Natural Constipation Relief for Kids {Part 2} - Your Kid's Table
Your Kids Table



Last year I posted an article on constipation relief in kids, and was very surprised at the response. So many more of you are dealing with constipation problems than I had realized.  As I mentioned the first time around, I often support these issues with kids that I’m treating, but this isn’t my area of expertise.  However, since I have been dealing with chronic constipation with my son for years now I have learned A LOT more about managing it.  If you have read the previous post, find it here, then, you know, that we, like many families, were using Miralax on a regular basis for several years.  It is still shocking for me to admit that.  Some things have changed in the past year and I wanted to give an update, as well as share a surprising revelation I had about this whole ordeal in case you are like me and still struggling to find a solution.


Let me recap and fill you in on what has been going on in the last year. At the time of last post we had basically omitted Miralax and we doing fairly well without it, but it was an extremely difficult balance and despite our best efforts it was still a stresser for me.  In fact, my son had more fiber in his diet than most adults I knew, yet the problem persisted. Something kept nagging me that there was something else going on.  Being the over analyzer I am, I kept running through his whole situation and ways I knew to improve it.  For instance, I knew that eliminating milk didn’t have an effect and that drinking enough water every day helped, but didn’t seem to be enough.  Of course, I revisit this topic at the pediatrician every time we have a check up, and there doesn’t seem to be any major medical issue. Actually, I learned at our last check up that pediatricians are talking about poop- or the lack thereof- a lot, with parents. Mine told me it was single handed the most discussed issue.  

Somehow we had actually gotten to a place where Sam was only going once a week. It wasn’t a tremendous ordeal– although it was massive and seemed totally unnatural to me. The doctor assured me this was okay, and against my instincts I allowed it to continue (not to blame her, he wasn’t in crisis and I did have the option to use Miralax). A few days into the new year this whole episode reached its tipping point when we had a nasty little virus going around and around our home and Sam didn’t end up going for 13 days! This was an ordeal. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t realize until about 9-10 days as we were dealing with everyone being sick and a lot of other issues about taking medicine- that would be my other child that has difficulty with certain food textures AND medicine, a tale for another day.  

Naturally, once I noticed he hadn’t gone in quite some time I started Miralax, lots of water, and really high fiber foods. Still no poop.  Then, he was starting to complain of a belly ache. On the last day he actually ended up getting a fever from the toxic poop stuck inside of him and my husband was at the store buying suppositories when he finally had a massive poop that left him crying and yelling in pain- I’m leaving out many of the grizzly details.  In hindsight I should have gone to the suppositories sooner, but at the time I thought it would be really traumatizing to him and that he was going to go any minute. He had to right? I had called the doctor shortly before he finally pooped and we were only a few hours away from having to go to the ER for help removing it. I was shaken and knew beyond a doubt that I needed to find some other solutions.  On a side note, Tylenol and Motrin are both constipating, Sam had taken a lot of these while he was sick with several high fevers. I believe this helped to exacerbate the situation!


The Revelation

A few days later my prayers were answered, literally, when I came across the book, (affiliate link) Cure Your Child with Food. The book is filled with solutions to many childhoods ailments including constipation. I couldn’t read that chapter fast enough.  I was relieved, validated, and mortified all at the same time when the author drove home the point that having a bowel movement once a week was NOT under any circumstances normal.  

As I was reading, Kelly Dorfman, the author sited several of the typical reasons kids often suffer from constipation (and that I discussed in the previous post):

  • Dairy intolerance or sensitivity
  • Low fiber diet
  • With-holding
As I mentioned before, I had clearly ruled all of these causes out, but then I came to the last reason and all of the stars aligned, bells rang, insert appropriate cliche, and I finally had an answer: Sam was low tone. I can’t believe I had missed it, albeit subtle low tone, but, nonetheless, I am an OT, I know all about muscle tone.

What is Low Tone?

 
Tone refers to the quality of the muscles in the body and in some cases is believed to be controlled neurologically.  It is easy to confuse it with muscle strength, but it is a different animal. We all have varying degrees of low to high muscle tone in our body. For instance, people that slouch or have poor posture are probably on the lower tone side of the spectrum.  Conversely, someone that easily sits very erect with good posture probably has higher muscle tone.  I am over simplifying this a bit, but the point is that our muscle tone is unique and isn’t necessarily bad or good. If you fall at the extremes of the tone spectrum like many children with cerebral palsy or down syndrome it can effect your ability to complete or learn skills.  Kids that are low tone often have delays in gross motor skills like sitting or crawling because their muscles fatigue more quickly.  It is possible to have strong muscle strength and low muscle tone. In this instance, the action is possible but the muscle tires out quickly. It is also important to note that muscle tone can fluctuate throughout the body and with your internal organs, since they are also made up of muscular tissue.  (See this article from Starfish Therapies if you want to learn more about low tone.) Are you getting where I am going with this, yet?
 
