Busy kids eating too many treats is a constipation recipe

Causes of constipation in children — exciting distractions from the potty and servings of sweet, rich foods — are plentiful at the holidays.

Causes of constipation in children — exciting distractions from the potty and servings of sweet, rich foods — are plentiful at the holidays.

“Kids are notorious for having trouble with their regular diets,” said Jameel T. Clark, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Dixie, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “Add in a lot of cheese, cookies and other treats that you see this time of year, and you have a recipe for stomachaches.”

If your child hasn’t had a bowel movement in two or more days, constipation may be the cause.

To offset the holiday treats that may be binding them up, make sure your child is eating plenty of fiber and drinking several cups of water a day, depending on age. Also, avoid white bread, rice, potatoes, milk, cheese and bananas.

Top causes of constipation in children

  • They avoid using the bathroom, either because they’re afraid of the toilet or don’t want to take a break from playtime.
  • Some kids who aren’t ready for toilet training will rebel by holding it.
  • They’re consuming too few fruits and vegetables or fluids.

Constipation isn’t the only cause of tummy trouble

“We also see a lot of children who have stomach pain caused by reflux,” Dr. Clark said. “It often happens this time of year because children may be overeating or eating spicier than normal foods.”

Reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach move back up the esophagus instead of staying in the stomach. This can cause pain, burping and heartburn.

The answer? Remove foods that seem to be causing these symptoms.

“Most of the time reflux can be managed with dietary changes,” Dr. Clark said. “However, if the pain continues, call your pediatrician.”

Calling your pediatrician after hours

You can call your Norton Children’s Medical Group pediatrician, no matter what time it is, even if the office is closed. After-hours calls are managed by specially trained registered nurses who can help you make decisions on how to manage your child’s care.

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When should you call your pediatrician?

  • The pain becomes severe or seems to be in one specific part of the abdomen.
  • Other symptoms occur, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or fever.
  • The belly feels hard or looks very swollen.
  • If you are overly concerned.

Stomachache remedies for kids

  • Avoid over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These can make stomach issues worse or hide important symptoms.
  • Try some quiet time: a nap, reading or watching a movie.
  • Have your child drink more fluids, especially water. Avoid fruit juice, which can make a stomachache worse.
  • Avoid solid foods for a couple of hours, especially if your child is vomiting.
  • Try small, bland snacks such as wheat crackers, dry wheat or multigrain toast, or unsweetened applesauce.
  • Have your child hug a warm blanket or heating pad (on low) to the belly for no more than 20 minutes.

Try these high-fiber recipes to help your child’s digestive system:


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Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, offers pediatric primary care at more than 20 locations throughout Louisville and Southern Indiana.
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