Constipation in Babies & Toddlers – 8 natural tips!

Bbaby-21167_1280reast feeding

Helps to form the healthy internal ecosystem your child needs for good digestion, & immunity. Do it if you can, & you will have WAY less issues with constipation than what is likely with formula fed bubs. It’s an investment that will pay off down the track – if you can’t breastfeed, look for the formulas with prebiotics.

 

Break the antibiotic cycle.

This is huge – so many babies & toddlers are spending most of their time in daycare centres filled with other small people with developing immune systems, poor personal hygiene & hands & mouths all over everyone…so the amount of colds & flus, gastro bugs, infections of all kinds can be just overwhelming. In many cases parents need to work, & daycare is seemingly the only option. Sicknesses are perceived to be handled quickest using antibiotics so everyone can get back into care / work / school with minimal time off – but this is generally untrue for childhood headache-1540220_640infections, as the vast majority are viral – not bacterial. When we give a child a course of antibiotics, we are actually wiping out much of their natural defense & compromising their immune system greatly – so next bug that’s going around (i.e. Monday morning back at daycare), will be much more likely to cause them problems.  It is a vicious cycle, & daycare centres & antibiotics should be avoided wherever possible by those wanting to look after their children’s gut health (& therefore general health). Obviously go by your health professional’s recommendations & don’t ignore infections – BUT, please – if your Dr still prescribes antibiotics readily for childhood infections, you need to find a new doctor!! Damaged gut bacterial populations are a big cause of constipation, diarrhea, bloating, & IBS in both kids & adults…not to mention more cold & flu’s.

 

Fluid intake. 

thirst-1474240_640This is often a tricky one with little ones! Use a special cup (you may want to invest in a new one every few months if that makes a difference to the fussy drinker, or have a rotation system  – either way, give them their own special bottle, cup or straw that they love to drink from – it can really help you to monitor fluid intake as well as encourage busy kids to drink on the go! In warmer months use smoothies, fresh juices (with veggies, not just fruits), coconut water, icy fruit slushies, frozen smoothie ice-blocks etc; in winter use soups, hot drinks like lemon & honey tea or yummy herbal teas like liquorice, hibiscus, rosehip, healthy hot chocolate or carob drinks (carob has no caffeine so ideal for younger kids, but is nice & sweet).

Good Gut Bacteria Food.

A toddler who lives on white bread, rice crackers, ham, cheese & sausages (unfortunately all too common today), will not be getting the fibre required to nourish their good bowel bacteria, & will have all kinds of trouble as a result.  The bacteria that live in your bowel are very influential in stool consistency, transit time, & general digestive ability (not to mention behaviour, immunity, nutrition & growth). We need to ensure a constant supply of ‘good bacteria food’ – i.e. fresh fruit & veggies (esp leafy greens), n8362669328_531042f827_nuts, seeds, legumes, & some whole grains if tolerated well. (Blend11 or NeoBlend are easy & go well into yoghurt & smoothies to increase the diversity of daily prebiotic fibre. Make sure each meal or snack has ‘something for the bugs’ as well as for the kid! For the extreme fussy eater, try chopped fruit in jelly cups (as a first step), hiding blended veggies in things like bolognaise sauce etc, ‘ice-cream’ made from frozen fruits etc, small amounts of dried fruits – dates & apricots are great to make bliss balls etc. For the kids used to a more natural diet, they can eat pretty much anything adults are eating – smooth pasty baby food is a big mistake to rely on, as kids will not get used to the different textures of fibrous foods – they really need to be eating some of what mum & dad are eating (mum & dad obviously need to eat well as an example – get over your own fussiness!).

Supplementation.

For babies & toddlers up until around 2.5 years of age, bifidobacteria is the dominant & most important strain of good gut bacteria – these guys are vital to ‘set the stage’ for a healthy gut microbiome all through life. Babies born via caesarian & those who’ve been predominantly formula fed will have much lower levels of these good bugs than those born vaginally & breastfed. A good baby / toddler specific probiotic with bifidobacteria can really help to correct the balance & improve ‘poo problems’ in young ones!

The Fear Factor.

