Constipation and Withholding
I know how incredibly debilitating, overwhelming, and isolating it feels to have a child that will not poop.
Whether that means your babe is withholding or needs constipation relief; it’s so freaking hard to deal with. I’d like to go over everything I’ve learned over the last two years about this topic.
My now 4 year-old daughter used to be able to hold her poop in for almost a week. When she practiced withholding, her behavior was extremely irritable and aggressive.
My life revolved around poop. I didn’t want to see friends or family when she was withholding. I’d do everything in my power to try and get her to poop before we’d leave the house.
I spent days and days isolated at home with her because I didn’t want anyone to witness the horrible behavior I was dealing with when my sweet girl was withholding.
I’d warn other parents if we were due to spend time with them that she hadn’t gone to the bathroom, but nobody really got it… unless they were of course going through the same thing.
It seemed as though the longer she held it in, the more adrenaline she had to exhaust. I spent hours and hours crying, anxiously and frantically researching for months on end.
Sounds horrible, right? Does it sound familiar? Let’s get into all things constipation, withholding, and what you can do about it.
I will share with you how we addressed the root of the issue instead of using dangerous medication prescribed by doctors.
The Facebook group “Parents Against Miralax Restoralax Movicol” has helped me tremendously during this time.
The information can be a bit overwhelming but there are several professionals there who are qualified and willing to help and walk you through protocols and any questions you may have.
What if I told you that everything from your child's health to their mood was affected by their microbiome? Would you think I was crazy?
“Microorganisms swimming around your pipes not only digest food and fight disease, but they also secrete mood-regulating chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA.
There is a growing connection, in other words, between a diverse microbiome and health, stability, and even athletic prowess.”
Here is an incredible article explaining more about how that is possible.
When we are born, our mothers transfer both gut and vaginal microbes to our babies’ bodies. That’s why it’s so crucial for moms to have a healthy microbiome as well.
80% of a person's immune system is in the gut, and the first 1,000 days is where the foundation is built for lifelong health (or disease.)
The gut of a child becomes adult-like from 3 to 5 years old. For toddlers and adults, higher gut diversity is correlated with better health.
In contrast, a healthy baby gut has very low diversity, especially within the first 6-12 months.
So, how do we know, and how do we get there? If you are having trouble with your baby, toddler or child being constipated or withholding poop, it’s really crucial to address the root cause.
Gut testing is key to know how to heal the gut which is key to conquering constipation relief and key for the immune system brain health.
Find a Naturopath or Functional Medicine Doctor locally or one that does phone consults and can order an organic acid test or detailed stool profile.
If ordering a stool profile, ask for one that includes a check on butyrate levels. Miralax contains harmful ingredients that strip out butyrate (peg3350/peg4000.) A lack of Butyrate is being linked to autoimmune disorders.
Primary reasons for withholding (primarily occurring at the toddler age and/or at the onset of potty training) include: anxiety, fear, and control.
Here is another amazing and thorough article detailing the mechanics of chronic constipation and how to treat it.
Miralax: Why Do Doctors Prescribe It?
It seems like everyone in the medical field defaults to prescribing Miralax for anyone at any age with digestive issues, constipation (occasional or chronic), withholding, etc.
It is known as an osmotic-type laxative: In the intestine, osmotic agents pull water from the surrounding tissues using a process known as osmosis.
This means there should be excess moisture in the intestine as a result which in turns means softer stools that are easier to pass. However, this is very often times not the result.
Furthermore, the root of the issue is not being addressed here. A bandaid is being put over it, and it's dangerous. What is causing the problem in the first place?
*IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE* Miralax has not even been cleared by the FDA for usage in children under the age of 17. Alas, doctors are prescribing it to pregnant people, babies, toddlers, etc.
PEG: Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) 3350
This is the main ingredient in MiraLAX / Restoralax / Movicol / Golytely. Unfortunately, it creates damage and strips the gut of good bacteria and essential short chain fatty acids.
Gut damage can create a series of long term side effects including but not limited to: anxiety, depression, violent and/or aggressive behavior, seizures, motor tics, skin rashes, chronic immune disorders, life-long constipation, etc.
Different Types of Magnesium and Benefits
(naming just a few that hold prevalence when it comes to digestive upset)
- Magnesium Citrate: This is not intended for long term use but wonderful for cleanouts. Natural Calm is an example of this.
- Magnesium Oxide: Wonderful for maintenance: We love Mag07.
- Magnesium Glycinate: Great for maintenance as well. Our favorites include Genestra Brands and CanPrev Magnesium Bis-Glycinate 200.
Probiotics for constipation relief
Contrary to popular belief, we all need more than a simple probiotic supplement to keep us going regularly.
Prebiotics are the types of fiber that feed friendly bacteria in our gut.
Probiotics are the beneficial types of bacteria found in certain foods and/or supplements.
We need a balance of the two to nurture, heal, and maintain proper gut health.
Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Bacillus are the (7) most common microbial organisms used in probiotics.
Each probiotic will feature 1-2 of these and each one of us will respond differently to each one.
