Seven Causes of Childhood Constipation

Why can't I poop?

James Knopf | Dreamstime

Constipation in kids is so common that it may even seem normal—but it’s not normal. The causes of childhood constipation are many, it’s a sign of poor digestion, and it’s critical to relieve it.

Constipation burdens your child in two ways: by blocking one of the body’s methods of flushing waste and allowing chemicals from that waste to be reabsorbed into the bloodstream, and by generating irritation as stool sits in the colon.

For a child to grow well and thrive, constipation must be relieved.

I suggest parents take a two-pronged approach whenever they are trying to help their kids: The first prong is to detect and relieve contributing factors; the second prong is to support the body’s natural processes.

Constipation contributors

This list is certainly not exhaustive, but the following contributors can easily be remedied with a little help from mom or dad. 

  1. stress
  2. lack of fibre
  3. too much fibre
  4. sugar (can also cause diarrhea)
  5. dairy (in some children)
  6. lack of good bacteria
  7. dehydration

Once the contributor or contributors are identified, the body’s natural processes can be more adequately supported by following the tips below and introducing other natural treatments.

Four ways to get the bowels moving

Here are my top four ways to get the bowels moving. If these don’t do the trick, it’s time to get some help:

  1. Magnesium is a natural laxative. It brings water into the colon and stimulates the muscles in the digestive lining. It can be given as a supplement, starting slowly and increasing until stools soften. There is little risk of taking too much magnesium for a short time, but if your child feels any symptoms other than soft stools, stop. And if there is diarrhea, cut back. 
  2. Zinc helps trigger digestive enzymes and reestablish HCL levels in the stomach to get digestion moving. I like using a liquid as it is particularly easy to give to children and is highly absorbable.  The risk of zinc overdose is possible, so you don’t want to use high doses without consulting a practitioner, but if used as directed and for a short time it is quite safe to try for constipation relief. 
  3. Increase probiotics. There is, as of this point, no toxic upper limit for probiotics. If your child experiences mood, digestive, or skin reactions to a probiotic, cut back. Try to work up to twenty billion CFUs per day. Stubborn cases might need more than that, however, you should consult with a practitioner first. 
  4. Increase dietary fat and decrease protein. Fat tends to lubricate whereas protein tends to bind. Coconut oil is particularly helpful because it does not require bile to be digested like most fats do. Those who are constipated can sometimes lack bile. Olive oil and flax oil can also be helpful, though start by increasing coconut oil.

If your child is constipated, meaning they do not have a least one good bowel movement every day, their body is under stress.  As chemicals get recirculated and irritation increases, mood, focus, sleep and learning can suffer and food sensitivities can develop as the immune system in the gut is activated.

Relieving constipation will free up energy so that your child’s body can function its best.

For more information, check out Jessica Sherman's book, Raising Resilience.

*Originally published March 22, 2017