Constipation in toddlers
The wrong medical advice is behind chronic constipation in toddlers. Recommended dietary changes not only do not resolve constipation, but also may result in diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, and development problems caused by the ensuing malnutrition.
The primary cause of constipation in toddlers is pain while moving the bowels. This pain is caused by stools that are either too large or too hard to pass out effortlessly. Hard stools don‘t have to be large to cause pain.
After experiencing pain, children commonly suppress and withhold stools, which is usually self-evident from observing their behavior. In turn, withheld stools dry out and harden up, making the next bowel movement even more painful. All other causes of a toddler‘s constipation are derivative from the moment of experiencing that first pain.
If you follow the standard medical advice —“Constipation is the result of behavior or a lack of fluids and fiber in the diet [link]”, — and begin giving your child more water and fiber, — you‘ll accomplish the complete opposite outcome: fiber will increase stool size even more while excess water will dry out and harden them up.
In fact, this absurd recommendation — unheard of just two generations ago — is the primary reason behind the raging epidemics of autism and juvenile diabetes in the United States.
And there is absolutely no way you can change your child‘s behavior or prevent constipation without first normalizing his or her stools, and eliminating any source pain. Bathroom training, behavior modification, diet change, and all other recommendations should come next…
Remember, infants and toddlers don‘t move their bowels consciously, but the bowels move themselves! The moment consciousness kicks in for whatever reason, that‘s when kids run into problems…
To learn how to normalize stools without fiber and laxatives, and to understand why fiber may cause autism and juvenile diabetes, please visit my web site.
In turn, I wish you and your children good health and good luck!
The transition from nursing (breast milk or formula) to solid foods increases the prevalence of pediatric constipation from 3% to 10%. It seems strange — how can solid food increase constipation more than fluids alone — because most people assume that there is a connection between foods and stools while there is none. I address this paradox in the Infant Constipation section.
So, what are the differences between nursing and a solid food diet that may contribute to constipation?
— Reduced fat content. Solid food fat content is usually lower than in breast milk or formula at 4.4%, or about 20 g to 30 g daily. Among all the other nutrients, dietary fat plays the key role in initiating bowel movements. I describe the role of fat in this process here.
— Introduction of dietary fiber. Indigestible fiber disrupts bowel movements more than any other factor because it increase the size, weight, and density of stools, and these stools are painful to move. I describe the role of fiber in the etiology of constipation here. Fortified morning cereals are the primary source of dietary fiber in children's nutrition.
— Food allergies. Solid food, particularly processed, such as morning cereals, pasta, bread, cookies, ice cream, yogurt, and fresh fruits, vegetables, and juices introduce children to a range of exceptionally allergenic nutrients, such as plant proteins (gluten), soluble fiber additives to processed dairy, vegetable oils, animal casein, aromatic oils, artificial flavorings, preservatives, fillers, and the inevitable impurities related to mass agriculture and industrial processing. In turn, these allergies often cause diarrhea — the body's inflammatory response to allergens and an ensuing inability to absorb digestive fluids. In turn, intestinal inflammation damages intestinal flora, disrupts formation of normal stools, and leads to an alternating pattern of diarrhea and constipation. I discuss food-born allergies here and throughout this site.
— Increased consumption of fluids. Toddlers are introduced to addictive and easy to over-consume fluids, such as fruit juices, sweetened herbal teas, and soft drinks. These drinks have a prominent diuretic effect because they feature a high sugar content, extra volume of fluids, and lack minerals to maintain the proper isotonic balance (osmotic pressure similar to all other intra-body fluids.) In turn, excessive urination cause dehydration, that leads to drying out and hardening of the stools. Drinking more, as doctors recommend, only increases the problem, because the human intestines aren't a straight pipe, and these fluids never reach the large intestine. I discuss the role of fluids in bowel movements and constipation here.
— Increased ability to withdraw stools, particularly in response to pain. Toddlers are more adept at suppressing the urge to defecate in an effort to avert a painful bowel movement. This action, unfortunately, increases the size, volume, and density of stools, and they become even more painful and difficult to evacuate, making constipation only worse. You can determine if your child suppresses stools by comparing their size and shape to the Bristol Stools Form Scale described here.
— The disruption of the daily pattern related to growing up. Toddlers are likely to miss moving their bowels because they are so much more active throughout the day, and physical activities are more likely to suppress any defecation urge rather than stimulating it (as incorrectly believed by many). I explain the reasons behind this paradox here. Potty training comes in useful to overcome this problem, because it conditions toddlers to move their bowels by the clock, eliminating randomness and unpredictability.
As the page on infant's constipation noted, dietary changes aren't effective for 3/4 of all cases, and you are better off dealing with this problem quickly and assertively, otherwise it turns a random constipation event into a chronic and hard to manage condition.
So when all else fails, and you are already confronted with a hard-to-break constipation pattern, use Hydro-C to normalize stools. If you suspect dysbacteriosis, break down a capsule of Enterophilus, add the content to lukewarm fluid (water or milk), and give it to your child to drink on an empty stomach.
Obviously, to prevent constipation in your toddler in the first place, you should address all of the above points: provide a reasonable amount of dietary fat; avoid dietary fiber at all costs; stay clear from allergenic food; never give a child sweet drinks and juices regardless of health claims; and begin training your child to move the bowels 'by the clock' as early as possible.
To understand all this— most of it counter-intuitive — study this site as if your toddler's life depended on it. In fact, it does, and so does yours!