This post is bought to you in partnership with AOR, Advanced Orthomolecular Research. All opinions below are my own.
Pull up a chair and get ready because today, we’re going to have a little bathroom talk here on the blog. This is something that most of us, parents talk about amongst ourselves. Specifically, on, wait for it…
constipation in kids.
Yes, we’re going there.
By the time my middle son was 5 years old, we had been in and out of the ER several times because of his digestive issues and “obstructions” –aka, his bowels were filled with poop! His non-stop doctor visits and severe constipation was one of the reasons I explored gluten-free options and dietary changes. I share his story here.
The reality is that constipation in kids is a very common issue. You know it happens; I know it happens, so what’s the big deal? NOTHING! Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to spare the details, but I do want to share some useful and natural ways to prevent and treat constipation and have happy and healthy kids.
One of the things I feel has helped my family’s digestive issues –and believe me, we have them- has been supplementing with probiotics. I’ve written extensively about the benefits of probiotics and even have a lot of ideas on how to make lunches that are rich in probiotics.
And in both posts, I’ve also mentioned that noticeable changes in our gut health were experienced after we began supplementing with probiotics (in addition of getting them from foods) and that my kids’ go-to probiotic is Lava Rox.
Similar to the classic candy (PopRocks), Lava Rox are edible, candy crystals that pack all the health benefits of probiotics with a taste my kids love and they’re sugar-free. It’s a brilliant way to get my kids to take high-quality probiotics that will benefit their gut health.
Benefits of probiotics
Probiotics help to balance the good bacteria in our bodies as well as destroy harmful bacteria, produce vitamins, and promote digestive health. So, those who deal with constipation benefit a great deal from daily probiotics, this includes our kids.
Research has shown that probiotics are helpful to both adults and kids- which is why Lava Rox is a part of my kids’ day. More on this topic later, but let’s address the main topic of the day, constipation. Alright, here we go!
How to Identify Constipation in Kids
Now the term “regular” is different for everyone, including kids. One might use the bathroom twice a day, while another is every other day. This is healthy, but when it’s less than 3 bowel movements a week that’s considered constipation.
Here are some common child constipation symptoms:
Trouble or pain using the bathroom
If he or she avoids using the restroom because it “hurts” or you notice them struggling, it’s probably- constipation.
This also comes with gas, stomach cramps, and irritability – the least fun partfor everyone.
Blood on toilet paper or underclothes
No parent wants to see this, and as much as you may want to, don’t freak out. This can be common, especially if the constipation is ongoing, but it’s best practice to rule out any serious issues with a visit to the doctor.
I went through a lot of stressful bathroom-related trips with my son to the doctor’s office. It happens and you’re not alone. So, I’m sharing what I’ve learned over the years as well as some of the foods that I try to incorporate into our diet to ease digestion. This, of course, is paired with probiotic supplementation.
What to Give a Child for Constipation
Constipation is often brought on by lifestyle factors such as poor food choice, inadequate water intake, stress, etc. We as parent do our best to provide our kids with the best. Unfortunately, when they’re in school or on play dates it’s physically impossible to make sure they drink enough water, eat their veggies, etc.
Thankfully, constipation can be treated with easy, natural lifestyle and food choices, so let’s break it down a bit:
High Fiber food
Since the body can’t digest fiber, it works to help everything move along in the digestive tract. A diet rich in processed, sugary foods, lacks both fiber and water which leads to, you guessed it, constipation.
Bump up the fiber intake by offering more whole grain options like oatmeal for breakfast with plenty of fruit and vegetable options for lunch and dinners.
Foods Rich in Probiotics
Along with high-fiber foods, probiotics help to balance the number of good bacteria in the gut, making bowel movements more regular and *ahem- less* less straining. You’ll find them in foods like yogurt, certain cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, and salt brined olives and pickles
And adults aren’t the only ones who benefit from probiotics, and kids do as well, which is where Lava Rox stands out from other probiotic supplements. It’s designed specifically for kids, and it’s a fun way to incorporate probiotics into their day.
