There are natural solutions to the problem of childhood constipation.
by Judith G. Cobb, MH, CI, NCP
This article is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. It is meant for educational purposes only. Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health, and Nature’s Sunshine Products accept no responsibility for results you get, whether good or bad, from using this information. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.
Note: More information about the products mentioned can be found at the end of the article.
Constipation is one of those things that really captures a mother’s interest. Mothers could all be herbalists because of the way they are all interested in bowel movements. Mothers do watch what happens with their baby’s diapers, and so they should, because much can be learned about baby’s health by checking his elimination. Mothers have an intuitive knowing that if the consistency or frequency of bowel movements changes, something else in the body has changed.
If a child is going for more than a day without a bowel movement then something needs to be done, and it may warrant medical investigation to make sure there are no blockages or obstructions of any kind that could be severely problematic.
For breastfed babies the rules are different. Breastfed babies tend to go through a real kind of warp. Initially they’ll usually have a bowel movement with every nursing, but once they hit anywhere between six weeks and twelve weeks they’ll often change. Suddenly they won’t have very many bowel movements at all, maybe one every four or five days. For a breastfed baby that’s not necessarily bad, because there’s no fibre in breast milk, and the only way the bowels function is if there’s enough fibre or another irritant of some kind to move things through more quickly. Don’t get upset about breastfed babies who don’t have a bowel movement every day, as long as they appear to be comfortable. Certainly, once solids have been introduced, they should be having more frequent bowel movements. Optimally when your child is on mostly solid food, we want to see a healthy bowel pattern being established – usually a movement after each meal. This is a good indication that the child is getting enough fibre and fluid in his diet.
It’s really important to watch the texture and the consistency of the bowel movements. If bowel movements are happening every day, but they are very hard and dry and are causing a lot of discomfort and maybe even some bleeding, there is a problem. Things need to get softened up. Things need to be moving more easily. On the other hand, if the bowel movements are runny, we need to do something to thicken things up, but that’s a topic for another article.
Herbal Solutions for Constipation
If baby is constipated, mother probably is too. Remember that mothers can take supplements and their nursing babies will get them through the breastmilk. (Liquid supplements can also be given directly to the infant, whether breastfed or not.) One exception to this for constipation is Licorice Extract, because Licorice Extract will sometimes dry up breast milk. I would give Licorice Extract directly to a baby or a child for constipation, but I would not give it to a nursing mother for constipation in herself or her baby.
Infants can use a bit of Licorice Extract. This will often get them pooping quite well. It’s a bit of an adaptogen (supports the adrenal glands), so it helps them to handle stress also. While we may not think babies and children have stress, we don’t see the world through their eyes. Life may be very stressful for them depending on how the pregnancy, labour, delivery, and postpartum went.
Aloe Vera Juice can be used in tiny amounts with constipated children because it works very well for soothing, lubricating, and healing the intestinal tract. For infants, administer this orally with an eyedropper, in small doses, getting it into the cheek area rather than on the tongue. You may need to dilute it in a little grape or pineapple juice for older children, who may not be as cooperative as the younger ones.
Slippery Elm is very lubricating and balancing for the entire gastrointestinal tract. It can calm down diarrhea or loosen up constipation. Mix ½ – 1 capsule with some breast milk to make a loose slurry. This can be given to a breastfeeding infant by pouring it off a baby spoon into the cheek. (Pouring it directly onto the tongue of a baby who is not yet on solids will make them gag.) For toddlers and older children, slippery elm can be swallowed as a capsule, or it can be mixed as a ‘mud ball’. To make a ‘mud ball’, open the capsule, mix the contents with a few drops of maple syrup, roll into little balls, and freeze them. Children seem to love sucking on these frozen little balls.
LB-X and LB Extract are specific bowel tonic formulas that are meant to help the bowel function healthfully. Save these formulations for when the child really needs some help with relieving constipation, and then be very careful to not overdose him. The extract can be used safely in small amounts with infants and toddlers. I save the LB-X for older children. Caution must be used with both of these. Start with tiny doses and increase slowly over time if need be.
Liquid Chlorophyll has a fairly high magnesium content. Magnesium is the bowel mineral. Magnesium stimulates the bowel to both relax and have a peristaltic action. This creates bowel movements without cramping. Children of all ages, including infants, can take Liquid Chlorophyll. For breastfed infants, simply dilute one part chlorophyll in five parts boiled or purified water and administer it by the dropperful. For bottlefed babies just add a little to your baby’s bottle. One of my clients found a great way to encourage her children to drink chlorophyll. Every day she made up a jug of chlorophyll diluted in water, then she put bendy straws into the jug and called her children to come get it before everyone else drank it up.
