What’s Your Kid’s Poo Telling You? Part 1 Constipation

What's Your Kid's Poo Telling You?

Everything that goes in must come out.  So, it’s time to talk poo!  If you’re a parent I’m sure you have a funny or gross poo story (usually both), but what I’m talking about is what poo can tell us about how a kid’s diet is affecting them and what to do when poo isn’t happening.  Poo really has a lot to say – it can tell us if we’re dehydrated, not eating enough fiber or fruits or veggies.  It is indicative of how well we are digesting our food and whether or not your kid’s food agrees with them.  In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)  the smell, shape, color and firmness (or lack of) can tell us a lot about the body’s level of balance and health.

WARNING:  This post is going to get pretty graphic so if you’re eating or if reading about poop gives you the willies, you might want to come back later.

What’s Normal

Normal poo in a baby or child who eats solid food should be formed and eliminated in long pieces.  Size and shape will depend on the age of the child and the quantity of food they’re eating.  Color will vary depending on the child’s diet but is usually brown.  It should be easy to eliminate and when wiping it shouldn’t take much to clean their bottom.  It should have an odor, but not an offensive one.  Your child should have a bowel movement anywhere from 1 to 3 times per day.

How Do You Know if Your Kid is Constipated?

In TCM, we view constipation on a spectrum ranging from difficulty passing stool to irregular elimination that can cause discomfort and abdominal pain.  Dry, hard, small “rabbit” poop or large bulky difficult to pass poops are not normal.  If you’re child doesn’t have a poop every day or struggles and strains when they go  then they’re constipated.

What Causes Constipation?

There are many causes of constipation.  Most commonly, though, it’s from the diet.  Short term it can be caused by illness & fever.  Longer term constipation may be due to imbalances in the gut flora or food sensitivities.

These are the most common dietary culprits:

  • Too many white flour foods or refined carbohydrates
  • Not enough fiber, fruits or vegetables
  • Too many rich foods, especially pasteurized dairy products
  • Too many cold foods such as ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • Inadequate water intake

The health of your kid’s gut is just as important as what you feed them.  Sometimes imbalances in the gut flora or issues digesting foods are the culprit.  Food sensitivities create low level inflammation in the gut which contributes to bowel dysfunction.  Low levels of probiotics in the gut can be problematic, too.

Just like adults, kids may have shy bowels and avoid having a bowel movement at school.  Even babies can learn to try and stop a bowel movement if it’s painful.  Delaying bowel movements increases the time stool remains in the large intestine, drying it out and making it harder to pass later.

Conventional medicine usually recommends things like fiber, stool softeners, milk of magnesia, bulking or stimulating laxatives.  Don’t want to go there?   Want to heal the root cause of the issue?   Then you’ve come to the right place.

Mother Nature's Laxative

First things first, you need to help you child poop now.  Start here:

  1. Pediatric Tuina Massage – Massaging the belly in a clockwise direction around the belly button along with several other massage techniques on the back and hands can naturally stimulate the bowels to move.  Tuina massage is safe, natural and effective for treating constipation.  For instruction please see my post Pediatric Tuina Massage for Constipation.
  2. Soak prunes overnight and then serve with hot whole grain cereal the next day. For toddlers 18 months or younger give them a teaspoon of the water the prunes were soaked in to avoid too much purging or else they may have diarrhea.(2)
  3. For toddlers 18 mother and older and children, 1/2 cup prune juice + 1 TBS lemon juice + 1 cup water in the evening before bed.  This method may cause diarrhea in babies 12 months and under  so do not use it for them. (2)
  4. In babies 12 months and under  you can gently stimulate the anus to help encourage bowel movements.
  5. Herbal formulas containing extracts of figs, prunes, ginger, caraway and coriander can be beneficial.  There are many Chinese herbal formulas for constipation. Because they are so specific to the type of constipation, I recommend consulting a pediatric acupuncturist and herbalist who can prescribe the right formula.