Just one episode of painful constipation can make toddlers scared to poo next time around & thus start to ’hold it in’, which makes the stool become harder (more moisture is reabsorbed by the body the longer the stool is ‘waiting’ to come out, so it will become less moist & therefore more painful to release). One hard poo can quickly become a bigger issue with fear of passing motions due to pain really complicating a physical problem with a mental aspect as well! Do not take constipation in little ones lightly – jump on it at the first sign to avoid escalation!

Exercise / Movement.baby-84626_640

The TV & the i-Pad may be great free babysitters – BUT – it is completely unnatural for a toddler to stay motionless for the long periods of time they do whilst watching TV / playing games. You will just about NEVER see an awake, healthy toddler sit still for 2 hrs at a stretch, but put them in front of a device / TV & they become instantly immobilised! Very tempting for parents to have a break, but also I believe a big potential contributor to digestive problems – exercise / movement is essential for healthy appetite & digestive function (& for good health in general!). Keep screen time to an absolute minimum, kids need to move & learn to use their bodies & brains – not be sitting in front of screens motionless & un-creative.

Fats. 

Good fats are awesome kid foods – they provide loads of calories to satisfy the constant hunger that fast growth can bring. Nuts, seeds, coconut, grass fed meats, oily fish, pastured eggs, organic full fat dairy – all of these provide loads of nutrition for growing bodies, & the fats help stimulate the liver (bile secreted when we consume fats acts as a natural bowel stimulant, & fats & oils provide important lubrication to the stool to ease it’s passage). Do not be scared of fats – our population has gotten sicker & fatter since the ‘low-fat’ approach to diet became popular / recommended. LOW FAT IS DEFINITELY OUT, the research that led to its introduction was wrong. Google Mary Enig – fat guru, ‘Big Fat Lies’ (book that explains it well), ‘The Cholesterol Myth’…there is heaps of info out there.  Blend11 & NeoBlend  are chock full of the healthy fats we need.

 

GO-TO GUT FOOD & DRINK  LIST AIMED AT FUSSY TODDLERS:

Breast milk –  keep your supply ‘there for when you need it’ as long as practically possible. If you have the ability to breastfeed easily, DO IT, & keep it up as long as you can as your milk is the absolute best gut tonic for your child – it’s full of good bacteria, as well as the prebiotics (food for the good bacteria) to help establish a healthy internal ecosystem for life. Even after weaning onto solids, it can be great to keep expressing once daily just to keep an ‘emergency supply’ in the freezer for use in case of sickness or antibiotic use – or just as a general tonic added into their solids even if you no longer wish to be ‘breastfeeding’.

Green smoothies – hide kale & spinach using things like pineapple, banana & berries. You may be surprised how well kids take to a small (not overwhelming) serve of ‘hulk juice’ or ‘frog juice’ (or whatever you think will appeal). Great to use peer pressure when introducing things like this – invite some more ‘experimental’ / less fussy kids around & just make one for yourself, offer all the kids a shot glass or similar – then increase from there. Start yummy, increase veggies gradually. Straws can really help too.

Coconut oil based raw treats – I’ve been told by many that eating coconut oil helps with regularity in older folks (some swear by it) – the same just may be true for kids & it’s so easy to incorporate into healthy, yummy raw desserts etc. See our recipes for some ideas to get you started.

For constipation prone kids try dried figs, dates, prunes, apricots, pears (or bliss balls made using dried fruits as the binder / sweetness). Kids tend to love these ‘sugar bombs’, so don’t go overboard!

Canned peaches, pears, pear juice, prune juice…fresh is best but go with where the child is ‘at’ to get out of trouble. Pear in particular is high in a natural laxative, once again – don’t go overboard or you’ll end up with a sweet tooth!

 

Bristol Stool Chart
Best Poos Ever

Place this handy chart up on the toilet door and teach them about good gut health early: Bristol Stool Chart – free download

 

LOVE to hear what has worked well for you guys – please share any useful tips with other mums & dads!

 

Fibre, The Gut & Modern Disease

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The old approach of using a single source fibre supplement (i.e. bran, psyllium) is no longer recommended / considered optimal to improve gut health.

