Constipation in older children
Older children are affected by constipation just as often and just as badly as adults, and for all the same reasons — bad medical advice, dietary fiber, over-hydration, addiction to laxatives, environmental pollutants, and stress. There is only one way to prevent and reverse it — do everything the opposite to what pediatricians and nutritionists recommend.
Pediatric constipation can be functional — a passing condition just like a cold or flu. When constipation is related to a permanent pathology, such as nerve damage or enlarged hemorrhoids — it is called organic. So, please consult your child‘s doctor immediately to rule out or treat organic causes. Fortunately, they are very rare, especially in children.
On the other hand, functional constipation among teens and pre-teens is just as widespread as among adults. I have identified the following major causes of functional constipation among older children:
The first place belongs to incorrect medical and dietary advice, particularly regarding a high fiber diet;
Next are large and heavy stools, or hard stools regardless of their size;
Straining while moving the bowels is a common contributor as well;
Pain and bleeding which results from straining while moving the bowels usually follows it;
Next prominent factor is related to antibacterial medication and mercury fillings;
Then, of course, conscious withholding of stools because of pain or concerns over hygiene;
Crash diets are big among teenagers, particularly young girls;
Next is chronic stress, which is, unfortunately, so common among children today;
Naturally, medication for depression and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders follow stress. And it also may play a very strong role in teenagers' constipation. [Illicit drugs may cause constipation as well, so make sure to screen out this factor as well — KM];
Addiction to over-the-counter laxatives is also a prominent factor;
Finally, food allergies that cause inflammatory bowel disease, manifested by an alternating pattern of diarrhea and constipation are a factor.
This list covers the majority of reasons behind functional constipation in older children. All other causes are mainly derivative from this list. Assuming you know what to look for, what to do, and what not, functional constipation in children is relatively simple to prevent and reverse.
The good news is: it is easier to reverse [constipation] because children enjoy robust digestion, supple intestines, undamaged bowels, good muscle tone, highly sensitive nerve endings, a steady schedule, and aren‘t yet as inhibited by social mores as are adults.
Well, the bad news is: the dominant medical advice to treat constipation with more fiber, more fluids, and more exercise is grossly incorrect. If your child follows it, the constipation will get only worse, because fiber enlarges and hardens up stools even more, excess water dries them up, and exercise only increases straining and pain. From that point on, your child will be at the mercy of laxatives, drugs, and doctors for the rest of his or her life — something I don‘t wish on any child or parent.
If you doubt my words, please consult the Federal Drugs Administration web site. It is against the law to claim that the fiber in food or laxatives prevents or relieves constipation. So, anyone recommending fiber for constipation, is, in fact, violating federal law, and, of course, I didn‘t make that law, the FDA did!
Functional constipation has a natural tendency to turn into a chronic, life-long affliction, and it may significantly impact on the self-esteem, development, growth potential, health, and quality of life of your son or daughter. So, don‘t let it fester unattended and ruin the rest of their promising lives…
To learn how to anticipate, prevent, and overcome all of the above causes of constipation, please review this page.
The recommendations to overcome constipation for older children (3+) are similar to my recommendations for adults, except you have to be extra vigilant with children because not fixing up constipation quickly may lead to irreversible life-long auto-immune inflammatory bowel disorders, such as celiac disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, as well as 'mechanical' disorders, such as enlarged hemorrhoids, the loss of anorectal sensitivity, enlarged bowel, and others.
If your child is already affected by constipation, please follow my recommendations here: No Downside, Just Upside-down. It will guide you to all other relevant sources of information.
If you are too busy to read and study all of the above, depending on the degree of severity and your child's age, use all or some of the components of the Colorectal Recovery Kit to relieve and eliminate the mechanical (large, hard, or dry stools, pain) and physiological (dysbacteriosis, inflammation, nerve damage) causes of constipation.
If caught early, constipation rarely becomes a chronic condition in children simply because they enjoy the ability to recover from disease far fully than grown adults.
To get a better retrospective (going backward to seek out probable causes) and prospective (going forward to eliminate potential causes) analysis on what may have precipitate constipation in your child and what you should expect if you fail to heed my warnings, please review the following sections:
Finally, note that constipation is a 'familial' condition, meaning it is all too often passed from parents to children simply because they all share think-a-like doctors, similar attitudes towards 'bathroom duties,' an identical diet, and the same bad habits.
My mother, for example, taught me to withhold bowel movements even before I entered elementary school because she didn't want me to use any bathroom, but at home. Not surprisingly, I was already affected by enlarged hemorrhoids by the time I was 18, first experienced the brunt of chronic constipation in my twenties, but still — not knowing any better — kept withholding stools waiting for the 'right bathroom' or 'better time' until one day, in my mid-forties, I stopped experiencing the urge to move my bowels altogether.
Lo and behold, for as long as I remember my mother, I recall her endless obsession with laxatives medicines, herbs, and teas, oatmeal, laxogenic juices, and fiber. Later on I learned that she was affected by severe rectocele — a condition occurring when a wall of fibrous tissue that separates the rectum from vagina — bulges into the vagina.
Rectocele in older women, whose tissues are no longer as elastic, results from the continuous presence of large formed stools in the rectum, and the pressure from straining to expunge them. Normally, the rectum is supposed to be free of any stool. If you don't wish anything like this to happen to your daughter or yourself, never teach children to withhold stools.
Thus, if your child is getting constipated, there is a good reason to suspect that you too may be affected by 'latent constipation.' Straining and large stools are the primary symptoms of this condition, and it affects most adult Americans who diligently consume a fiber-heavy diet to “improve their health.” By learning to help your child, you will also help yourself to enjoy "good eats, great health, and long life" without the dreadful anticipation of bathroom breaks!