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  • Writer's pictureCoach Patty, HealthSmart! Kids

Kids and Constipation - 4 Common Contributors (Including Picky Eating)

Updated: Jun 22

A mother with her hand over her young son's stomach while he is sitting on her lap

Talk to other parents and you will find that having kids who are constipated is a common thread.

Children who are constipated may skip having a bowel movement for a few days or so. Bowel movements are typically hard with constipation, but they can also be loose, as the loose stool leaks out around a large bulk of stool that is difficult to pass. Doctors will typically diagnose constipation when a child has less than three bowel movements during a week, when there is straining to go, or when the stool is hard and very large.

When kids skip bowel movements, they can undoubtedly be uncomfortable. This can affect their mood and behavior, and interfere with daily activities. Furthermore, when stool is not eliminated regularly, toxins can build up, leading to an unhealthy state of the gut. There are some common reasons why kids become constipated and knowing what they are and how to address them is key to dealing with this bothersome problem.

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Common Reasons for Constipation for Kids

Picky Eating

Despite a parent’s best efforts, some kids are finicky in their eating habits. Many picky eaters tend to gravitate toward a high carbohydrate, ‘white foods’ diet. This particular food set is generally void in necessary fiber which is so important to regulate bowels. Help your child to learn to enjoy a variety of healthy foods, including vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Be sure your child also drinks enough fluids throughout the day, particularly water, to effectively combat constipation.

Undetected Food Allergy

Something that frequently gets overlooked in regard to constipation is the presence of food allergy or intolerance. For example, dairy is the most common allergen and coincidentally the most constipating food. Foods that we have trouble digesting properly can lead to problems with constipation, so talk with your doctor if you suspect there may be foods that are potentially problematic for your child.


Sometimes kids get constipated when they are taking certain medications. Antibiotics, for instance, can cause diarrhea or constipation, because while they are killing the bad bacteria of the infection at hand, they are non-selective and also wipe out the good bacteria, causing an imbalance of necessary healthy bacteria in the gut. Some medications for behavior and mood, as well as iron-containing medications or supplements can also lead to constipation.


In a world full of apps and video games, children tend to be less physically active today than years ago. Getting regular exercise is important for kids, not only to maintain their overall physical health, but also to keep the bowels from getting sluggish. Kids also tend to have a hard time stopping their play activities to go to the bathroom and will purposely resist the urge to use the toilet, further adding to problems with constipation.

Helping your child to overcome constipation can usually be done by refining their dietary choices, focusing on natural, nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods. Also ensure that your child is drinking enough liquid during the day, and maintaining a healthy regular routine without stress when it comes to toileting. If you are concerned about your child’s constipation, talk with your doctor to discuss your concerns and to rule out any contributing medical factors.

A boy writing and looking up at the camera with a smile

All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.

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