The reason is that – we (in our large intestine) carry many different types / strains of fibre-loving bacteria, & they all have different food preferences. Relying heavily on one type of fibre will encourage an imbalanced population as you overfeed one / some types of microbes, but neglect the rest – so you end up with proliferation of the ‘few’ who love & thrive on all-bran, or psyllium, or inulin, & these crowd out / take over leaving little room for the rest.

It is now believed that diversity of gut bugs plays a key role in preventing diabetes, obesity, & many of the common health issues of today – & that the best way to regain diversity of bowel organisms is to eat a really diverse range of fruit & vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, & other plant fibre sources with diverse polysaccharides (parts of the plant that we cannot digest in the upper GI tract, but that will become food for our microbes in the bowel).

Sadly, the average westerner eats a lot of refined carbs, a lot of sugars & fats, & very little fermentable fibre, with only a few different types of unrefined plants (a token apple or lettuce & tomato on their burger).

This means we are providing copious amounts of simple carbs / sugars to feed the ‘bad guys’, & very little roughage for the good guys in the bowel. As a result, there is precious little fermentation happening in the large intestine, which is one of the absolutely vital keys to good health – fibre is the fermentation material needed by our bowel bugs – they convert complex carbs into SCFA’s (short chain fatty acids), which are potent anti-inflammatory substances & key nutrients for maintaining the health & integrity of the gut lining – among many other things (worth reading up on). 

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When you think about inflammation as the cause / key contributor to almost all modern disease states – it makes really good sense to be feeding our own ‘anti-inflammatory generators’ with diverse fibre, every day, as a priority. It has even been questioned whether just adding a heap of plant fibre to a junk food diet can somewhat mitigate the damage / inflammation caused by the junk in this way…

The less processed the food is, the more likely that it will make it through our stomach & small intestine undigested, which may sound like a bad thing… BUT, it is these undigested foods that become food for our helper-bugs! I.e. raw veg are better for the bugs than cooked, whole grains better than refined flour… we seem to do best on a combination of really unrefined foods & some more refined / easier to digest stuff, but I believe the modern diet is waayy too far towards the ‘easy to digest’ processed end of the spectrum.

If your gut is not super-sensitive / out of whack, do an experiment on yourself by increasing your intake of unprocessed plant foods (making sure to focus on diversity), & see what happens. Go slowly to transition comfortably – increase your intake gradually over time rather than all at once, or you may become bloated, gassy, uncomfortable & possibly constipated as your unprepared gut struggles to deal with the sudden influx of fibre. Over a few days / weeks though, your population of bacterial fibre-munchers should increase hugely & become much more healthy & diverse. Take note of how this effects you – look for changes in regularity / gut symptoms, body composition, mood, brain function, skin, immunity, aches & pains…it’s such an easy experiment with massive potential gains! If there is no way you can tolerate fibrous foods due to severe gut symptoms – look into the SCD (specific carbohydrate diet), as it helps many to get back to a state of gut health where fibre becomes more tolerable.

Where do goodMix products fit in here? 

12705672_954665004602041_4415308818380507873_nBlend11 / NeoBlend- diverse, complex, largely unprocessed & mostly organic plant fibre (in a super-easy, palatable delivery to ensure frequent / daily consumption). Seed microbes (we know less about the microbes carried by seeds / plants than we do about our own gut bugs – but there is a definite possibility that there’s another benefit here – interesting research is happening around seed microbes).

PondWater – more polysaccharides & other goodies found in the grass, algae & aloe vera. Once again easy to use in a green smoothie or just with fresh juices / water / lemon water – no excuses for not getting your daily dose of greens!

BallBags – humans will always want & seek out sweet treats, these balls allow a treat but are full of goodness, providing plenty of good bacteria fodder & a slow release of natural sugars into the blood stream, rather than the typical sugar hit from refined type sweet treats. A great transition for those wishing to cut down on sugar addiction comfortably with minimal stress, & for those who wish to replace a daily vice with a healthier alternative. 

*people following a FODMAP diet may need to exercise a little caution (consume in moderation) with the BallBags & NeoBlend, as the dried fruit can cause issues for some with bloating etc. Blend11 & PondWater should be fine.