Understanding Constipation in Kids: Causes, Treatments in Integrative Pediatrics

When a toddler suffers from constipation, it can be confusing and worrisome for parents. And though this isn’t a life-threatening condition, it can still be a source of discomfort and distress for children. That's why it's important to understand the causes of constipation in kids and the treatments available. In this blog post, we will explore the common causes of toddler constipation and equip parents with knowledge on treatments—both at-home remedies and holistic treatments in an integrative pediatrician's office.

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What to do if your child is not having regular movements

When your child is constipated, it's not only worrying for parents and caregivers, but uncomfortable for kids, too. Constipation is common for kids, and accounts for about 5% of pediatric appointments (1).

Most times, constipation can be resolved at home, but if your child has trouble passing bowel movements on a regular basis, you should consider meeting with an integrative pediatrician to address the underlying root cause to your child's constipation.

At-home treatments include lifestyle modifications like increasing fiber intake, drinking more fluids, and making sure your child is getting enough exercise. In some cases, your pediatrician may recommend over-the-counter treatments like stool softeners or laxatives if the condition persists. It’s important to note that both of these options should be taken only after speaking with a pediatrician, as improper dosage may do more harm than good.

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How to tell if your child is constipated

Children can't always tell you that something is wrong when it comes to how they're feeling. That's why as a parent or caregiver you want to be aware of signs and symptoms that can tell you if your child is constipated.

Common signs of constipation include (2):

  • Infrequent bowel movements (less than 2 per week)
  • Dry, hard, or lumpy stools
  • Straining during the BM or pain when passing a BM

Constipation can become uncomfortable quickly, causing abdominal pain, crying during a bowel movement, or a stomach that feels hard or painful to the touch. If your child is expressing any of these symptoms, it may be an indication that they are suffering from constipation.

Read: Why You Need a Probiotic

What causes constipation in kids

There are a variety of causes for constipation in kids, ranging from dietary deficiencies to underlying medical conditions. Common causes include (3):

  • A diet lacking in fiber and fluids
  • Changes to routine or environment (e.g., potty training, starting solid foods)
  • Lack of physical activity
  • A genetic predisposition
  • Medications such as painkillers or antacids
  • Underlying medical conditions such as Celiac disease

It's important to speak to a doctor or integrative pediatrician if you think one of these, or any other underlying condition might be causing your child’s constipation.

Holistic treatments for constipation in kids

Increase hydration

Water is necessary for normal digestive function and regular bowel movements, so make sure that your child is drinking enough fluids each day. This can help to keep the stool soft and avoid constipation.

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Serve more fiber foods

Including plenty of high-fiber foods in your toddler’s diet can help to keep stools regular by adding bulk to the stool. Adding bulk to stool means there is something to pass, supporting regularity and reducing the chance of constipation.

Some fiber-rich foods you may consider are:

  • Raspberries
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Chia or ground flaxseeds

Kids aged two to four are recommended to have up to 19 grams of fiber per day.

Related: Tips to Help Your Child Maintain a Healthy Weight

Incorporate Probiotics

Probiotic supplements can help your child maintain regular digestion by introducing beneficial bacteria into their gut. A healthy balance of good bacteria helps with digestion and nutrient absorption, thus potentially reducing the chances of constipation in kids.

Keep them active

Physical activity helps to stimulate bowel movements for both adults and children alike. That is why it’s important to ensure that your child is getting enough exercise each day. This can be as simple as playing in the park or taking a walk around the neighborhood.

Try magnesium

Certain kinds of the mineral magnesium, such as magnesium oxide, gently draw water into the large intestine, making stool softer and easier to pass (4). You can add this supplement into your child’s diet after speaking with a pediatrician about proper dosage. 

Whatever the cause, constipation in kids should not be ignored as it can be uncomfortable and even lead to further complications. Being aware of the causes, symptoms, and treatments available will help ensure that your child gets the relief they need.

Medical conditions that can cause constipation in children

In rare cases, medical conditions can be the root cause of constipation in children. These conditions may include (6):

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that prevents the small intestine from absorbing nutrients properly (1). 

Cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects mucus production and digestion.

Hirschsprung’s Disease, a congenital disorder that affects the large intestine and causes constipation (3).

If your child has any of these conditions, their doctor may recommend dietary changes or medications to help with constipation. It’s important to speak to an integrative pediatrician if you think your child’s condition is due to underlying medical issues.

An integrative pediatrician can help improve your child’s digestive health—schedule an appointment now!

Healthy habits to avoid constipation

Young children can be prone to constipation because of their diet and changes in routine, like potty training. To prevent constipation in children, it is important to establish a regular routine of healthy habits from an early age. Here are some healthy habits you can start with your toddler:

  • Encourage them to drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • Make sure physical activity or exercise is part of their daily routine
  • Give them enough fiber by incorporating high-fiber foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into their diet
  • Encourage regular bowel movements by setting aside time each day for them to use the bathroom

By establishing these healthy habits early on in life with your toddler, you can help prevent constipation from occurring down the road.

Read: Tips to Kick Sugar Cravings (for Adults & Kids)

How an integrative pediatrician can help

When it comes to treating constipation, conventional treatments like stool softeners may provide temporary and quick relief, but don’t address the underlying root cause of your child’s condition. That’s why many parents are turning to holistic treatments for constipation in kids.

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In addition to dietary and lifestyle modifications, they may suggest supplements or herbs that support digestive health to help your child pass stools more comfortably. In some cases, an integrative pediatrician may suggest further testing, motility evaluation, or gut function analysis to solve more difficult cases of constipation.

Integrative pediatricians can help identify dietary deficiencies, underlying medical conditions, or lifestyle habits that could be causing constipation and create a custom treatment plan based on your child’s individual needs.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6284708/
  2. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation-children/symptoms-causes
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B978141602299210026X
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7911806/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4790001/
  6. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2006/0201/p469.html


gut health, Holistic Medicine, pediatrics

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