What Should A Constipated Kid Eat?

I hear many parents complain their kids poop too firm or too soft. Constipation and diarrhea can be troublesome no matter what your age, as well as an indicator of how well your body’s immune system is working. 70% of the body’s immunity starts in the gut, and with the intestine then colon on down the path, making some observations about poop can be some of the first signs that’s something is not right in the body. On the loose side, it could be a food allergy, and on the firm side, it could be a build up of toxins trying to make their way out.

I’ve been reading 101 Optimal Life Foods by David Grotto and zeroed in on the constipation and diarrhea sections. Kid Appeal readers know all to well the high esteem I hold for Dave’s previous book, 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life, which is a must have for food geeks, and immensely helpful when looking for ways to make food relevant for kids.

According to Dave, here’s what you should be feeding your kids if they are suffering from constipation. Just to be clear, Dave doesn’t specifically target kids in his book, I’m not trying to put words in his mouth! All of the foods he lists are real food, and are good for all ages. In many cases your child may find natural relief. Decisions as to whether to remove your child from medications that treat constipation should be reviewed with your doctor.

Foods for Kids with Constipation to Eat (adults too!)

Whole Grains
– teff, wheat, oats, barley, rye, millet, buckwheat, spelt, sorghum and corn
Fruits – fresh and dried, apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, apricots, dried plums, dates, figs, raisins, cranberries, currants, kiwis, grapes, grapefruit, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, guavas, avocados, mangoes, blueberries, and persimmons.
Nuts and Seeds
– flaxseeds, sesame seeds, almonds, pecans, pistachios, & hazelnuts
– dried beans, carob, lentils, carrots, broccoli, beet, artichokes, cauliflower, fennel, pumpkin, spinach, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- (contain healthy bacteria necessary to promote frequent bowel evacuation) yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, unpasteurized miso.
– (help create favorable environment for probiotics to take hold) are found naturally in whole grains, bananas, honey, onions, leeks and artichokes.
– Don’t forget to increase water intake when fiber intake goes up. Without the water the fiber may not help. Increase fiber slowly, 3-5 grams per week.
Exercise –
Studies show that lack of exercise is also a common contributor to constipation. An hour or more per day of active play should do the trick.

What not to Eat
Dave says those suffering from constipation should limit refined and processed foods, along with cheeses, meat and eggs and beverage containing caffeine. One common culprit is processed cheese found on cheese flavored snacks and packaged mac-n-cheese. I’m not saying you have to remove these from the diet completely, but if packaged snacks and dinners are the norm, your loved one may improve a lot by significantly reducing their intake of these foods.

While loose bowels are more often linked to milk allergy one study written about here by Dr. Greene suggests a link between unresolved constipation in kids and a milk protein allergy. You could try coming off milk for two weeks to see if constipation clears. I wouldn’t suggest a soy milk as he does to replace cow’s milk, but you could try an unsweetened nut or rice milk.

Constipation Plays A Role in Finicky Eating
If you’ve ever suffered from constipation you know you often feel bloated and crampy. These sensations can really be an appetite suppressant. Unless a kid is tempted by one of his favorites he may be disinclined to eat up, especially at dinner when the menu might contain unfamiliar items. If your picky eater is also routinely constipated, get the constipation cleared up, and then work on introducing new foods to the diet. I suspect when bloating and cramps are gone and appetite is in play, your thought-to-be picky eater will accept many new foods.
Kid Appeal Tip: Use the urge!! Eating stimulates messages to the brain about poop. If there is poop in the colon ready to be eliminated, the urge to poop message will be sent to the anus. If you live with a toddler you’ll recognize the meal time urges! Potty sits right after breakfast (even for older kids) can start a lifelong and convenient habit of eliminating before school. Delaying a potty trip means that water is being absorbed in the bowel, leaving the stool to dry out. Create good habits with potty training kids, let them poop in public toilets! I know, I know. It’s unfun and often unsanitary to wait for a kid to use the toilet at a restaurant or at target. Asking kids to wait until they’re home can create a life long habit of preferring to go at home. Poop needs to get out, let it out! Even if its in a gross public toilet or at school. Better to get hands a little dirty than keep toxins inside the colon. Constipation can start for kids who get enough fiber, water and exercise but have a history of holding the urge.