I recommend buying two different probiotics to start and give your child a few weeks on each to see how they do and which yields a better result.
Cleanouts vs Maintenance
I want to quickly go over the difference between clean-outs and maintenance.
When you are attempting a clean-out, there is some sort of blockage happening in the bowel. This can happen easily with babies, toddlers, and children who withhold and/or are constipated and need constipation relief.
During a clean-out, you are attempting to pull water into the bowels, clear them out, and keep things regular.
Magnesium citrate and high dose Vitamin C are typically the two best ways (and most efficient) to achieve a clean-out. You can read more about HOW TO DO A CLEAN-OUT here (join the Facebook group first!)
In order to properly achieve a clean-out, be sure to keep up on consumption of lots of healthy organic fluids with electrolytes. Coconut water is a great tool for this, and water is going to be your best friend.
Stay away from anything unnatural like Gatorade or Pedialyte that’s loaded up with unnatural sweeteners and chemicals.
Vitamin C Flush: You can do this with either Ascorbic Acid or Sodium Ascorbate - do not use Liposomal Vitamin C for a flush as it won't work.
Magnesium Citrate Flush: Dosage and instructions can be found in this helpful photo below. Be sure to follow exactly depending on their weight.
Once their bowels are cleaned out, you can move onto a maintenance dose of proper supplementation.
Everybody is different and will respond differently to supplements. However, here are my go to's for maintenance:
Sophie’s Morning “Bevvie”
This is the combination I use for my 4 year-old daughter. You need to tinker around with the Mag07 to find your proper maintenance dosage. For us, it's 1/2 to 1 capsule per day.
I make her a morning "coffee" where I mix everything together with a few ounces of kombucha, fresh juice or non-dairy milk. She shoots it back like a shot of espresso, it's great.
Poly Prebiotic Powder: We love the Pure Encapsulations brand. Prebiotics are essential to proper gut health with the combination of the right probiotic.
Culturelle Kids: Probiotics are not a one-size-fits-all approach. Scroll up a few paragraphs to read more about probiotics.
Vitamin C: Find one your child loves. There are so many different brands and kinds. Be sure it is sodium ascorbate (oh, and it's great for their immune health.)
Mag07: This is best taken on an empty stomach. You can do it right before bed or first thing in the morning before eating breakfast. Be sure to follow with tons of water.
Here is my Amazon storefront showcasing a bunch of products we have used in the past and currently use for maintenance to help with keeping her stool nice and soft.
I would also like to add that there are a few foods that are very constipating for children. My 4 year old is sensitive to rice.
If she has it every day or has a large quantity, her stool becomes very hard.
Other common culprits of constipation are:
… and more!
I’m not saying your kid cannot enjoy these foods. Just be sure they’re getting lots of hydration if they are sensitive like my 4 year-old is.
There is a distinct possibility that your child also can be suffering from a food tolerance or multiple food intolerances.
You can ask a functional medicine practitioner, integrative doctor or Naturopath to order a comprehensive food intolerance panel for you.
I actually do not recommend forever removing foods that come back as intolerances completely from their diet.
You can remove them while working hard to heal their guts and work on resolving their constipation and/or withholding.
Then, reintroduce one by one and see how they do. That’s what we did, and it went very well.
What about Fiber for constipation relief?
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble.
Wheat bran, nuts, beans, brown rice, fruit skins, vegetable skins –these things are all examples of insoluble fiber.
When faced with chronic constipation, we are often told blanketed statements like, “You need to be giving them more fiber.
It’s really not that simple. You want to focus on soluble fiber.
But it turns out, too much insoluble fiber isn’t helpful at all. You need some – yes – but keep an eye on it! Too much causes big poops and stretches the gut that you’re trying to shrink.
Some great examples of soluble fiber include:
- Black beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potato
- Kidney beans
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax seeds
I cannot stress the importance of proper hydration, specifically when it comes to addressing issues of withholding and providing constipation relief.
You could have a really incredible diet and/or be supplementing with wonderful vitamins and herbs but if you are not properly hydrated, things still won't be operating and moving properly.
Water is king here. If you have a toddler that is not a big water drinker, I would recommend being more encouraging without getting pushy.
Maybe they have a hard time drinking from their water bottle and need an easier-to-suck from straw.
Maybe they'd like their water better if it were ice cold.
If they strongly dislike the taste of water, you can even get creative here. They make naturally-flavored water drops that you can find at most health markets.
Here is a list of fruit and vegetables that I recommend including and rotating into your child’s diet as often as possible! Many of these items can provide constipation relief.
If you would like my help with constipation relief and/or withholding, please leave a comment below or email me directly. I am here for you!
Hi! I’m Monica – recipe developer, matcha addict and lover of all things chocolate, kombucha and any & all puns. I am also the blogger, real food lover, & bonafide hustler behind the blog ‘The Movement Menu.’ I’m so excited to welcome you to my happy space, where my appreciation of creative recipes and healthy & mindful eats come together to inspire you to live a healthy, balanced life.