Bacterial Balance for Constipation
Having the right bacterial balance in the intestinal tract is critical to good health. Sometimes recurring diarrhea, constipation, or excessive gas can be easily remedied with the addition of healthy bacteria, also called probiotics. Acidophilus Bifidobacterium/Probiotics, Bifidophilus Flora Force, and Sunshine Heroes Bifidophilus/Probiotic Power are possible choices. They can all be used to re-establish the proper bacterial count.
Friendly bacteria are also critically important if the child is on antibiotics. Antibiotics kill the friendly bacteria in the gut, and without those friendly bacteria, yeast and fungal infestations happen, digestion of certain carbohydrates is reduced, and certain B-vitamins don’t get made as they should in the gut. Antibiotics should always be followed by several days of probiotics.
Minerals for Constipation
Magnesium Complex is the bowel mineral. In some cases it is useful to give magnesium as a supplement to help the bowel function healthfully.
Many years ago I worked with a little boy who was about 18 months old, who had some real constipation problems. He produced a bowel movement only every seven to ten days. When he did have a bowel movement, the trauma was significant. We started him out with dietary changes and herbs, which were creating positive results but not quite as quickly as the parents wanted. Then the parents got a little panicky, so they took him to a pediatrician. The doctor recommended a drug that would take about three months to start working, and six months until it would really start working well. The parents brought this information to me. We looked up the drug and talked about the side effects. They didn’t like the idea of putting this type of drug into their little boy. They decided to use only herbs and vitamins. We used Magnesium Complex as the core of his program. As long as he got his daily dose of Magnesium Complex, he had one or two nice bowel movements every day.
Dietary Considerations for Constipation
Once an infant is on solid food, fibre can have a positive impact on bowel function. It can be increased through vegetable, fruit, and whole grain intake, depending on the age of the child. I am appalled at the dietary infractions that happen on a regular basis with children. There is often a defined lack of fibre and nutrients in children’s food as parents go for quick and easy. Children need vegetables and fibre. As parents, we need to find ways to help children enjoy these good foods. Don’t use bran or psyllium for fibre with children. It is highly unlikely the child will drink enough water, and taking fibre supplements without adequate fluid intake is a sure way to guarantee painful constipation.
Adequate fluid intake, in general, is important to healthy bowel function. Make sure children get adequate healthy fluid intake. Fruity punches or soda pop in a bottle don’t count. Water is the best fluid after weaning. The rule of thumb for healthy fluid intake (after weaning) is one-half ounce of water for every pound of body weight daily.
Encourage physical activity. How many times have you seen children sitting down indoors to play, and then they go outside to run around and just a few minutes later they come charging in like greased lightning, making a bee-line straight for the bathroom, getting there just barely in time? Physical activity massages the internal organs and stimulates peristalsis.
Look at emotional control issues here, too, if constipation is a problem. Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for. They are capable of holding their bowel movements as a control point, or on the other hand, they might deliberately soil their pants as a control point. This is not always the case, but I have seen it often enough to know that it bears consideration.
Children do not need to suffer with constipation. Diet, physical activity, supplements, and love can all have positive impacts on a child’s bowel health.
If you have concerns about your health or your child’s, or just don’t know where to begin making improvements, please contact me, Judith Cobb, to book an appointment. Skype, phone, webinar, and face-to-face appointments are available.
Products referred to in above article:
|Nature’s Sunshine Products CA||Nature’s Sunshine Products USA|
|herbal solutions||Licorice Extract||Licorice Root Extract|
|Aloe Vera Juice||Aloe Vera Juice|
|Liquid Chlorophyll, Paraben-free||Chlorophyll ES, Liquid|
|Slippery Elm||Slippery Elm|
|bowel tonic formulas||LB-X||LB-X|
|LB Extract||LB Extract|
|probiotic solutions||Acidophilus Bifidobacterium||Acidophilus Probiotics|
|Bifidophilus Flora Force||Bifidophilus Flora Force|
|Sunshine Heroes Bifidophilus||Sunshine Heroes Probiotic Power|
|mineral solutions||Magnesium Complex||Magnesium Complex|
Copyright © 2016 by Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health Ltd. All rights reserved. Please respect the time it takes to write and publish articles. If you will link to this article and give proper attribution, you are encouraged to quote sections (though not the entire article).