Make Sure Your Kids are Good to Go
After kids are potty trained, many parents don’t pay close enough attention to their bathroom habits, thinking they can take care of themselves. But if your kids aren’t making regular trips to the little boys’ or girls’ room, chances are they’re constipated.
“When I ask kids about this and they tell me they aren’t having bowel movements every day, often the parents are surprised,” says Deborah Wiancek, ND, author of The Natural Healing Companion (Rodale). ”Often this isn’t a topic discussed in the pediatrician’s office either. When you go to a regular doctor, they usually don’t even ask the question. If your child is going four or five times a week, they’re okay with that. They just treat symptoms. They don’t really look at prevention. From a naturopath’s perspective, you should be having at least one bowel movement a day, optimally two to three.”
Kids’ constipation often can be cleared up by adding more fibrous foods to their diets, making sure they exercise, and giving them sufficient time for bathroom breaks. But for kids who are persistently constipated you may need to consult a knowledgeable health practitioner. An important piece of advice: Don’t be in too much of a hurry to conclude potty training. Make sure kids understand they have to take enough time every day to give their bowels a chance to empty. Otherwise, they may not get a chance to fully develop the habit of regular elimination, which can lead to constipation.
“Parents don’t give [kids] time to go every day; they rush them in the morning and don’t give them fifteen minutes to just sit there,” says Dr. Wiancek. “They don’t have time to go and so they hold it. It becomes an emotional issue.”
“The entire health of the person (and this goes for kids, too) is determined by intestinal health,” says Pamela K. Hannaman-Pittman, ND, MS. Constipation can result from eating too many processed, high-fat foods, since they contain little or no dietary fiber. Fiber-rich foods, on the other hand, help young bowels function more effectively. “It’s best to focus on a high-fiber, whole-foods diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds,” says Dr. Hannaman-Pittman.
Natural remedies can be a gentle and soothing way to ease childhood constipation. Small amounts of rhubarb root and magnesium have been shown to be both gentle and effective. Fruits and seeds such as peach leaf, dried prunes and figs, and flax seeds are available in capsule form to give your child an extra fiber boost. Beneficial probiotic supplements may also reestablish the presence of beneficial bacteria, a key to keeping the bowels moving.
Essential fatty acids may also help ease elimination. This is because they help lubricate the bowel. Supplements can often be found in the children’s section of your local health food store, and many newer products are now available as chewables without the fishy flavor commonly associated with Omega-3 products sourced from fish oil.
Drinking plenty of water is also important for healthy bowel movements, especially when adding more fiber to the diet. Water helps the body detoxify and eliminate metabolic waste, as well as bring nutrients to every cell. It’s good to aim for eight cups a day, but if kids are exercising often, sweating and moving, they should be drinking twelve or more cups daily says Dr. Wiancek.
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