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Four steps to help with constipation in children

Constipation is quite common in children, almost 1 in 20 visits to doctors by children are related to constipation1. Negative effects can range for mild discomfort, to severe pain and illness.

 

What classifies as constipation in children?

·        Very hard stools, it may even look like pellets.

·        Discomfort or pain during bowel movement or struggling to pass stool.

·        Reduced frequency in bowel movement (not everyone passes stool at the exact same rate, so it is more likely to be indicative of a problem if your child starts passing less frequently than what is usual for them.)

 

How can I prevent constipation in my child?

There are 4 things parents can do to help prevent constipation in their children, or to help improve constipation if it is already present.

 

1.        Make sure your child drinks enough water. Enough water ensures that stool consistency stays soft.

Some children refuse to drink water, due to dislike of the taste. In these cases, it is acceptable to offer some cooldrinks, but be careful of excessive sugar intake! I recommend diluting fruit juice with water, one part fruit juice to 3 or 4 parts water to ensure adequate fluid intake in these cases.

 

2.        Ensure your child has enough fiber in his or her diet. Fiber keeps the gut healthy and bulks up and softens stool, preventing constipation. Choose high fiber breakfast cereals, wholewheat bread rather than white for lunchbox snacks, and add fruit or veggies to most meals. Fiber and fluid intake has to be balanced, do not increase fiber intake without increasing fluid intake, as this may make constipation worse!

 

 

3.        Encourage physical exercise. Physical exercise can improve contractions of the gut. Regular physical play is highly recommended for children. Aim for at least an hour a day of any physical play, for example; playing catch, climbing on jungle gyms, kicking a ball, walking the dog or even skateboard rides!

 

 

4.        Visit a dietitian. If you are unsure if your child is consuming enough fluid or fiber, or struggling to balance fluid and fiber, a dietitian can help you make sense of their diet. We are trained in recognizing problem areas in the diet and making recommendations that suits your and your child’s needs to improve their symptoms.

 

Your child does not have to struggle with constipation, save yourself and your child some tummy aches by getting started on these four steps today!

 


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