“WHAT’S THE PASSWORD!?!?!?” I peek around the corner and find my son shouting at the toilet, apparently miffed by its inability to suck giant swaths of paper into the vortex under our house. Of course I grabbed the plunger and voila! No big deal.
If only all potty struggles were that easily solved, right?
Unfortunately, issues like constipation can be quite the challenge with small children. I’ve written about several research-backed natural constipation remedies before, but recently my friend Robyn shared a tip for supporting healthy bowel function that I thought was genius.
Before we dive in, though, I want to mention that none of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA, this article is not medical advice, and it is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition.
Please talk with your healthcare provider about any natural remedies you are considering. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive in.
What Causes Constipation?
Constipation can occur for a variety of reasons, including holding a bowel movement because you’re feeling shy in a public restroom, a change in diet, stress, dehydration and other reasons, but there’s a difference between occasional constipation and chronic constipation.
Research suggests that chronic constipation may indicate a more serious underlying issue such as gut flora imbalance, inadequate levels of trace minerals, allergies, or hypothyroidism, and it should always be evaluated by a healthcare practitioner. (source1, source 2, source 3)
Why Not Miralax?
Good question. According to pediatrician Dr. Scott Cohen, Miralax is often prescribed to children for months, sometimes years. “We literally give it like water,” he told the New York Times.
This is shocking to me for two reasons:
1. Miralax is not even approved for children.
2. It’s only supposed to be used in adults for a maximum of seven days.
Even more concerning is that fact that a growing number of parents have reported psychiatric and behavioral side effects – including tremors, tics and obsessive compulsive disorder – after their children took Miralax. In 2011, the FDA listed “neuropsychiatric events” as a possible side effect and asked researchers to take another look at safety. Initially they said no action was required, but recently they requested additional research.
At issue is whether the active ingredient in Miralax, PEG 3350, is absorbed differently in “children who are constipated, have underlying intestinal disease, or are very young.” (source)
The safety of PEG 3350 hinges on whether or not it is absorbed systemically in children – something we simply don’t know due to a lack of research.
“Every pediatric GI physician, I would guarantee you, has told a family this is a safe product,” Dr. Kent C. Williams, a gastroenterologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital told the New York Times. Now, he says, “it may not be true.”
For me, the bottom line is that parents have reported serious adverse effects from this drug, and no research has been done that proves it is safe for children. I love my children’s doctor and have found him to be very willing to answer questions and concerns when they come up. If we ever ran into a situation that moved beyond occasional constipation I would certainly seek guidance, but based on what I’ve read I would work with my doctor to find alternatives.
Getting Things Moving With Constipation Candy
Fortunately for the occasional bout of constipation there are ways to encourage normal bowel function. My friend Robyn shared this recipe with me after finding it helpful for her son.
Since coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, which pass through cell membranes more easily than long-chain fatty acids, the body can digest these fats more quickly and stimulates the rate of the digestive process.
“Just two ‘constipation candies’ and then anywhere between 8 to 18 hours later, total relief without tears,” says Robyn, adding that “For kids I’d stick with 2 pieces and wait a day before increasing how much they can have. For adults I’d start with 4 and try adding an extra each day to see what your body likes the most.”
Constipation Candy Recipe
- 1 cup organic extra virgin coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup of lemon juice (mix and taste as you go along)*
- 2 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, sucanat or coconut sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
* Mommypotamus note: I also made up a batch with pureed fruit that was pretty good. Just make sure that if you’re using fruit from your freezer that you allow it to fully thaw before mixing it with the coconut oil.
1-2 Silicone molds (You can use the same mold and make two batches, or use two molds and make one batch. I used this one)
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or with a handheld mixer and pour into the candy molds. Taste as you go along and make it as sweet or sour as you like. Everything has to be very well mixed into the oil, so make sure as you’re pouring the last bit in that it’s not sugar or honey-heavy.
Tip: My first batch separated, so the second time I made them I put my silicone mold in the freezer for about 10 minutes prior to pouring. When it was time, I let the mixture whir in my food processor for sixty full seconds before pouring it into the molds, then set it in the freezer for an hour.
Store in the fridge and enjoy as needed. No one in my house is constipated but we ate a few anyway – so good!
Other Things That May Help
Also, though it might seem a little odd, you might also consider getting a squatty potty if your child is old enough to use it. Dr. Bernard Jensen once wrote that “one of the bowel’s greatest enemies in civilized society is the ergonomic nightmare known as the toilet.
The stool allows for a more ergonomic approach – putting the body into a natural squatting position over the toilet. When positioned correctly, their body may be able to eliminate more quickly and completely. Squatty Potty stools come in two sizes: 7″ for standard toilets and 9″ for higher toilets.
Do you have a tried-and-true remedy for constipation? Please share it below!
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This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Sheila Kilbane, MD, a board-certified pediatrician, trained in integrative medicine. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.