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Natural Treatments for Constipation

Expert Q&A

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Updated September 10, 2005

Q. My son is 10 years old and although he has a bowel movement every day they are very large and uncomfortable for him. I was wondering if there was an herb or something natural I could give him to help soften his bowel movements without causing him any stomach problems or without giving him diarrhea. Sandy, Madison, TN

A. Most dietary treatments for constipation are natural, including:

  • increasing the amount of fiber in his diet
  • increasing the amount of bran in his diet
  • decreasing constipating foods, like whole cow's milk, bananas, cheese, cooked carrots, and other foods that are high in fat
It can also help to increase the amount of fluids he is drinking, especially apple juice.

High Fiber Foods

Since the amount of fiber is listed on food labels, it can be easy to choose high fiber foods. Foods that are a good source of fiber have at least 2.5g of fiber per serving. These include many grain products, fruits, and vegetables.

Good examples of high fiber foods include:

  • raw vegetables
  • unpeeled fruits, like apples and pears
  • vegetable soup
  • popcorn
  • whole grain cereals
  • whole grain breads and pastas
  • beans
  • oranges
  • prunes and raisins
  • baked potato with the skin on
  • bran cereals, muffins, cookies, and bran supplements that your child could drink with water or juice
How much fiber do your kids need? In general, children over age 2 should eat at least 5g of fiber each day plus 1g of fiber for each year of life. So your 10 year old should eat at least 15g of fiber each day. Older children and adults need at least 25g of fiber each day.

Other natural ways to relieve constipation including taking a supplement with psyllium, like Metamucil, exercising regularly, and having a daily routine of trying to have a bowel movement.

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