Constipation in children is a very common occurrence affecting roughly 10% of children. It is characterized by bowel movements occurring less frequently than usual or stools that tend to be hard, dry, and difficult and painful to pass. The following are common causes of constipation in children:
- Milk allergy. About 70% of cases of childhood constipation are cured by eliminating cow’s milk from the diet and substituting with soy or rice milk.
- A low-fiber diet. Just like in adults, a low fiber diet is important for intestinal health
- Certain medications or drugs, such as antacids, opiates, and antidepressants
- Various diseases and anatomic abnormalities
- Stool withholding. Children may withhold stool because they are stressed about potty training, are embarrassed to use a public bathroom, do not want to interrupt playtime, or are fearful of having a painful or unpleasant bowel movement.
Ultimate Probiotic for Children
There is some preliminary evidence for probiotic therapy being useful in childhood (and adult) cases of constipation. It makes sense. Afterall, bacteria constitute about 30% or more of the typical stool weight. Rather than using a single strain, my recommendation is to use a multi-strain formula composed of highly viable, compatible strains such as my Ultimate Probiotic for Children formula that I developed for Natural Factors.
In a pilot study involving 20 children (average age of 7.4 years) with functional constipation, daily supplementation with a probiotic (100 million to 1 billion colony forming units of Bifidobacterium breve) for 4 weeks was found to significantly increase the frequency of defecation from 0.9 at baseline to 4.9, increase stool consistency from 2.6 at baseline to 3.5, significantly decrease the number of fecal incontinence episodes from 9.0 per week at baseline to 1.5 in week 4, and significantly decrease the number of abdominal pain episodes from 4.2 at baseline to 1.9 in week 4.
Previous clinical studies have shown even new-born infants can safely take probiotics at a daily dosage of up to 9 billion bacteria.
Tabbers MM, de Milliano I, Roseboom MG, Benninga MA. Is Bifidobacterium breve effective in the treatment of childhood constipation? Results from a pilot study. Nutr J. 2011 Feb 23;10:19.