Constipation in children is a common concern for parents, and it can be a source of discomfort for the child. While occasional constipation is usually nothing to worry about, persistent issues may require attention and lifestyle adjustments. Establishing healthy habits early on can promote regular bowel movements and alleviate constipation in kids. Let us explore five essential lifestyle tips that can help relieve constipation in children by Dr Vaishnavi Chandramohan, MD (Pediatrics) and Fellowship in Infectious Diseases, Consultant - General Pediatrics, Rainbow Children's Hospital, Marathahalli, Bengaluru.
Encourage a Fiber-Rich Diet
Diet plays a crucial role in maintaining digestive health, and a lack of dietary fibre is a common cause of constipation in children. To promote regular bowel movements, it's essential to ensure that your child's diet includes an adequate amount of fibre. Fibre adds bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive system.
Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your child's meals. Fruits like apples, bananas, and papayas are rich in fibre, as are vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, banana stem and peas. Whole-grain foods like whole wheat bread and oatmeal also contribute to increased fibre intake.
Additionally, make sure your child stays well-hydrated, as water helps soften the stool and facilitates smoother bowel movements. Limit the intake of processed foods, including biscuits, bread, pasta, pizza & other maida products which are low in fibre. Limit cow’s milk intake as well, as giving more than 400ml a day can cause constipation.
Establish a Regular Bathroom Routine
It is very important to train children to evacuate their bowels in the morning after waking up. Give a glass of warm water & make him/her sit on the commode. Encourage your child to use the bathroom after meals as well, as the body's natural reflexes are often most active during these times.
Make the bathroom environment comfortable and child-friendly. Provide a step stool for easy access to the toilet, and ensure that your child has enough time to relax on the toilet without feeling rushed. Waking them up ten minutes before their usual wake-up time does help. Sitting in the squatting position on the commode facilitates easier evacuation.
Promote Physical Activity
Exercise helps stimulate bowel movements by promoting muscle contractions in the intestines. Encourage your child to engage in age-appropriate physical activities, such as playing sports, riding bikes, or simply going for a walk.
Limiting sedentary activities, such as excessive screen time, can also contribute to a more active lifestyle. Incorporate family activities that involve movement, such as playing in the park or garden, dancing, or playing a game of badminton. Physical activity not only aids digestion but also supports a child's overall health, fostering good habits that can last a lifetime.
Ensure Adequate Toilet Training
Effective toilet training is essential for preventing constipation in children. As your child transitions from diapers to using the toilet, it's crucial to provide positive reinforcement and make the experience as stress-free as possible. Some children may resist using the toilet, leading to the holding back of bowel movements, which can contribute to constipation.
Be patient during the toilet training process, and avoid punishment for accidents or resistance. Offer praise when your child successfully uses the toilet and make the experience positive. If your child shows signs of discomfort or fear related to bowel movements, address these concerns with understanding and support.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy balance of gut flora. Introducing probiotics into your child's diet may help regulate bowel movements and alleviate constipation. Probiotics can be found in yoghurt, buttermilk, paneer, pickles & fermented foods such as idlis or dhoklas.
Relieving constipation in children involves adopting a holistic approach that encompasses dietary adjustments, establishing healthy routines, promoting physical activity, effective toilet training, and, if necessary, considering probiotics. These lifestyle tips not only address the immediate issue of constipation but also contribute to overall health and well-being in the long run. As with any health concern, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional if constipation persists or if you have specific concerns about your child's digestive health.