Constipation in babies and children is defined as a relative decrease in comfort of bowel motions, frequency of bowel motions, and poor stool consistency.
This means that a baby/child could be having a bowel motion daily, but if there is excessive straining and effort, the baby/child could be diagnosed as constipated.
Constipation is actually a very common issue in people of all ages – adults, older adult, babies and children.
In children constipation will occur in up to 29% of children during childhood (almost one in three).
Constipation is usually characterised as organic or non-organic.
Organic means there is a clear medical condition causing the constipation, and non-organic means the issues is “functional” meaning a medical professional will be unable to find a clear “medical pathology” to name.
Approximately 95% of childhood constipation is functional in nature without any obvious cause. This means that 95 out of 100 cases of constipation in children will have no pathological cause for the problem, and functional issues related to bowel motions will be important in resolving the issue.
Constipation is not a benign issue, with known effects of constipation in childhood including physical effects, mental and emotional stress, relationship effects, family stress, and a lower quality of life. In addition, constipation may contribute to abdominal pain complaints in adolescence.
A skilled practitioner assessing constipation will look first to rule out organic causes for the condition.
Once this is complete, the practitioner will assess for aspect relating to function of bowel motions. Normal function of bowel motions is controlled by nerve messages passing along the parasympathetic nerves, which travel from the neck (the vagus nerve), or through the sacrum.
Other functional elements relate to diet, history of antibiotics, use of supplements, exercises level, sleep patterns, and mental factors.
This process will vary for newborns, infants, children and teenagers, with unique considerations for each age group. Medical management may use only laxative management in some cases (symptomatic treatment), whereas other practitioners may look at other approaches, such searching for functional causes.
For further information or questions speak to your Chiropractor at your next visit.