The idea here is that if your kid is low tone, even slightly, it might be difficult for them to physically push the poop out. Signs that your kid has low muscle tone are sitting with legs unnaturally bent out in a “W” position, frequent slouching hanging on furniture, and seeming unstable or shaky during gross motor play that require core strength like yoga or ice skating. Even if your kid doesn’t appear to have lower tone their internal organs could be, which is why it is important to rule out all of the other possible reasons above. Moreover, the more fiber you give your kid, as in our case, the harder it is for them to push it out! Ugh- this all made so much sense.
 
What to Do

 
If you are suspecting that your child is low tone Kelly suggests using probiotics regularly, as well as, a natural supplement called L-carnitine, but she does encourage using it under the guidance of a health care professional.  We have been using the probiotics for over a month now. Sam takes one (affiliate link) Nature’s Bounty Advanced Probiotic 10 daily. I haven’t started the L-carnitine yet, as we are trying a few other ideas first, and if we go that route I would like to consult a specialist. Kelly discusses this in more detail, of course. By the way, I am endorsing her book on my own volition, this isn’t a paid sponsorship.

Since our episode, now 8 weeks ago, we have occasionally used Miralax as we are trying to get back on track. I refuse to let him go once a week and four days is the absolute tops- for now. Currently we are about every other day and I haven’t used Miralax in two weeks. The long term goal is to poop everyday.  

Another important factor is that when kids have these really large movements their little colon gets stretched and they don’t have the urge to poop again until the colon is that full. Oh, this is such a terrible cycle, and hence why I’m willing to rely on the Miralax a little again so that his colon can regain its appropriate shape.  Here’s a very helpful video from Chicago’s pediatric hospital that explains constipation, soiling, and stretching of the colon.
 
We have also cut back on fiber. I’m not buying super fiber bread or high fiber products. He is still having fiber, but a normal amount. I think that is also helping because of the cause of his problem.  In other instances these products may be very helpful.  

Poop Massage

I’m using a poop massage (yes, you heard me right) a couple times a week to help improve bowel motility for Sam, as well.  New research has actually shown that a regular weekly poop massage is likely to cut out the use of Miralax totally- no matter what the cause of constipation is. My mother is a massage therapist and while she is especially skilled at giving a poop massage (I’ve seen her get a baby to poop in 2 minutes) anyone can learn how to do it with a little practice. Here is a simple picture tutorial:




1. This is the overall direction that you will massaging in, as you move through the outline of the colon or large intestine. You will start your massage on the child’s lower left side just in from where you fell their hip bone.

***Please note that there is another method for completing this massage, starting on the other side of the colon. Either way is effective, although many massage classes only teach one.

 

2. Using some oil or lotion begin to gently rub with a gentle pressure in a downward motion. For babies just use your first two fingers. Also, you can use small circular hand motions if you prefer.  Begin here where you see my hand placed. 

 

 
3. Overlap one hand over the other moving upwards.  You may be able to feel the poop lying in there if they are severely constipated. If the child vocalizes any discomfort be respectful and go softer. It is extremely important that this is a pleasurable experience for them, my son usually has his tv time to cut down on being wiggly.

 

 

 4. Once you moved your way all the way up, across, and down the right side you can do some gentle but slightly firm sweeping motions with your hands from the top of their belly to the bottom.

 
5. Alternate hands as you make this motion for 20-60 seconds.

 


6. Lastly, take their knees and push them up towards their belly on their right side and make a circular motion across their abdomen and back down. Now, you are tracing the colon in the other direction.

7. Ideally the entire massage should last at least ten minutes. You can repeat these steps several times over. Although this massage can be helpful in emergency situations, studies show that routine massage has the best outcome. Aim for at least once a week.

Our Plan


To wrap this all up, here are the changes we’ve made that I think have been helpful since realizing low muscle tone was the main culprit:
 
  • Daily Probiotic
  • Cut out excessive fiber products
  • Weekly poop massage

I also continue to encourage water consumption of half his body weight in ounces (i.e.: he weighs 45 pounds so he is encouraged to drink 22-23 ounces of water daily.) However, more fiber needs more water or it can constipate even a child that isn’t low tone.  

 
While researching this article I came across this post at Double the Batch and thought some of the products she mentioned looked worth while. I will be looking into them, as well. As always, I want you to have as many resources at your disposal as possible.

A Few Updates

1. I listed bananas as constipating.  Since then I have read from several reputable resources that if the many has some brown spots on it and is ripe then it can help constipation. Un-ripe or hard bananas are very constipating.

2. I have tried Heather’s Tummy Fiber  for over 6 months and since fiber isn’t our issue and perhaps making the problem worse we are weaning off of it.  I think there is value in this product, but it takes time to build up how much your child can take or it can cause cramping. It also needs to be drank in a large cup of water so it can be a pain trying to get a young child to drink that much at one time every day.

3. At the end of the last post I asked for suggestions for other strategies and products, and you guys delivered. I’m very appreciative for the many helpful ideas.  Make sure you scroll all the way through to see all of the comments listed. Of course, I would like you to do the same here.
               
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