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Constipation in Kids with ADHD and Autism

Updated: Sep 23

Constipation is a common problem in children with autism and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to many studies, children with ADHD and autism have a higher risk of developing constipation than other children. Constipation can cause a great amount of discomfort and pain and can even lead to complications for the child like anal fissures, itching, other bowel discomfort. When you have a child struggling with constipation, it is important to address it quickly as it can cause uncomfortable symptoms for the child.

These symptoms can include:

● Passing fewer than three stools a week

● Having lumpy or hard stools

● Straining to have bowel movements

● Abdominal discomfort

● Feeling a blockage in your rectum that prevents bowel movements

● Feeling you can't completely empty the stool from your rectum

● Needing help to empty your rectum (like hands)

In this blog post, we will be discussing some of the common causes of constipation in children with autism and/or ADHD, as well as exploring various ways to help them overcome this issue.

Causes of Constipation in Children with Autism and/or ADHD:

Sensory Processing Issues: Children with autism and/or ADHD may have sensory processing

issues that make it difficult for them to sense when they need to go to the bathroom. This can result in delayed or incomplete bowel movements. Sensory processing issues can also make it uncomfortable for children to use the bathroom, leading to a reluctance to go.

Medications: Some medications used to treat autism and/or ADHD, such as stimulants, can

cause constipation as a side effect. These medications may slow down intestinal motility,

making it harder for children to have regular bowel movements.

Dietary Factors: Children with autism and/or ADHD may have restrictive diets that lack fiber,

which is essential for proper bowel function. They may also have food sensitivities that cause

constipation. Additionally, children with autism and/or ADHD may have difficulty chewing and swallowing, leading them to avoid certain foods that are necessary for healthy bowel function.

Lack of Exercise: Children with autism and/or ADHD may have limited opportunities for

physical activity, which can lead to constipation. Regular physical activity helps to stimulate

bowel movements and promote healthy digestion.

How to Help Children with Autism and/or ADHD Overcome Constipation:

Increase Fiber Intake: Incorporating fiber-rich foods into your little one's diet can be a game-changer for navigating constipation. Fiber can help bulk up the stool and make it easier to pass through the digestive system.A high-fiber diet is essential for preventing and treating constipation. Encourage your child to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. If your child has a limited diet or is a picky eater, try smoothies as these can be a great way to sneak in some of these foods! You could also consider a fiber supplement if your provider deems this necessary. However, it is important to introduce fiber gradually to avoid worsening constipation or causing gastrointestinal discomfort.

Hydrate: Drinking plenty of fluids can help soften the stool and make it easier to pass.

Encourage your child to drink water, juice, and other fluids throughout the day. Avoid sugary

drinks or those high in caffeine as they can worsen constipation. Aim for 6-8 cups of water daily depending on their age!

Establish a Bathroom Routine: Establishing a regular bathroom routine can help your child

get into the habit of going to the bathroom at the same time every day. This can help prevent constipation by promoting regular bowel movements. Encourage your child to sit on the toilet for at least 10-15 minutes after meals or at times when they are most likely to have a bowel movement.

Increase Physical Activity: Encourage your child to engage in physical activity, such as

playing outside, going for a walk, or participating in a sport. Physical activity can help stimulate bowel movements. Try incorporating movement breaks into their daily routine to encourage regular physical activity.

Supplements: Stool softeners can help soften the stool and make it easier to pass. Talk to your child's doctor about using a stool softener if your child is experiencing constipation. Stool softeners are available over the counter, but it is important to consult with your child's doctor before starting any medication.

Probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help promote healthy digestion. Talk to

your child's doctor about trying a probiotic supplement. Probiotics can be found in certain foods such as yogurt or kefir, but supplements may be necessary to provide enough of these

beneficial bacteria.

Remove Dairy Products: Evidence shows that consumption of conventional dairy products can worsen constipation in some kiddos. I encourage that you remove all dairy in the beginning. This includes: milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, & products containing milk.

Miralax is a LAST resort: Miralax is not even FDA approved for use in children!? Despite this,

it's very commonly recommended for kids suffering from constipation. This can cause a

tremendous amount of health issues in your child, including increasing behavioral issues or

harming the gut microbiome. Try natural alternatives first like magnesium, teas, or even laxative gummies.

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