What Are Constipation and Diarrhea?
Constipation is one of the most pressing concerns of parents today with all children no matter what the diagnosis or condition. Chronic diarrhea can often be the flip side to chronic constipation because the bowels may be so impacted that only liquid waste can come out. Not having regular daily healthy bowel movements can lead to an array of symptoms in children such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Pain while having a bowel movement
- Blood in the stool
According to Dr. Timothy Buie, pediatric gastroenterologist at Harvard Medical School’s Boston, Massachusetts’s Hospital, 70% of children on the autism spectrum struggle to have daily bowel movements. Indeed, chronic constipation and/or chronic diarrhea are exceedingly common in children who later develop:
What Your Doctor May Tell You About Constipation and Diarrhea
Your child’s doctor may prescribe a laxative such as MiraLAX for your child’s constipation. However, laxatives are not to be used for long periods of time or as a substitute for a medical work-up if your child has chronic constipation due to leaky gut issues and other gastrointestinal problems.
In addition, in December 2011, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) placed laxatives containing Polyethylene Glycol 3350 (PEG) on its Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) in connection to neuropsychiatric events. These PEG laxatives are marketed under the following brands:
- GaviLyte C
- E-Z-Em Fortrans
- Prep Lyte
Despite widespread pediatrician recommendation of PEG laxatives, the FDA never approved them for use by children. According to the FDA, “Neuropsychiatric adverse events (in children using PEG laxatives) may include:
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors including repetitive chewing and sucking
- Mood swings”
Another Way to Think About Constipation and Diarrhea
Chronic constipation is one of the most common signs that a child has gut dysbiosis and/or a dysregulated immune system or possibly even mitochondrial dysfunction, causing gastrointestinal motility problems. Many children struggle to have healthy daily elimination because of the following, which all can contribute to an unhealthy diet and consequently, unhealthy elimination:
- Processed foods
- Refined carbohydrates
- Unhealthy fats
- Synthetic preservatives
- Lack of movement
- Insufficient water consumption
Intermittent constipation can often be managed by taking some relatively easy steps such as:
- Increasing fiber content in diet (fruits, vegetables)
- Supplementing the diet with certain foods such as flax seed, flax oil, or psyllium
- Increasing consumption of water
When constipation becomes chronic and won’t let up, it is critical to begin investigating the underlying causes of constipation. There is no doubt that what we eat as humans affects how well we eliminate. But is there more?
Breaking the vicious cycle of constipation is not just about the right laxative or eating one type of food to make the bowels regular such as that big bowl of stewed prunes every morning. Regularity is more about having healthy choices of food on a regular basis. However, there may be some underlying imbalances that create the constipation symptoms your child is exhibiting. It is also possible that there may be more than one symptom connected to your child’s constipation.
Let’s identify some of these imbalances and learn how to correct them so that we can address these underlying issues that may be triggering the constipation your child is experiencing.
Constipation and Diarrhea Healing Checklist
Does your child have a vicious constipation cycle: constipation -> acid reflux -> difficulty falling asleep –> pain –> irritability –> aggression and medications? Or does your child hold his bowel movements out of fear because they hurt (encopresis)? Either way, our checklist of items below can give you some good ideas for addressing your child’s chronic constipation and/or diarrhea.
- Get 10 hours of sleep per night (or more if your child is under 10)
- Get outside every day
- Get an hour of exercise or movement per day
- Sync circadian rhythm by getting up when the sun does and going to bed after it sets
- Limit screen time as much as possible
- Use blue-blocking lightbulbs and glasses at night, especially when looking at screens
- Put bare feet in wet ground when possible
- Drink half body weight in ounces of water
- Eat whole foods
- Buy organic foods
- Eat a clean diet
- Remove all GMO foods
- Remove all fast and processed foods
- Remove all foods with artificial colors, artificial ingredients, artificial flavors, natural flavors, preservatives, phenols and salicylates
- Strictly limit sugars, refined salt and refined carbohydrates
Use Only High-Quality Fats
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil (unheated)
- Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT) oil
- Grass-fed ghee
- Duck fat
- Grass-fed beef tallow
- Cod liver oil (unheated)
- Walnut oil (unheated)
Remove Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats
- Hydrogenated vegetable oils (Crisco, etc.)
