Childrens ConstipationConstipation is very common among children, which is not surprising, considering the foods that many children love. Lots of white bread, peanut butter, cheese and sweets all lead to constipation. So can bouts of worry or fear. And the young couch potato who forgoes exercise to spend hours in front of a television or computer tends to suffer more from constipation than an active child.
Laxatives suggested for constipated adults, even herbal ones, are generally too strong—in both taste and action—for children. To treat a constipated child, turn to a gentle combination of licorice and apple juice, with either fennel or ginger to relieve intestinal gas.
1 cup boiling water
½ teaspoon licorice root
¼ teaspoon ginger rhizome (or fennel seeds)
¼ cup each apple and prune juice (optional)
Pour boiling water over herbs and steep for 10 minutes. Strain out herbs, then add juices. If your child balks at the taste of prunes, use only apple juice. For a 50-pound child, give ¼ cup every 2 hours until a change for the better becomes apparent.
Another easy-to-dispense laxative is elderberry jam. If these remedies are not successful, an enema with catnip tea does the trick when all else fails.
If constipation is a common condition for your child, be sure to treat the causes of this problem as well as the symptoms. If you are not serving these items already, switch to high-fiber, whole-grain breakfast cereals or oatmeal, and make sure that the child's morning schedule is not too hectic. If these measures do not produce enough results, add half a teaspoon of ground psyllium seed to your child's favorite juice each morning or serve her Slippery Elm Gruel before bed. If your child continues to be constipated despite these treatments, be sure to see your pediatrician.
½ teaspoon ground psyllium seed
½ cup warm fruit juice or vegetable juice
Mix ground psyllium into juice and stir. For a 50-pound child, give entire amount every morning as long as needed.
Slippery Elm Gruel
1 tablespoon slippery elm powder
¾ cup cold water
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
Combine powder and water in a saucepan and heat until warm, stirring the mixture to prevent clumping. Add lemon juice for flavor, if you wish. You can also sweeten the gruel with your child's favorite herbal or fruit-based sweetener. Have your child drink the entire amount (for every 50 pounds of body weight) before it cools—as gruel cools down, it thickens, and the thicker it gets, the more likely your child is to push it away.
Willow, an herbalist who uses Slippery Elm Gruel, says that as a working mother, she appreciates how fast-acting and effective it is. Willow was surprised that her daughter even liked it, but when Jenny was quite young she asked for some of the extra-thick gruel that Willow was drinking to treat her own constipation. Jenny drank the entire cup; it turned out that she was having the same problem!