Constipation is a very common presentation with which pediatricians come across. It is a problem that affects many children as it disrupts your child’s normal bowel pattern. Yearly, around 25% of children visit a pediatric gastroenterologist. Worldwide, the problem of pediatric constipation accounts for about 3% in a hospital setting. If not treated properly, children sometimes may land in the emergency because constipation can cause severe abdominal pain that can be mistaken for something more serious.
Let us discuss pediatric constipation and its causes.
What is Constipation?
Our digestive tract is a complex system that communicates with other body parts. In simple terms, it is a condition of the digestive system where an individual finds difficulty in expelling feces. This is because there is water absorption by the colon from the food. The slower the food moves through the digestive tract, more water is absorbed by the colon. Consequently, the feces become dry and hard which can be very painful which ultimately affect child’s health.
Major Causes of Constipation
Generally, constipation is not a serious issue, however, it is frustrating. Following are the some of the major causes of constipation:
(a) Lack of Physical Activity
Lack of physical activity is a major contributor to constipation as it decelerates the digestion and indirectly digestive process.
(b) Lack of Fiber in the Diet
Having low fiber-rich content foods(high-fat foods like cheese, meat, and eggs) in your child’s diet is one of the major cause of constipation. The fiber from these foods helps bowel movements and thus prevents constipation. Therefore, it is necessary to have fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
(c) Dietary Habits
These play a very crucial role in body’s metabolism. A sudden change in the regular diet or a different diet affects bowel movements. Your child’s body needs some time to adjust to the new food that is consumed. Furthermore, research studies show that children who eat more sugar have more chances to have constipation.
(d) Insufficient Amount of Water
One of the most common causes of constipation is dehydration. If your child does not consume sufficient quantity of water, the large intestine, as a result, absorbs water from the food waste. This makes the stools hard and dry which is painful to pass.
(e) Withholding Bowel Habits
Controlling the urge to pass stool is also a major cause of constipation. Most of the times, your child may overlook the need to have a bowel movement as they are uncomfortable using public toilets or may be worried about having a distressing bowel movement.
Although it sounds odd, yes some medicines can also contribute to constipation. Medications like antacids, narcotics, anticholinergics, and medicines used to treat depression can cause constipation.
What are the Risk Factors for Constipation?
Constipation is more common in children who:
- Do not consume fiber-rich diet and enough fluids
- Are most of the time sedentary
- Have a family history of constipation
- Have a medical condition affecting the anus or rectum
Symptoms that your Child is Constipated
Look out for the following symptoms to check if your child is suffering from constipation:
- Frequent abdominal pain
- Irregular bowel movements leading to loss of appetite and change in eating habits.
- Difficulty in passing hard and dry stools
- Bloody stools
- Clenching of the abdomen or buttocks while walking
- Nausea and loss of appetite
Household Remedies to treat Constipation
Some of the most common household treatments used to cure pediatric constipation
- Honey: Honey works like a magic in constipation. A teaspoon of honey mixed in lukewarm water before going to bed helps to pass the stool without any discomfort.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil (2ml) in the diet acts as a natural laxative and relieves the discomfort caused by infrequent bowel movements.
- Tomato: A glass of tomato juice in the diet helps to maintain healthy bowel movements.
- Raisins: These are one of the excellent home remedies for pediatric constipation Raisins soaked in milk help in regulating the bowel habits in the children.
- Dates: Another household treatment that to deal pediatric constipation is to have a glass of milk mixed with seedless dates.
Thus, pediatric constipation can have a huge impact on your child. With increased parental understanding and support with improvement in toilet habits, there is a possible way to deliver cater a significant benefit to children.
- Yong D, Beattie RM. Normal bowel movement and occurrence of constipation in primary-school children. Ambulatory Child Health. 1998;4:277–282
- van den Berg MM, Benninga MA, Di Lorenzo C. Epidemiology of childhood constipation: a systematic review. Am J Gastroenterol. 2006;101:2401–2409
- Chogle A and Saps M. Yield and cost of performing screening tests for constipation in children. Can J Gastroenterol. 2013 ;27(12): e35–e38.