Include High-Quality Protein with Every Meal
- Pasture-raised eggs, chicken and other fowl
- Grass-fed beef, lamb and other red meats
- Wild-caught fish
Add Fermented Foods and Probiotics
- Eat kefir yogurts, if dairy is tolerated
- Eat fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kim chi
- Eat umeboshi plums, which are very alkalizing
- Eat miso soup, if soy is tolerated
- Take a quality probiotic, such as VSL #3, Gut Pro, Dr. Ohirra’s Live Cultured Probiotics, Garden of Life, Klaire Labs. Work with your practitioner for a more targeted probiotic.
Blood sugar that is too low can lead to attention and behavioral problems.
We recommend keeping blood sugar optimized so that it's neither too low nor too high.
- Identify and remove possible environmental triggers, such as mold, dust, pet dander, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
- Identify and remove possible toxic exposures in the home from purchased products, such as detergents, soaps, lotions, and other cleaning and personal care products
- Remove animals (both live and stuffed!)
- Remove carpets
- Use non-toxic cleaners
- Use non-toxic building materials
Lower Stress Levels
Viruses, bacteria and other pathogens become more active when the body is in a state of stress.
By teaching your child ways to self-regulate with practices such as prayer, reiki, meditation, yoga, qi gong, tai chi and the Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping), they can become good advocates for themselves and become active participants in the recovery process.
NAET (Namudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique) and BioSET are two non-invasive methods of allergy elimination.
- Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) for possible food sensitivities and allergies
- Nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin D
- NutrEval by Genova Diagnostics Labs for malabsorption, gut dysbiosis, cellular energy, mitochondrial metabolism, neurotransmitter metabolism, vitamin deficiencies, toxin exposure and detoxification need
- Organic Acid Test (OAT) for yeast overgrowth, other microbial infections and oxalates
- Inflammation markers such as C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
- Fasting blood sugar and insulin levels
- Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA)
Use Digestive Aids with your Practitioner's Guidance
- Betaine hydrochloric acid
- Digestive enzymes with DPP-IV for gluten and casein intolerances
- Proteolytic enzymes
Always work with your practitioner to determine the brand, type and dosage of supplements. Common supplements include the following:
- Cod liver oil
- Vitamin D3
- Methylated B complex vitamins
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
- Magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine and other minerals
- Make sure your child is pooping every day. Learn more about how to clear up constipation and diarrhea.
- Have your child exercise or move every day. Sweating carries toxins out of the body.
- See a homotoxicologist, naturopath or homeopath for drainage remedies and detoxification aids.
- Optimize blood sugar to allow the liver to spend more time detoxing rather than processing sugar.
- Ionic foot baths can help detox unwanted pathogens and are easy to do with children.
- Infared saunas can detox heavy metals through the skin by sweating. However, this form of detoxification may not be suitable for young children who lack the ability to sweat.
- Epsom salt baths add sulfur transdermally to help with detox.
They provide hands-on helping with the practical matters of healing such as cooking healthy foods, removing toxins from the household and helping you work more efficiently with your practitioner.
Follow these food rules:
- Eliminate gluten- and dairy-containing foods, which are commonly known to produce constipation when eaten
- Don’t microwave food – precious enzymes in foods needed for healthy elimination are destroyed
- Keep the skin on fruits and vegetables because the skin contains lots of fiber
- Encourage your kids to eat fruits and not to drink fruit juices
- Discourage dry salty products such as chips and salty snack foods as they can contribute to constipation
- Love those leafy greens such as kale, collards, watercress, arugula and dandelion and have your kids drink the vegetable water…a great source of minerals!