A Regular Meal Schedule
Meals act as stimulants for the bowels, so keeping a regular mealtime can keep bowel movements more consistent.
Lots of Water
Chronic dehydration is a common cause of constipation, and many kids fall below the recommended daily water intake. An easy way to ensure they are staying hydrated is to aim for at least 4 glasses of water a day. That’s roughly a glass of water with each meal and snack.
What feels like a treat of fizzing, crackling rock candy is actually a rich source of probiotics to benefit their health and keep them regular. Compared to a pill, which most kids don’t want to swallow, it’s a genius way to get them to take their probiotics and enjoy it!
Preventing Constipation in Kids
Constipation is incredibly uncomfortable and unfortunately can unintentionally be brought on. Extra pressure at school (or work), not enough water throughout the day, or intimidation of using a public restroom- all of them can leave us stopped up.
Thankfully, there are several simple ways to avoid it.
Think back to when you were a child, was there ever a time that you “held it”? Maybe it was during a fun activity you didn’t want to miss out on or because you didn’t feel comfortable in a public restroom. My guess, the answer is yes.
The same thing applies to our kids. Many times, when they say they don’t need to go, it’s because of their too busy playing or in an unfamiliar public place.
Therefore, keeping a bathroom schedule is one way to avoid constipation. A good system is after mealtimes, right before bed, and immediately upon waking.
Limit dairy and cheese
Many kids and infants are super sensitive to a particular protein found in cow’s milk, which causes them to stop up. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s worth keeping an eye on and limiting dairy to 2 – 3 servings a day.
Stress for kids might not be the same stress youand I know. However, they can still face challenging situations that have both emotional and physical effects, constipation being one of them.
Most cases of bathroom troubles begin when kids start school. The new routine, people, and responsibilities can be overwhelming, and cause them to withhold. During times when you feel your child may be under extra pressure, make sure they’re drinking enough water, going to the restroom, etc.
Most teas and soda beverages contain caffeine, and kids are more sensitive to its effects. Too much caffeine causes dehydration, which eventually results in constipation.
Kid-Friendly Foods for Aiding Digestion
Both fiber and probiotic-rich foods work together to benefit digestive and overall health. The fiber found in certain types of food is prebiotic, which feeds friendly gut bacteria and probiotics are those friendly gut bacteria. Combine the two, and you have one heck of a formula for a healthy gut.
Let’s take a look at the best, kid-friendly foods for healthy digestion and how to incorporate them into their meals.
These crispy, sweet snacks are nature’s perfect candy and an excellent source of fiber. Serve them with peanut butter or almond butter topped with unsweetened shredded coconut for a tasty afternoon snack.
Alternatively, you can make an apple grilled cheese sandwich that’s epic!
Dark Leafy Greens
Kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens- all of them are excellent sources of fiber. Unfortunately, not many kids are willing to sit down to a big plate of steamed spinach, instead finely chop up kale or spinach and toss it into a soup, stew, chili, or frittata.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower pack a ton of fiber, and you’ve probably already realized this after eating a good portion.
Roast or steam any of the veggies above for a quick go-to side for dinner or incorporate them into a recipe, like the Beef Bowls below, and pack the leftovers into lunches for the next day. Things will definitely start to “regulate.”
A rich source of fiber, and it works like a prebiotic, chia seeds are one of the best foods for gut health. I love incorporating Chia Seeds into smoothies to make them thicker and more nutritious.
Popular whole grains like oats, quinoa, and farro are prime choices for adding extra fiber into your day. Amp up the kid appeal by swapping cooked farro for rice like this Chicken Soup or forgo the morning cereal for something like the Blueberry Baked Oatmeal below or a batch of Overnight Oats.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to eat delicious high-fiber foods that can help with your child’s constipation. It’s a common occurrence in kids and one that keeps us, parents, up at night.
Thankfully, with the right food choices and adding a supplement like Lava Rox to your day, everything will begin to regulate.
Before introducing Lava Rox into your child’s diet, however, speak with their pediatrician to figure out if probiotics are right for them. Once you’ve been given the green light, use this list of foods and Lava Rox for kids as your starting point.