what helps constipation in kids? 6 tips that can help

What helps constipation in kids? Six tips that can help!

I was absolutely floored when my friend, an early childhood educator, told me that they now have 'Laxative Hour' at the nursery - and that most of the kids are constipated and are now on laxatives (!).

Constipation in kids can be caused by various reasons, including diet, lack of physical activity, or medical conditions.

Constipation isn't just uncomfortable  - it can even be downright painful and debilitating. It can also be a cause of stress, anxiety and inability to concentrate in school.

There are a variety of causes for constipation in kids, ranging from when they are being potty trained (around 2 to 3 years old), to older kids and teenagers.

In this blog we will discuss:

  • Constipation - an epidemic in kids (and adults)
  • Toilet anxiety
  • What causes constipation?
  • Symptoms of constipation in kids
  • What helps constipation in kids? Six tips that can help
  • How much fibre should kids eat daily?
  • Tips to increase fibre intake in kids
  • A natural (and delicious!) solution
  • Information and advice

Constipation - an epidemic in kids

According to the NHS, it is estimated that 1 in every 3 children are constipated at any one time. Adults don't fare much better, with an estimate of 1 in 7 adults struggling with constipation.(1)

If this isn't an epidemic, I don't know what is!

Toilet anxiety - it's a thing!

There is a stigma with poo being a bad thing. This can stem from when toddlers hear words when their nappies are being changed like 'stinky', 'dirty', 'smelly' or 'yucky', which can be ingrained in children, and equate to them that poo is bad.

constipated child on toilet

Toilet anxiety might be triggered by an unpleasant experience, such as words they have heard, smelly or noisy toilets.

This can lead to constipation, and as the poo is not let go, it can result in a larger, more uncomfortable poo. 

Memories of a painful or unpleasant poo following constipation can last for a long time, creating a cycle of anxiety, constipation, pain and discomfort - and in many cases, sets them on the 'laxative merry-go-round' path.

In teenagers, going to the toilet - let alone a poo, has also been stigmatised. I have several friends who's teenagers simply refuse to go to the loo at school. How unhealthy and concerning is this?!

Symptoms of constipation in kids

Your child may be constipated if:

  • they have not done a poo at least 3 times in the last week
  • their poo is large and hard
  • their poo looks like "rabbit droppings" or little pellets
  • they are straining or in pain when they poo
  • they have some bleeding during or after having a poo, because their poo is large and hard
  • they have a poor appetite or stomach pain that improves after they poo

constipation kids

If your child is over 1 year old, soiled pants can be another sign of constipation, as runny poo (diarrhoea) may leak out around the hard, constipated poo. This is called overflow soiling.(2)

What helps constipation in kids?

Constipation can be caused by a variety of things, including toilet anxiety, as discussed above. However, diet and hydration can also play a major role in constipation in kids.

Here are six tips that can help relieve constipation in kids:

  1. Increase fluid intake: Encourage your child to drink plenty of water and other fluids. (Please be aware of fruit juices being high in sugar, and look out for drinks with artificial sweeteners).

  2. Increase fibre intake: Include fibre-rich foods in your child's diet, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Gradually increase the fiber intake to avoid causing diarrhea. Ps. 96% of children in the UK aren't getting enough fibre in their diets! 

  3. Encourage physical activity: Physical activity can help stimulate bowel movements, so encourage your child to be active by playing outside, participating in sports, or doing regular exercise.

  4. Establish a regular toilet routine: Encourage your child to use the toilet regularly, ideally after meals or at least twice a day.

  5. Consider laxatives: If your child's constipation is severe or not responding to other treatments, talk to your doctor about using a laxative. (Note: The overuse and reliance of laxatives can lead to electrolyte disturbances, dehydration and mineral deficiency, in addition to potentially causing long term damage to the digestive system - including...chronic constipation. Ongoing laxative use is NOT the solution.)

  6. Use ió fibrewater: fibrewater is an easy, natural and delicious way to boost your child's fibre intake as well as support their gut health. Backed by an authorised UK health claim for 'proper gut function by increasing stool frequency',  fibrewater offers an easy solution.

How much fibre should kids eat daily?

More of us, including kids, need to eat more fibre and less sugar in our diet. A diet rich in fibre can help digestion and prevent constipation.

Eating 30g (or more) of fibre daily (for adults) is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity and bowel cancer.

