It is not pleasant for anyone to experience sluggish bowels or constipation let alone infants, toddlers, and children. It is both difficult for the child and the parent to deal with the consequences of constipation. Because of this, constipation is one of the most common reasons parents bring their little ones into my office. Not only does constipation cause pain, it can also contribute to sleep disturbances, skin conditions, and malnutrition. Constipation can occur in an infant for a number of different reasons. The most common reasons include:
- lack of fiber
- muscle tension
- food allergy or sensitivity
Infants, toddlers, and children are just as susceptible to dehydration as adults are. When they get dehydrated the bulk in their digestive tracts becomes thicker and more difficult to pass. Dehydration can cause muscle tension over the abdominal organs and further prevent the proper movement of stool through the intestinal tract. One of the most simple and fundamental things you can do for your child is ensure they consume enough fluid, especially water throughout the day.
Fiber is technically any carbohydrate that cannot be digested or absorbed in the human GI tract. Fiber passes through the digestive system and pulls other waste materials with it. In both adults and children, fiber plays a crucial role in the formation and passage of stool through the GI tract. Whole fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains contain healthy fiber and should be the bulk of a child’s diet once they are able to consume solids.
Muscle tension in the back and abdomen can prevent the proper propulsion of stool through the intestines. Many babies and children carry tension and stress in these muscles, which makes their constipation worse. Back and tummy massages can do wonders for constipation. When massaging your child’s abdomen to relieve constipation always massage in the same direction that the stool follows (clockwise when you’re facing your child).
Food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances can be a significant cause of constipation. It is always important to identify if allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances are present when your child experiences problems in the digestive system. A nutritional assessment is probably the most important investigation I perform with most children in the office. So many of the most common health concerns, like constipation, that affect babies, infants, and toddlers can be traced back to the food they consume and how their bodies are able to digest and absorb it.
If your infant, toddler, or child is experiencing constipation I encourage you to seek medical advice from a naturopathic physician or other healthcare practitioner. When the bowels are moving properly many other health concerns improve or are prevented. To learn more about naturopathic treatments for constipation or to schedule an appointment contact Dr. Barlow at 250.448.5610.