Stay tuned for a review of 101 Optimal Foods and a chance to win a copy!

34 thoughts on “What Should A Constipated Kid Eat?

  1. We had an awful time with our daughter's constipation when she was a toddler, but we really did not want her to have to take some sort of medication to correct the issue. Trying to find a natural solution is what actually brought us to our current nutrient-dense diet. We did exactly what is mentioned by Grotto – cut out meat, cheese, and processed foods. And even though we were already eating only whole grains, we limited those as well. Once our family was eating lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans, the constipation issue was solved. AND, we noticed health benefits for all of us.

  2. hannah- thanks for telling your story. i've read other sources that suggest vegetable, fruit, bean fiber to be superior to that of whole grains. reader should take note that not all experts agree that the fiber in whole grains is as effective as fruits/veggies. if grain fiber is the only thing you've been increasing you might get a bigger bang for your buck with beans, vegetables and fruits.

  3. Jenna,
    Thanks for encouraging parents to help their kids develop a lifelong habit of ASAP elimination! I don't know where I missed the memo as a kid, but somehow, I ended up as an adult with major stagefright on the public elimination front, and have paid a heavy price with constipation, bloating, and (eek! can I say this here?) early onset hemmroids (by early I mean age 22). Even my college dorm bathroom was anxiety-inducing…ever held it from Thanksgiving to Christams? I have. So thanks again for spreading the word!!

  4. I started hiding vegetables, nuts and seeds in foods I know my kids will eat such as muffins. As soon as they were not aware of what they were eating it became much easier to get them to eat a healthy diet.

  5. Sadly constipation is a huge problem with many kids these days and I contribute it to 3 reasons.One the lifestyle where there is no play and exercise fr children,imbalanced diet with less of fiber and fluids and thirdly stress.

  6. Not true My son was fully Portu Resines and got constipated once and os afraid it os going to hurt everytime… And everytime he holds ir for days and poops he says it doesnt hurt

  7. My son was sooo constipated that we did not sleep for 2days, gave him all-bran for breastfast, mango as mid morning snakc, avocado and banana mix for lunch and sweet potato for dinner. The next morning, he ran to the bathroom and did his business freely.

    • how old is your child? mine is 6 and is VERY picky…I am going to try what you tried with your child, and hope it works…good luck to you.

  8. my son is sooo constipate he is on liquid parifin but he still wont use the toilet at school so he is being bullied

  9. Hi Isa,

    That’s so sad! If I were you, I’ll call the attention of the teacher.

    Anyway, about poor digestion, I think probiotics do work and it is safe. There’s this drink by Dulcolax that is also proven to be effective. I’m just not so sure if there’s a children version of the said laxative.

    Check it out on your nearest drug store.

    Thanks a lot!


  10. My son is 6, and will not go on the potty to do #2. He will pee just fine. He will only go in his underwear. He has been teased about it. Right now he is under the care of a GI doctor. She recommended a sitz marker test, which is 24 teeny tiny round soft plastic “markers” that he swallows. then an Xray on the 6th day to see how far they have move through his intestines. His were ALL in his rectum on the 6th day. Therefore, another test is warranted but now, he’s on Miralax, dulcolax and the dr suggested mineral oil and an enema. He is really backed up. So, in another 2 weeks, we repeat the sitz marker test. and HOPEFULLY, all the above treatment will help move it through his bowels. If not, there could be a blockage. He has been SO good thru all of this, and I am so proud of him. I am hoping that all of the above suggestions I have just read will help. I plan to increase fiber and water intake. He doesn’t get a lot of fiber in his diet, but tomorrow we start fruit smoothies! He’s excited, I am excited! Let’s HOPE he drinks it. Good luck to EVERYONE going thru constipation in their child. It’s very difficult to deal with, and I know, we all just want our kids to be healthy and feeling good.

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