How to treat constipation in children?

Constipation is a gastrointestinal disorder that results in irregular, difficult stools accompanied by pain and stiffness. Acute constipation can cause intestinal obstruction, which may even require surgery. Up to now, there are many different definitions of constipation, but usually in adults, it is not having a bowel movement for more than 3 days; In children, being unable to have a bowel movement 3 times a week is considered constipated. According to MSc Nguyen Duy Anh Tung - Medical Center, Tam Anh General Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, constipation in children increases during the Tet season because the baby eats a lot of hot foods such as banh chung, banh tet, jam, sweets candy ... drink less water, sedentary.

Children with constipation are usually due to functional causes (accounting for 95% of cases), including improper nutrition, high protein, fiber deficiency, lack of water or because children do not have frequent bowel movements. In addition, children may be constipated due to physical causes (accounting for 5%) including some neuromuscular diseases, hyperthyroidism, congenital hypertrophy, diabetes…

Children with constipation have difficulty in defecation such as dry, hard stools, less bowel movements, pain, ... Besides, the baby may appear symptoms of abdominal pain, anorexia, growth retardation, or irritability. discomfort, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, anal itching...

To treat constipation for children, parents should find out the cause of this condition and adjust the child's nutrition and living habits. Parents can refer to the following ways:


Constipation causes children to have a full stomach, not wanting to drink water anymore, leading to dehydration. Mothers can give children a little carbonated mineral water to support the digestive system and prevent dehydration. This measure can be applied to children with chronic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Fiber supplement:

According to the results of a survey, increasing the content of fiber, vitamins and minerals into the daily diet of children with constipation has the effect of supporting bowel movements, improving constipation condition. This method is effective in treating constipation for children up to 77%.

Supplementing with beneficial bacteria:

When children are constipated, their intestinal flora may be out of balance. Therefore, the addition of beneficial bacteria for the intestinal tract such as yogurt, probiotics, ... helps the intestinal microflora return to normal levels, relieves symptoms of bloating, indigestion, and constipation in children.

Eat prunes:

One study found that prunes are a food that is not only high in fiber, but also contains the natural laxative sorbitol. Therefore, when children are constipated, mothers can give them prunes to treat constipation.

Avoid foods made from milk:

The type of protein in milk can cause irritation in some children, affecting absorption and bowel movements. Therefore, in this case, the mother should temporarily remove the products from the child's diet, replacing them with other calcium-rich foods to ensure adequate calcium supply for the child. 

Exercise and sports every day:

Being active for 30-60 minutes a day will help the intestines move more easily, thereby, improving constipation.

Build a habit of going to the toilet regularly for children:

Some children have a habit of holding back their bowel movements when they are focused on doing something or do not want to have a bowel movement in a strange place. This is the cause of an increased risk of constipation in children. Moreover, when children are constipated, the feeling of pain and discomfort when having a bowel movement inadvertently makes them feel scared and want to hold back more bowel movements. Therefore, to prevent this situation from happening, mothers should set toileting times for children.

Abdominal massage:

When the baby is massaged on the abdomen, the bowel movements are stimulated, quickly reducing the symptoms of constipation.

In addition to the above ways to treat constipation, parents can take their children to see a pediatrician for support with some types of fiber supplements, laxatives or enema. Parents need to take their children to the hospital soon when they have the following symptoms: fever, vomiting, bloody stools, malnutrition, prolonged constipation.