Helping your child beat constipation: Causes, signs, and solutions

Written by: Dr Abraham Neduvamkunnil
Edited by: Kate Forristal

Childhood constipation can be a common but concerning issue for many parents. It is crucial to understand the leading causes, early signs, and preventive measures to ensure your child's digestive health. In his latest online article, Dr Abraham Neduvamkunnil explores the causes of constipation in children, the impact of diet, recognising symptoms, natural remedies, and the importance of early intervention.

Leading causes of constipation in children

Constipation in children can be attributed to several factors:


Toilet anxiety: Children who have negative experiences with potty training or fear of using public restrooms might hold in their bowel movements.


Dietary choices: A diet lacking in fibre-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, is a significant contributor to constipation.


Dehydration: Insufficient fluid intake can lead to hard stools, making them difficult to pass.


Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions like hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or neurological disorders can cause constipation.


Impact of diet on constipation

Diet plays a pivotal role in a child's digestive health. To create a fibre-rich diet plan for your kids, consider the following strategies:


Include high-fibre foods: Incorporate whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables into their daily meals.


Hydration: Ensure your child drinks an adequate amount of water to soften stools.


Regular meal times: Encourage consistent meal schedules to promote regular bowel movements.


Probiotics: Consider including probiotic-rich foods like yogurt to support a healthy gut.


Recognising symptoms and when to consult a healthcare professional

Early recognition of constipation is essential. Watch out for these telltale signs:


Infrequent bowel movements: If your child has less than three bowel movements per week, it may indicate constipation.


Pain during bowel movements: Straining or pain while passing stools can be a clear sign.


Faecal incontinence: Soiling or leakage between bowel movements can be another symptom.


Consult a healthcare professional if these symptoms persist for an extended period, as untreated constipation can lead to complications.


Effective natural remedies

For parents seeking natural remedies to alleviate constipation in children, here are some safe options:


Prunes or prune juice: Prunes are a natural laxative, and their juice can help soften stools.


Increase physical activity: Encourage your child to be physically active, which can stimulate bowel movements.


Adequate hydration: Ensure your child drinks enough water to keep stools soft and easy to pass.


Dietary adjustments: Modify their diet by adding fibre-rich foods and reducing processed or low-fibre items.


Importance of early intervention

Untreated childhood constipation can have long-term consequences, such as:


Faecal impaction: Severe constipation may result in hardened stool masses that require medical intervention.


Rectal prolapse: Chronic straining can lead to the rectum protruding from the anus.


Psychological impact: Persistent constipation can cause psychological distress and avoidance behaviours related to bowel movements.


Early intervention is crucial to prevent these complications, ensuring your child's overall health and well-being.


Childhood constipation is a common concern, but with proactive measures, a fibre-rich diet, recognition of symptoms, natural remedies, and timely intervention, parents can promote healthy digestion in their children. By nurturing your child's digestive health, you're laying the foundation for a lifetime of well-being and comfort.


Dr Abraham Neduvamkunnil is a distinguished consultant paediatrician with over 30 years of experience. You can schedule an appointment with Dr Neduvamkunnil on his Top Doctors profile.

By Dr Abraham Neduvamkunnil

Dr Abraham Neduvamkunnil is a highly experienced consultant paediatrician and educator at Nottingham University hospitals. Having received the National Merit Scholarship from the Indian government and the Appreciation Award for excellence in Paediatrics by the Ministry of Health, Oman, he began his career with the diverse population in the UK.

For the past two decades, he has served patients in the UK and taught medical students and paediatric trainees. As an experienced paediatrician, he manages a wide repertoire of medical conditions beginning in the new-born period and through adolescence. He specialises in the management of acute and common illness in children including child allergies, eczema, wheeze, asthma, constipation, bedwetting, abdominal pain, urine infections, growth and nutrition, feeding disorders, food intolerances, fits, headache, developmental concerns, and chronic fatigue and tiredness in children.

Dr Abraham values patient confidentiality, holistic approach and patient centred care. He enjoys the role of being the educational supervisor for paediatric trainees. He also serves in the panel of examiners for post graduate paediatric trainees and International medical graduates. In addition to teaching, he values evidence-based medicine and is the clinical audit lead for paediatrics and serve on the governance committee at the busy tertiary Nottingham Children’s Hospital.

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