How to Handle Constipation in Kids + Fiber 101

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Your kids don’t have to suffer through constipation! Learn the signs, symptoms, and causes of constipation in kids, and try four powerful home remedies for healthy digestion.

boy sitting on the toilet

Constipation in kids is common, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to handle. Especially when your precious little one is curled up on the couch in discomfort!

The good news is, you can usually manage kids’ constipation at home with natural remedies and lifestyle modifications. Read on to learn about this common problem, and what you can do to help your kids feel better.

What are the Symptoms of Constipation?

Constipation is characterized by infrequent bowel movements and/or hard, dry stools. Most of us know this But the signs and symptoms of constipation in kids aren’t always identical to those in adults. So you might mis-attribute them to something else.

Here are some signs and symptoms of constipation in kids:

  • No bowel movements for several days
  • Bowel movements that are hard, dry and difficult to pass
  • Pain while having a bowel movement
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Traces of liquid or clay-like stool in the child’s underwear — a sign that stool is backed up in the rectum
  • Soiled underwear
  • Blood on the surface of hard stool
  • Poor appetite
  • Cranky behavior

What Causes Constipation in Kids?

Constipation can happen to all kids once in a while, and a one-off bout of constipation in your child isn’t a major cause for concern. But if it happens frequently and causes serious physical or social discomfort, you’re justified in pursing potential causes, and working towards healthier digestion for your kids.

Here are some of the causes and contributing factors in kids’ constipation:

  • Low intake of dietary fiber
  • Limited physical activity
  • Low fluid intake (not enough hydration!)
  • Certain medications, including some antacids and antidepressants
  • The presence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • The presence of medical conditions affecting the anus or rectum
  • A family history of constipation

If your child has constipation and one or more of the above risk factors, don’t worry! There’s a lot you can do as a parent to help her feel better.

girl is constipated

How to Handle Kids’ Constipation

First things first: talk to your child’s pediatrician if your child’s constipation is severe or has been going on for a long time. She may recommend fiber supplements, stool softeners, laxatives, or an enema.

If you don’t think that your child’s constipation necessitates a trip to the doctor, you can try these at-home remedies to help move stool.

  • Offer high-fiber foods to your child’s plate at every meal. A diet high in fiber will help your child’s body form soft, bulky stool. Check out the chart below for some high-fiber food ideas.
Per 1/2 cup
Food Fiber (grams)
Barley, pearl 16
Beans 8
Lentils 7.5
Whole Wheat Flour 7.2
Oat bran 7.2
Chickpeas 6.2
Buckwheat Flour 6
Pear 5.5
Tomato Paste 5.3
Apple 4.4
Green Peas, frozen, cooked 4.4
Raspberries 4
Edamame 4
Spinach, frozen 3.5
Whole Wheat Spaghetti 3.2
Orange 3.1
Winter Squash 2.9
Broccoli, frozen, cooked 2.5
Avocado 1.9
Almonds, (12 nuts) 1.6
Applesauce 1.5
Carrots 1.5
Broccoli, raw 1.2
Cauliflower, raw 1.2
Popcorn (1 cup) 1.2
Whole Wheat Bread 1
Peanut Butter 0.6
  • Encourage your kids to drink more fluids. Water and other fluids will help soften your child’s stool. For little kids who don’t like to drink a lot of water, try getting some fun new cups to entice them. (Target has tons of cute, inexpensive kids’ cups!)
  • Try a “Sit-Schedule.” Kids who are busy playing might hold their stool to avoid missing out on the fun. Try enforcing regularly scheduled times for sitting on the toilet (after meals is a good time) so they have more opportunities to go.
  • Give probiotics. When kids’ digestion is off, probiotic supplements and/or probiotic-rich foods (like yogurt) can help restore a beneficial balance of bacteria in their intestines, which may relieve constipation.
  • Get active! Plan activities that involve running, jumping, or rough-and-tumble play. Even a pillow fight counts! Physical activity prompts kids’ metabolisms to move stool through their systems, which can help stop constipation.
healthy fruits and veggies with lots of fiber

Fiber 101

Of the home remedies you have available to treat constipation, adding high-fiber foods may be the single most effective one. But what even is fiber?

Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your digestive track.

Fiber has tons of health benefits beyond helping with constipation. Fiber….

  • Slows the release of glucose after a meal, so kids’ energy levels are more stable.
  • Fills kids up, so they feel satisfied between meals.
  • Supports healthy cholesterol levels (this might not be on your radar for your kids now, but it will benefit them later!)
  • Allows beneficial bacteria to thrive in the intestines (fiber is sometimes called a “prebiotic” for this reason.)

Including a lot of fiber in your family’s diet can help the people you care about feel better and even live longer! Get started today with these high-recipes that also taste super delicious:

Hummus

Apple Pie Popcorn Snack Mix

Bran Muffin Bites

Roasted Chickpeas

 

How To Handle Constipation in Kids | Fiber 101 | Healthy Ideas and Recipes for Kids

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