Altoona & Eau Claire, WI–

Yes, constipation can affect not just adults, but little ones too.  Often times it can go undiagnosed, or unaddressed in children.  The following information I pulled off of the childhood constipation website.  This might help you understand if your child may be suffering from constipation.  At the end, I’ll give some treatment options and a case report on one that I’ve seen in my office.

In fact, up to 10% of children are thought to suffer from constipation at any one time 1

  • About one-third of 4 to 7 year olds are constipated at any one time 2
  • 5% of primary school children get constipation for more than six months 3
  • Chronic constipation is most common in children between the ages of 2 and 4 when they are potty training 4
  • In about 25% of cases, constipation starts when the child is still a baby 4
  • Constipation is a common condition, affecting up to one in three UK children5
  • Some signs to look out for are:

    Fewer bowel movements than normal (less than 3 bowel movements per week in a child over 3 years of age)

    Pain and straining when passing stools. When your child holds stools in or avoids going to the loo for a long time, they become hard and dry. This makes them hard and painful to pass. This can make your child get anxious and upset when trying to go to the toilet for a poo

    Tummy ache. The build up of stools in your child’s bowels can give them cramps and make them feel bloated and queasy. This will go away after your child does a poo

    Small, dry, hard stools. The bowel removes water from the stools (normal stools are usually about 70% water). This means that if the stools remain in the bowel for too long, they dry out and become hard

    Avoiding the toilet. Your child may try to avoid going to the toilet

    Not having any urge to do a poo. If your child becomes constipated for a while, they may not get the urge to pass a stool because the stools build up in the rectum and stretch it. This means that it takes more stools to make it full enough to trigger the need to go to the toilet

    Feeling that a bowel movement isn’t finished. If your child’s stools are dry and hard to pass, some can stay in the bowels after a bowel movement so they may feel like they still have to go

    Sore bottom. The skin around the anus can tear and become sore and cracked if your child has to strain. You might notice bright red blood or light red streaks on your child’s stools or underwear. Treating your child’s constipation should help by making the stools softer and allowing the skin to heal

    Unpleasant smell. If your child is holding in stools, they may pass wind

    If your child has more severe constipation, they may also get these symptoms:

    Dribbling urine
    If your child is constipated, the stools in your their bowels can press on the bladder and the muscles that control urination causing them to dribble urine into their underwear or to make them need to urinate more often than usual. They may also wet the bed.

    Leaking of liquid or loose stools
    When large stools get stuck and block your child’s bowel, liquid stools above the blockage can flow around it and out causing them to leak watery stools into their underwear. This is often the first sign that parents are aware of that indicates their child has a problem with their bowels. Children can be constipated for many months before the soiling starts.

    Dr. Gunderson’s Notes:

    We’ve had some great success treating children with constipation.  Here are some treatment options from a chiropractic perspective (natural).  First we need to address dietary concerns.  Make sure the child increases the uptake of the following:

    • Water–should be consuming 6-8 glasses of water per day
    • High fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (fruit with skin on it preferably)
    • Other great foods are beans, peas, lentils, raisins, prunes, and popcorn (if they are old enough)
    • **If child is too young for whole foods, puree the fruit and vegetables

    Also, make sure the child gets plenty of playing (exercise) time.  Healthy movement is needed for the bowels to work correctly.  Let them play and play a lot!

    In addition to these recommendations, I would also encourage a chiropractic checkup.  The reason this is is that if the child has had falls, other trauma, or a rough delivery, then there could be a problem with the spine interfering with the nerves going to the colon.  What I have seen is that there is a subluxation (misalignment of the spine) in the lower back or pelvis that is causing interference to the nerves going to the colon not allowing this organ to work properly.  The child should be checked for subluxation by a chiropractor.

    Here is a case example that I would like to share with you.  I had a 2 year old girl come into my office a couple months ago.  Her mom stated that she has had constipation issues since birth.  She wouldn’t go for several days and then cry and scream through a bowel movement.  This went on for two years even with the use of laxatives like Miralax.  Mom was fed up with it.  We did a check-up on the girl and found that her sacrum was subluxated.  After finding the cause and addressing that, we gave her two year old her very first adjustment.  After the first adjustment, the mom said that she noticed huge results.  She was still using the Miralax (afraid not to use it as it helped a little), but the child had more frequent bowel movements.  I’ve been seeing this child for over a month now and just this week mom said that she took her off Miralax and her child has been regular and pain free now for over two weeks!  Mom was absolutely thrilled and her child couldn’t be happier.

    If your child is experiencing constipation, please consider a chiropractic check-up.  We love seeing kids at our office and they are always welcome:)

    Naturally Restoring Your Health,

    Dr. Gunderson


    1 Candy DCA, Davies EG and Ross R. Clinical Paediatrics and Child Health. Edinburgh, WB Saunders, 2001

    2 Farrell M, Holmes G, Coldicutt P. Management of childhood constipation: patents experiences, Journal of Advanced Nursing 2003; 479-489

    3 Yong D. Beattie R. Normal bowel habit and the prevalence of constipation in primary school children. Ambulatory Child Health 1998; 4: 277-282

    4 Nelson R, Wagget J, Lennard-Jones J. Constipation and megacolon in children and adults, Diseases of the Gut and Pancreas. Blackwell Scientific. 1994: 843-864

    5 http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG99 Last accessed 26 May 2010. | http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=6 Last accessed 26 May 2010.