pain, crying and lack of sleep for all concerned. It is vital that you replace the good bacteria! This is safe to do in babies and toddlers and there are some great tricks to do to get it into them. But often the wrong probiotics are given. The bacteria in a baby’s gut differs from that of an adult. So replacing the bacteria with general or adult products will not be effective. There are practitioner formulas containing neonatal strains of probiotics that can sort the issue. Much research has been done on probiotics and paediatrics and the effectiveness of such replacement treatments.
4) MAGNESIUM. It probably seems odd that a single mineral has appeared on this list. That is because we are rarely taught about the numerous signs symptoms that are caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Magnesium is a vital nutrient needed by the body and plays a huge role in the health, wellbeing and development of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Unfortunately, magnesium is not in a huge amount of child ‘friendly’ foods. Kids do however, consume large amounts of the ‘favoured’ calcium based foods and drinks. Although you possibly are not aware of how nutrients work together (or against each other), having lots of calcium can actually bully what magnesium is getting in. We forget that children need so many nutrients in good amounts to cope with their rapid growth and high level of physical activity. Rarely can they get enough out of diet and even harder for a fussy or light eater. Children often exhibit signs of low or deficient magnesium. These signs include: muscle cramps, poor sleep or trouble getting to sleep, night terrors, growing pains, inability to relax and the dreaded CONSTIPATION. By supplementing you can treat and prevent, without having to use medicines. And you will have much calmer, healthier and happier children.