Although children don't need to eat as much fibre in their diet as older teenagers and adults, they still need to consume more than they get currently:

  • 2 to 5 year-olds: need about 15g of fibre daily
  • 5 to 11 year-olds: need about 20g of fibre daily
  • 11 to 16 year-olds: need about 25g of fibre daily

Considering that the average ADULT fibre intake daily is 19g,(4g higher than what a 2 to 5 year old should be consuming) and that according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, published by Public Health England (3) states that 96% of children are not getting enough fibre (and 91% of adults aren't, either), these statistics are evident that we have a big problem. And not only with constipation, but a higher risk of diseases and health conditions (as mentioned above) in later life.

In other words...There's a very high likelihood that your child is not getting enough fibre in their diet. (And chances are, you aren't either!).

 little girl eating high fibre

Getting kids on the 'high fibre track' when they are young is a good start for not only reducing constipation, and supporting their overall health, as well as teaching them the importance of eating fibre in general.

Tips to increase fibre intake in kids

Children should be eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily to increase their fibre intake, reduce the risk of constipation and support their overall health.

Whole grains such as brown rice, brown bread (with seeds), and brown pasta have a higher fibre content than their white counterparts, which are more refined.

Some good sources of fibre:

  • Oatmeal (½ cup cooked, 2 grams)
  • Berries (½ cup,  4 grams)
  • Sweet potatoes with peel (½ of medium, 3.8 grams)
  • Sliced apple (1 small, 3.6 grams)
  • Almonds/Almond Butter (1 tablespoon, 1 gram)
  • Whole Grain Bread (1 slice, 4.4 grams)
  • Legumes - such as beans, chickpeas and  lentils (½ cup cooked, 6.2-9.6 grams)

Cooking your own food vs buying prepared food is also a great way to increase your kid's fibre intake. 

Making foods such as spaghetti bolognese and 'hiding' veg such as carrots, celery, peppers and mushrooms and then blending the sauce is a good way to increase healthy veg and fibre intake.(As well as using the brown pasta vs white, of course! :)).

Chances are you might be reading this, and thinking 'I already know all of this, but this is not planet reality', right?

Let's face it. Kids can be super picky eaters! And if you read the list of good sources of fibre above and thought 'yeah, right, there's no way that my kid(s) are going to eat this food', you're not alone.

However, I do have a solution for you...

A natural (and delicious) solution to help constipation in kids (and adults!)

Although it is obviously important to introduce your kids to healthy food options that are high in nutrients and fibre, there is another easy way to boost your kid's (and the whole family's) fibre intake (and support their gut health, too!).

fibrewater is the UK's first prebiotic fibre-infused water that provides 6g of fibre in every bottle. This equates to 40% of a 2-5 year old child's fibre intake and 20% of an adult's fibre intake. Plus, it's hydrating, too!

About ió fibrewater:

  • 6g of fibre per 500 ml bottle
  • No added sugar
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • No artificial flavours, colours or preservatives
  • Tastes great - kids love it!
  • NO BITS!!! Looks and tastes just like water with just a splash of natural  Lemon & Lime or Strawberry flavour
  • Approved authorised UK health claim for 'proper gut function due to increased stool frequency (on our label) 
  • Scientifically proven to increase healthy gut bacteria significantly (4)
  • Suitable for ages 2+

 io fibrewater kids constipation

Click here for more information about  fibrewater and check out our FAQ section regarding the recommended intake for children.

Further information and advice

In addition to information and advice from the NHS and online, ERIC is the national charity dedicated to improving children’s bowel and bladder health. Their mission is to reduce the impact of continence problems on children and their families. You can visit their website here.

If your child's constipation persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as abdominal pain or bleeding, it's important to seek medical advice from your healthcare provider.

Summary

Constipation in kids (and adults) has reached epidemic levels. In addition to issues such as 'toilet anxiety', diet and a lack of fibre and hydration can be two of the main causes. 

There is a heavy reliance on laxatives as the 'solution',  which has led to a never-ending 'laxative merry-go-round' for many children, on top of longer-term overuse that is not healthy and can contribute to even more constipation without solving the root problems. 

fibrewater provides a delicious solution that kids (and adults!) LOVE and is a great 'swap-up' from squashes or water by easily and enjoyably increasing their fibre intake, as well as supporting their gut health with prebiotics.

In fact, our unique water is so innovative that it won the World Food Innovation Award for Best Drink Innovation 2023!

Get 30% off your ió fibrewater order by using the code 'kids30' at checkout.

constipation relief kids

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(1) NHS Inform Scotland

(2) Overflow soiling 

(3) National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2019

(4) Glasgow Caledonian University study found  fibrewater increased healthy gut bacteria significantly

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