- Peppermint tea or peppermint essential oil can help relieve temporary digestive issues
- Fennel tea or fennel essential oil can help relieve gas and bloating
- Make sure your children are taking the time to chew their food well because good digestion starts in the mouth!
- Are your children drinking enough water? Dehydration can lead to dry stuck stools and little pellets. Give your child coconut water or electrolytes, and make sure they are drinking plenty of good filtered water.
Use DPP-IV enzymes with your practitioner’s guidance:
DPP-IV (dipeptidyl peptidase IV) enzymes might just be what your child needs. A full complete broad-spectrum enzyme including DPP-IV can be the key to breaking the vicious constipation cycle and addressing the peptide known as casomorphin (research of Paul Shaddock). A gluten-free/casein-free diet in combination with DPP-IV enzymes from companies such as Houston Enzymes, Klaire Labs, Kirkman Labs and Enzymedica is often enough to relieve chronic constipation.
Consider these supplements for the relief of constipation:
- Magnesium is an important mineral that relaxes muscles in the digestion process needed to prevent constipation. Low levels of magnesium can affect normal muscle functioning in the body. Magnesium is an important electrolyte necessary for hydration, it improves gut motility and controls muscle tension to help regulate emotional stress.
- Aloe vera juice can reduce inflammation in the intestinal tract
- Vitamin C can get the bowels moving (Try Vitality C by American Neutraceuticals)
- Colosan by Family Health News or Mag 07 by Aerobic Life – oxygen digestive system cleansers
- Cascara sagrada herbal tincture for gastrointestinal support
- Cod liver oil, a traditional remedy
Investigate mitochondrial dysfunction:
Low muscle tone in the bowel can lead to a weak peristalsis movement to push the stool out. Many children with neurodevelopmental disorders and developmental delays have mitochondrial issues leading to low internal muscle tone.
One way to increase the muscle tone in the bowel area is to give your child liquid trace minerals. Colloidal trace minerals or trace minerals with fulvic acid can be put in juice. They are also very good for the toddler who is unable to toilet train. Sometimes it’s just a matter of increasing the muscle tone in the bowels in both situations.
Check for thyroid disorders:
Thyroid disorders such as congenital hypothyroidism, passed on from a mother to her child, can contribute to constipation.
Encourage your child to be active and not sedentary because activity helps keep the organ systems moving and functioning appropriately. Inactivity promotes constipation!
Use a Squatty Potty or stool:
Squatting, or at least bringing the knees higher up when sitting, promotes bowel movement because it straightens the spine and allows gravity to do its work without forcing. Using a Squatty Potty or step stool when sitting on the toilet simulates a squatting position and thus makes bowel movements easier.
Still Looking for Answers?
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Sources & References
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Chmielewska, A., et al. Systematic review of randomised controlled trials: probiotics for functional constipation. World J Gastroenterol 2010 Jan 7;16(1):69-75.
Greene. J.G., et al. Delayed gastric emptying and enteric nervous system dysfunction in the rotenone model of Parkinson’s disease. Exp. Neurol. 2009 Jul;218(1):154-61.
Higashikawa, F., et al. Improvement of constipation and liver function by plant-derived lactic acid bacteria: a double-blind, randomized trial. Nutrition 2010 Apr;26(4):367-74.
Lee, H.R., et al. Bacteria and irritable bowel syndrome: the evidence for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2006 Aug;8(4):305-11.
Madrid, A.M., et al. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in patients with functional gastrointestinal diseases. Rev Med Chil. 2007 Oct;135(10):1245-52.
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Pimintel, M., et al. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Bacterial Overgrowth–What’s Known and What to Do. Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol. 2007 Aug;10(4):328-37.
Galland, Leo. The Effect of Intestinal Microbes on Systemic Immunity. Excerpted from Power Healing. Random House, 1998.
Kellman, Raphael. The Microbiome Diet: The Scientifically Proven Way to Restore Your Gut Health and Achieve Permanent Weight Loss. Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2015.
Sachs, Jessica Snyder. Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World. Hill and Wang, 2007.