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How Do Medications Affect Kids' Constipation?

Medications, while often necessary for managing various conditions in kids, can sometimes lead to unexpected side effects, including constipation. Understanding how certain medications can influence a kid's digestive health is important for providing comprehensive guidance. Let's review what the studies tell us about the impact of medications on kids' constipation and explore some solutions to help support their gut during and after medication use.

Medications and Constipation in Kids

Certain medications, ranging from pain relievers (NSAIDS) to specific types of antihistamines and antacids, can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, leading to constipation in kids [1,2,3]. The way medications affect the body can vary, but common mechanisms include:

  • Reduced Bowel Movements: Some medications slow down intestinal movements, causing stool to move through the digestive tract more slowly.

  • Dehydration: Certain medications can lead to increased water absorption in the intestines, resulting in harder stools that are more difficult to pass.

  • Altered Gut Motility: Drugs that affect neurotransmitters or muscle function in the intestines can interfere with regular bowel contractions, leading to constipation.

Begin Health Expert Tip: Did you know that consuming prebiotics daily can support constipation relief by helping with softer, more frequent stooling? [8] Begin Health’s Growing Up Prebiotics provides 3g of prebiotic fiber per serving and can be easily mixed into your little one’s water or favorite beverage without changing the taste or texture. Still trying to decide if prebiotics are right for your kiddos? Our dietitian reveals the answers in this blog: How Do I Know If My Kids Need Prebiotics?

Impact of Antibiotics on Kid’s Digestive Health

Antibiotics, commonly prescribed for bacterial infections, can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut by removing it completely. This disturbance, known as dysbiosis, can lead to constipation in kids [4]. Research indicates that antibiotic use can significantly impact the gut microbiota, potentially resulting in digestive discomfort and irregular bowel movements [5].

Addressing Constipation Induced by Medications

The right strategy for constipation relief from medications may require a variety of adjustments, which may include:

1. Hydration and Dietary Adjustments

Encourage increased water intake and include fiber-rich foods in your little one’s diet to counteract the constipating effects of medications. Foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can aid in maintaining regular bowel movements.

Kids Hydration Recommendations by Age

Age

Liquid Amount

Infants (0 - 6 months)

Breastmilk or formula as their only source of hydration. Small sips of water can be introduced with solid foods between 6 - 12 months.

Toddlers (1 - 3 years)

Half an ounce of water for every pound of body weight

Kids (ages 4 and above)

Half an ounce of water for every pound of body weight

Source: Children’s Hospital of Orange County

2. Daily Probiotics and Prebiotics Use

Consider incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into your kid’s routine. Research suggests that these prebiotics and probiotics can help restore and maintain a healthy and balanced gut microbiota, which can potentially mitigate symptoms from constipation induced by medications [7].

Begin Health Expert Tip: Need more ideas on how to incorporate more prebiotics and probiotics in your little one’s diet? Check out our blog 5 Examples of Prebiotic Foods Kids Love and Top Sources of Probiotic Foods for Kids.

3. Consultation with Healthcare Providers

If your kiddo experiences persistent constipation due to medications, it’s best to check in with their personal healthcare provider for additional guidance. They may adjust the medication dosage, prescribe additional treatments, or suggest alternatives to alleviate constipation.

Summary: Certain medications such as pain relievers and antacids can contribute to constipation in kids. While medications are often necessary for treatment in relation to specific health conditions, being proactive in addressing potential constipation side effects by adjusting their diet and adding in prebiotics and probiotics can help support your little one and provide relief from constipation.

References:

[1] Argoff, C. E., (2020). Opioid-induced constipation: A review of health-related quality of life, patient burden, practical clinical considerations, and the impact of peripherally acting μ-opioid receptor antagonists.

[2] Goldstein JL, Cryer B. Gastrointestinal injury associated with NSAID use: a case study and review of risk factors and preventative strategies. Drug Healthc Patient Saf. 2015 Jan 22;7:31-41. doi: 10.2147/DHPS.S71976. PMID: 25653559; PMCID: PMC4310346.

[3] Garg V, Narang P, Taneja R. Antacids revisited: review on contemporary facts and relevance for self-management. J Int Med Res. 2022 Mar;50(3):3000605221086457. doi: 10.1177/03000605221086457. PMID: 35343261; PMCID: PMC8966100.

[4] Vangay, P., Ward, T., Gerber, J. S., & Knights, D. (2015). Antibiotics, pediatric dysbiosis, and disease. Cell Host & Microbe, 17(5), 553-564.

[5] Francino, M. P. (2016). Antibiotics and the human gut microbiome: dysbioses and accumulation of resistances. Frontiers in Microbiology, 6, 1543.

[6] Pappagallo, M. (2001). Incidence, prevalence, and management of opioid bowel dysfunction. The American Journal of Surgery, 182(5A Suppl), 11S-18S.

[7] Guarino, A., & Canani, R. B. (2009). Probiotics in childhood gastrointestinal disorders. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 43(Suppl 3), S50-S53.

[8] Closa-Monasterolo R, Ferré N, Castillejo-DeVillasante G, Luque V, Gispert-Llaurado M, Zaragoza-Jordana M, Theis S, Escribano J. The use of inulin-type fructans improves stool consistency in constipated children. A randomised clinical trial: pilot study. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Aug;68(5):587-594. doi: 10.1080/09637486.2016.1263605. Epub 2016 Dec 8. PMID: 27931142.

May Zhu, RDN

May Zhu, RDN

May is the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and nutrition expert at Begin Health.



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