Constipation is difficulty with irregular bowel movements, or passing hard and dry stool. The major cause of the constipation is due to low fiber diet or dehydration. Constipation is common among children, aged ones and pregnant women. Every individual has different bowel patterns. Some of the symptoms associated with constipation are bloating, uncomfortable and sluggishness. In general constipation is not a serious problem. Understanding the right cause will help in preventing constipation.
Common Causes of Constipation
Low fiber diet
Low fluid intake
Lack of exercise
Weak bowel muscles
Irritable bowel syndrome
Excessive intake of calcium or iron
Home Remedies for Constipation in Infants, Toddlers, and Children
Symptoms of constipation in children are easy to identify. They will have reduced bowel movement, for example, less than 3 per week. Toddlers below the age 2 will pass hard or pebble-like stools with straining, withholding or painful defecation. Kids may even have pain in the abdomen or pain while passing stool or there may be blood in the stool. Fecal or urinary incontinence is also not uncommon.
‘Stool withholding maneuvers may be misinterpreted as straining. In infants back-arching, and in older infants/toddlers, standing on toes, extending legs or rocking back and forth preventing anal relaxation are typical features. Some children may hide in a corner standing stiffly or squatting,’ say pediatricians from the NHS Trust, England.
Seek medical care if the constipation is severe or if your child is under 4 months of age. Mild and moderate constipation can be easily rectified through home remedies. Some ways to relieve constipation include:
Fruit juices such as those of prune, pear or apple help soften the stool. Do not give prune juice to infants, even if it is watered down; it serves as irritant. Give 2 to 4 ounces of the other juices once a day and 4 to 6 ounces once a day for older infants. Don’t water down pear or apple juice. Prune juice can be watered down to 1:1 ratio. Juice, except that of prune, is not very helpful for children above age of 3 because their intestines are more efficient and absorb most of the sugars in the juice.
High fiber foods can help ease the passage of stool and relieve constipation. Examples of such foods are whole grains and apricots, sweet potatoes, pears, prunes, peaches, plums, beans, peas, broccoli or spinach. Avoid applesauce, and carrot; they can be constipating.
Dairy products or refined carbohydrates can be constipating for toddlers. ‘Avoid cow or buffalo milk or goat milk if any given to child or baby. If the baby is formula fed, add intermittent water sips between feeds, or replace one feed with water for a week. Stools get hard when water content of feeds or stools get lesser or the phosphate content rises,’ advises Dr S Kondekar, pediatrician from Mumbai.
Adequate fluids are necessary to resolve constipation. Ensure that children are adequately hydrated. However, excessive amount of fluids too won’t help.
Toilet-train your child by motivating and encouraging them. It is important to have a regular toilet routine. For older children, ask them to sit for 10 minutes on the toilet once a day, especially within 30 minutes after a meal – breakfast or dinner.
Avoid baby foods that are higher in casein or those with rice cereal. These formulas tend to constipate your baby. Formulas with iron are good for easing constipation.
Home Remedies for Constipation in Adolescents and Adults
Prevention is better than cure. This readily applies to constipation in adolescents and adults. Here are some home remedies that you can try if you have a tendency to constipation.
Include fiber in your diet on a regular basis. For example,
Mix flax seeds in your breakfast cereal every morning or add them to warm water and drink it early in the morning.
Grind equal amounts of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and take one tablespoon of this mixture once a day for a week.
Consume oranges every day. These are rich in vitamin C as well as fiber.
Soak a few dates in milk, squash it to make a paste and take it with milk for a week to relieve constipation.
Triphala churna (a mixture of Indian gooseberry or amla, haritaki, and vibhitaki) taken with honey twice a day is a great remedy prescribed by Ayurveda experts for constipation.
Taking a teaspoon of ghee mixed in a glass of hot milk before going to bed is an age old Indian traditional remedy for constipation.
Boil a few figs (fresh and ripe or dried) in a glass of milk, and drink this mixture at night before going to bed. Figs have high fiber content and provide quick relief from constipation.
Drinking half a cup of cabbage juice twice daily may help relieve constipation.
Drink half a glass of spinach juice mixed with half a glass of water twice daily for two to three days, and find relief even from severe constipation.
Drink at least 3 liters of water every day to keep your body hydrated and improve bowel movement.
Cut down on alcohol, tea, and coffee since they can worsen constipation.
Regular physical exercise is a must for proper bowel movement. Pranayama and yoga are also beneficial. Yoga such as pavan muktasana, balasana, ardha matsyendrasana, and suptavajrasana are among the many yoga asanas that help relieve constipation.