Constipation: Why we changed how we eat.

February 2010 - Enjoying a cupcake at a local coffee shop.

You might not have experienced constipation yourself, but chances are you understand it is very unpleasant. There are dozens of over the counter remedies available at drugstores all over America. Did you ever notice that there are special pediatric remedies too? I never did until my daughter, Iris, suffered from constipation starting at 9 months old.  I had always thought it was something only older adults or those with a medical problem suffered.  I never imagined that my breastfed, full term, healthy, happy baby would suffer from it.

Lucky for you, dear reader, I have a happy ending to share. But it started out with a simple problem, and demanded that we change our eating. As one of my favorite inspiring authors, Chris Guillibeau, pointed out in his book, “The Art of Non-Conformity,” people won’t change unless they miserable enough to take action. Though his book has nothing to do with diet or nutrition, that nugget of truth helped me persevere to find a solution. This is how we discovered it and changed our diet.

August 2010 - Enjoying french fries always seems yummy.

As a family, I used to think we ate healthy.  I purchased some organic foods, or made things myself from scratch. When we ate out, it was usually a real restaurant, not a fast food chain, unless of course we were on a road trip. We enjoyed all the typical treats too: cupcakes and ice cream being favorites.

As my daughter reached 6 months old, I began to feed her the normal suggested diet: rice cereal (Organic, Brown Rice), pureed fruits and vegetables, whole milk yogurt, and let her try anything safe for her to munch on or simply explore with her own two hands. She wasn’t really eating solids on a measurable level until she was 8 months old. By her 9 month check up, I noticed changes drastic enough to ask our Pediatrician about how to deal with constipation. She suggested giving our daughter about an ounce or less of real Apple Juice with water, and some Cod Liver Oil. I tried the Apple Juice and some Prune Juice. But, neither helped. My baby girl started having harder, difficult poops that took longer and longer to pass. It was painful, and she became visibly upset every time she had to go. She’d cry and seemed to try to avoid pooping. At that point, she was pooping twice a week.

April 2010 - Home made Birthday Cake for the Big 2!

I decided to try to experiment and reduce the amount of “snacks” she consumed that were dry and not really providing nutrition.  My older son was almost three by the time Iris turned 1. Snacks were my live saver, and always with us in the diaper bag. After a week I didn’t see a difference (I didn’t know that for allergies you have to wait 2 weeks or more to see results). So, we went back to our old eating habits. By the one year check up, I was very certain something was wrong. Our Pediatrician did a physical exam and didn’t find anything anatomically wrong, but did refer us to a Pediatric Gastroenterologist. It took 3 months to get the nearest possible appointment to see her. The constipation increased, and at the worst point, she was pooping only once every 10-14 days.

To make a long story short, here is what I learned navigating through a series of specialists and alternative health care practitioners:

– When you don’t like the protocol a doctor prescribes, you are free to get a second or alternative opinion. The Pediatric Gastroenterologist gave me a prescription for Iris to take until she was 10 years old. As a brief afterthought suggested she go on dairy free diet. We couldn’t see her for another 4 months (she was that booked). After 2.5 months of little results from both, I decided to seek alternative advice. This was taking too long. Iris was over 1.5 years old.

Naturopaths are like doctors: they prescribe things, conduct tests, and go to school for a long time. The difference is that they actually listen to you for more than 15 minutes and prescribe natural remedies not prescription drugs. The ones we consulted were very nice, but kept adding supplements and waiting for 4 weeks to see any results. At one point they suggested giving her an enema every day for 2 weeks to reprogram her nervous system. Yeah, like that isn’t going to scar a person for life. I did it for 2 days, and realized that I needed to trust my Mama instincts and pay attention to the fact that it was traumatic.

November 2010: Dancing with her brother is a favorite daily exercise!

Homeopathic practitioners pay attention to everything about a person from their moods, energy levels, relationships, etc. They believe that by giving someone a minute dose of something they can allow the body to build itself back up. Sounds good in theory, but for us, after 3 months, I suspected that they were stumped and just guessing.

– We found a solution for Iris through a Traditional Chinese Herbalist.  Iris was 2.5 when we decided to see a Herbalist. At first, the ideas seem almost obvious – good health comes from diet, exercise and balance. But, I thought we were already doing great in those areas.  And, for those of us used to being given a pill, have tests done, etc. the methods seemed like folk tales.  After a month of giving her a low dose of herbs for digestion, daily abdominal massage, regular exercise and diet changes, we saw a dramatic difference. Pooping was no longer painful.  Eat 70% of your diet from vegetables? Don’t consume much if any sugar? Those were the questions I had to tackle. After learning how to embrace them for the past 7 months, Iris now poops every 5-6 days a week.

Iris is almost 3 years old. While I’m frustrated that it took us this long to find her the help she needed, I can recognize that I had the privilege of trying all the available resources and did find a solution.

How we eat differently:

We consume more vegetables, about equal to all other carbs (bread, grains, fruit). We eat less meat, and when we do we eat fish, poultry, grass-fed or antibiotic free beef. We don’t eat store-bought snacks anymore, and make our own crackers, tortillas, bread, cookies and even chips. Artificial flavors, coloring or anything I cannot pronounce do not appear on any ingredient label is not welcomed.

February 2011: Iris is ready to fly!

Thankfully, I already love to cook, bake and create recipes. Hopefully sharing what we’ve learned will inspire you to never stop looking for answers. There are many types of alternative health practitioners, and I believe they each have the potential to help. It’s a matter of finding something that works for you.

p.s. We still love our Family Physician and still see her for annual check-ups.

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About Holli

A "cooking from scratch" geek, Mom, Wife, Seattle Native, Photographer and serial volunteer.
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11 Responses to Constipation: Why we changed how we eat.

  1. Karen says:

    Great post, Holli.

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