CAUTION:  Be careful in using laxative remedies in babies 18 months and under to avoid diarrhea. I don’t recommend the use of stimulating laxative herbs such as senna or cascara sagrada in children as they can cause abdominal cramping, pain and discomfort.

Next you need to treat the root of constipation with these 5 food groups:

  1. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) – make sure your child is getting enough essential fatty acids to help lubricate the bowels and soften stool naturally to make it easier to go.  Your child can get EFAs from walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds, and sesame seeds.  Coconut, coconut oil and avocados also provide a healthy source of EFAs.  You may also want to give them a fish oil supplement on a daily basis as well.
  2. Fermented Foods – such as miso, whole milk yogurts, kefir, sauerkraut, kefir soda, and other fermented fruits and vegetables provide a natural source of live probiotics.  Lactobacillus and bifidis are “good” bacteria that do many things to help our bodies, including digesting food. If you don’t have enough or the right balance digestive problems result.  You may want to also give them a regular probiotic supplement.
  3. Fruits: pears, apples, apricots, prunes, papaya, coconut and figs help lubricate the intestines and provide fiber (1)
  4. Vegetables: spinach, cabbage, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower, alfalfa sprouts, beets, asparagus help lubricate and promote bowel movements. (1)
  5. Foods high in Magnesium – you know, the stuff they hate, like dark leafy greens.

Fresh homemade juices, green smoothies and serving fermented fruit over stuff they like are a few ways to add necessary foods if your child is picky and doesn’t want to eat their greens.  Make sure to offer water all day and avoid store-bought processed, sugary juices.

Foods for Constipation

Recipe Ideas from Real Food Bloggers

The best way to treat constipation is to get your kids eating more of the right foods.  Here are some recipes to help your kids get the fruits, vegetables and essential fatty acids they need:

RealFoodForager.com recommends her Coconut Blueberry Pudding that is dairy free, Specific Carbohydrate and GAPS diet friendly.  It looks delicious!

OhLardy.com had a variety of fermented fruit and vegetable recipes to help enjoyably increase their consumption of fermented foods:

Fermented Cranberry Sauce - delicious over yogurt

Fermented Berries can be served over pancakes, waffles, ice cream or yogurt and added to smoothies

Dilly Carrots can be eaten like a pickle.  It’s a two-for-one carrots + fermentation!

Fermented OJ – because what kid doesn’t love a fizzy orange drink!  Even though this is fermented, don’t go too overboard on cold juices when you kid is constipated.

MorganWellness.com (that’s me!) – I recommend these GF Flax Chocolate Chip Muffins they are yummy and make a great breakfast or lunch box treat.

CulturedPalate.com recommends probiotic friendly recipes:

Yogurt Popsicle/Smoothies & Lemon Frozen Yogurt –  an easy way to get your kids extra probiotics.  Don’t over do it on cold foods though.

Fermented Carrots – You’ll also like this recipe for fermented carrots.

Red Flag:
If your child has chronic constipation it may be a sign of a more serious condition such as congenitally narrowed anus, congenital megacolon or fecal impaction and you should seek medical care for you child.

What Kitchen Remedies Do You Use if Your Kid is Constipated?
Please Join the Conversation & Leave a Comment Below!


(1) Paul, Pritchford. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. 3rd. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2002. Print.

(2) Janet, Zand, Robert Rountree and Rachel Walton. Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child. 2nd. New York: Penguin Group Inc, 2003. Print.

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  1. This is such a great article. I can’t wait to see the upcoming series in this discussion. This says so much. I’ve actually recently started giving my 7 yr old daughter a fish oils omega 3 supplement in effort to naturally stabilize her moods. My sweet angel seems to have a light and a dark side to her :)

  2. Great article with perfect timing! My 9 month old has chronic constipation and I almost having a hard time getting anyone but my hubby to believe how bad it is. He hasn’t had a normal movement since we started solids in November. :( hoping to get an appointment with a naturopath soon, but the ones I’ve contacted are booked until March.

