Painting by Mary Cassat
Constipation should be considered when a baby or child is moving their bowels less frequently than normal, or the stools are small and hard. There can be pain and fear about going to the toilet.
There are many possible causes of constipation including:
Frequency of Feeding
In Traditional Chinese medicine the Middle Jiao is the area generally below the heart to the pubic bone. All Middle Jiao issues revolve around the transformation and transportation of food and fluids. We can include the Stomach, the Intestines, the Spleen, the Liver, the Bladder and the Uterus in the Middle Jiao.
When we think about Constipation we mainly look at the Spleen, Stomach, Liver and Gallbladder as the main organs that affect how food is transformed into energy and excreted.
Unlike Western Medicine the Spleen plays a vital role in processing food. The Stomach is considered the Hearth of the body and has the name the “Hundred Degree Soup”. The Spleen functions better with regularly spaced meals, cooked foods and easily digested foods. The Spleen needs to be able to turn the food into rapid energy and then send the waste to the colon for excretion.
How things get “slowed” down:
Most babies and toddlers graze a lot throughout the day. Often snacks keep them happy temporarily but can affect the amount of “proper” food eaten at a meal.
Eating abundance of cold, raw foods:
Cold raw food (including an excess of raw vegetables, fruits, ice cream, cold drinks) can affect the digestive powers of the Middle Jiao.
External and Internal Stress:
New environments can create an interruption in bowel movements such as travel and/ or school. Additionally potty training and issues around that can create constipation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine typically breaks down symptoms into clusters to strategize the best treatment.
Constipation generally falls into two specific categories: Excess and Deficiency.
Excess Type Constipation / Accumulation
- Swollen abdomen
- Stools can be very hard and smelly
- Stools can fluctuate hard and loose
- Often the cheeks are red or flushed
- Strong Child
- When they yell you are forced to take notice
- Green or yellow nasal discharge
Deficient Constitution / Weakened Spleen and Stomach Qi:
These children often do not have the energy or Qi to properly move their bowels.
Prone to more frequent illnesses
Weak or floppy looking
Possibly a challenging childbirth
Bowel movement infrequent, possibly hard
Not particularly odorous bowel movement