  3. This is such an interesting series and it’s timely for me, as well, as we’re trying to figure out the root cause of our 2 1/2 year old son’s chronic soft stools. We’re fairly sure we’ve determined the culprit, but now reading through and learning about constipation (the opposite of his problem!) has given even a couple of new ideas to deal with his soft stool. Thanks so much for a great post.

    Thanks, too, for sharing it in this week’s Thank Goodness It’s Monday carnival. I’ve pinned it on our “Thank Goodness It’s Monday” Pinterest page, as well. :-)

    Kresha from NourishingJoy.com

    • I’m so glad you’ve found this post useful, even for the opposite issue! I’m working on my follow up post Part 2 diarrhea and will hopefully have a few more tips for you. Thanks so much for hosting your blog carnival and pinning it on your Pinterest page.


  4. Jennifer L. says:

    What a great article. My 15-month-old seems to lean towards constipation when things are off in her gut. She also has eczema patches on her chin/cheeks that seem to come and go. The frustrating thing is that I can tell it’s from food since when we go to all chicken soup with carrots for a day, things clear up. Then I try to slowly add things in and it all goes downhill. We had an allergy test done through US Biotek and it came back that she was intolerant of almonds and hazelnuts (from my diet since she is breastfeeding and hasn’t had those foods). I’ve removed them from my diet (and we already do not eat gluten, dairy, eggs or cane sugar products). I make all of her food and thus far, the only grain I’ve introduced is sour dough teff in the form of injera. I already feel so limited that I am not sure what else to add/take-away since all new things seem to cause problems. Eggs = hives. The slightest bit of dairy in a probiotic = hives. We are giving her an infant probiotic from Klaire Labs and cod liver oil. She eats a lot of veggies and fruits, some raw (not too many–she mostly chews and spits the raw ones), mostly cooked, chicken, beef, fish, lamb, goat (all grass-fed/pastured), sauerkraut and some raw milk butter. I am going to try some more massage. Her poops are great right now, but her chin/cheeks are bothering her. Apples seem to be very problematic in a contact kind of way. Phew! I love these articles. I feel that a large part of my mommy job is checking poop to make sure the kids are digesting their food okay.

  5. hello, im concerned abot my little kiddie. he seems to be having constipation very offen and ive tried all of your steps and they are not working! anymore tips?
    ben ryan recently posted…Kids Can Use Nasal Rinsing to Reduce Allergies, Asthma, Congestion and NosebleedsMy Profile

    • Robin Green says:

      HI Ben,
      It sounds like your child has a stubborn case of constipation and that does not make for a happy child :( I appreciate your wanting to know what other natural ways you can help. Without seeing your child for a full consultation and knowing his or her history, I am unable to give you any specifics. There are many more things that an acupuncturinst can do to help balance your child’s system to help relieve constipation. You can look on our directory to see if there is a practitioner near you who works with kids. You may also need to see a medical doctor if the constipation lasts for over two weeks or if it is accompanied by fever, vomiting, blood in the stool, a swollen abdomen or weight loss. I hope that helps.

  6. My son is 9 yrs. old and he just started football practice. Yesterday after practice he rushed to use the restroom saying he had to go number two. He typically takes 20-25 minutes. I often get embarrassed about how long he goes for but I’m more concerned if this means something is wrong. His doctor said it was fine. It’s not constipation because he is popping almost the whole time and it’s always long and normal looking, there’s just a lot of it. He periodically has stomach cramps and doesn’t poop everyday. Any feedback or ideas?

    • Robin Green says:

      Hi Rene,
      I can understand your concern for your little guy and I’m happy to see that you are checking out natural ways to help him. Without a full consultation and health history, I can’t give out any specific advice. Generally, it’s best for us all to be pooping every day. Stomach cramps are generally a good indication that something is not quite right in there. Probiotics as well as lots of cooked vegetables is a good place to begin. Also, check out my post on tuina for constipation here: http://www.kidsloveacupuncture.com/2013/01/29/pediatric-tuina-massage-for-c…
      Take care and let me know how it works!


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