Constipation is a common issue affecting about 30% of children, and it tends to be worse in the preschool and toddler years. However, constipation is not something kids neccessarily grow out of. Instead, they grow into other digestive issues later in life.
If you’ve already tried prebiotics, probiotics, prune juice, pureed prunes, and other natural remedies to no avail, this is for you. Even if you’ve resorted to over-the-counter or prescription medication like Miralax (which often comes with side effects like behavior issues and meltdowns), and you’re still searching for a natural drug-free option- this is for you.
As a neurologically focused pediatric chiropractor, I want to share with you the number one missing link found in more than 80% of kids with constipation who come to our clinic. Please share this with other parents who may be struggling with constipation in their kids, as the information we’ll discuss could help their little ones as well.
The Root Causes of Constipation
In our clinic, we don’t just treat the symptoms and throw medications at a condition like a traditional pediatrician may do. Instead, we get to the root cause and work closely with the nervous system. Constipation may seem like a gut issue related to diet and nutrition, and if you’ve tried all the nutritional changes, supplements, and probiotics – you’re amazing and moving in the right direction to make digestion easier for your kiddo!! But if your child is still struggling with constipation, that’s where neurology and science come into play.
In this blog I’ll explain how neurologically focused chiropractic adjustments can help alleviate constipation in children. The natural and drug-free approach we use focuses on the nervous system to get to the root of the problem, rather than just treating the symptoms.
Constipation, like most challenges in children, is rarely caused by one thing. In fact, there’s usually a multitude of stressors that go into the child’s nervous system and body early on in life. This can include stress during pregnancy, interventions during delivery such as C-section, forceps, or vacuum, and exposure to toxins in the environment. This assortment of stress can cause the nervous system, or the neuro-digestive system, to slow down and become constipated. So if you’ve struggled to find the exact cause of your child’s constipation, the answer is usually a combination of factors.
Stress on the Nervous System Affects Digestive Motility
Even though the majority of patients try to address constipation through nutrition and supplements, the root causes often come from stress on the nervous system. In chiropractic care, this stress is called subluxation, which means stress stuck on. The sympathetic fight or flight side of the nervous system is what we call the gas pedal. When it gets stuck on, it can cause a variety of issues, including constipation, ADHD, anxiety, and sensory issues. In fact, many patients who struggle with these issues later in life also had constipation when they were children.
When the nervous system is stressed out, it steals energy from the gut. This can cause digestive motility to slow down, leading to what we call neurogenic constipation. Four out of five cases of constipation that we see in our clinic are neurogenic, which means they are caused by stress on the nervous system. We can usually determine this by looking back at the child’s case history, seeing if the family has tried everything else, and measuring the stress, or subluxation, on the nervous system using our INSiGHT scans.
What We Commonly See
Whether your child is an infant, a toddler or in elementary school, it’s not uncommon for us to see kiddos who go days without pooping. Usually parents have already tried everything, from probiotics to changes in diet.
When we scan these kiddos, we are measuring if there is stress on their nervous system. The neurothermal scan (which is the most important in constipation) allows us to do two things: quantify stress and locate stress. It helps us identify subluxations, or misalignments, in the spine. We’re looking for stress in three main areas. The very top of the spine, the brain stem or upper cervical area (C1-C2, Atlas and Axis), the middle (at T5-T6), and the very bottom (L3-L5 and sacrum).
When the upper cervical area is subluxated and stressed out, the nerve that is most affected is called the vagus nerve. This nerve is known as the “rest and digest” nerve, which is crucial for proper digestion. It starts in the cervical spine, goes all the way down to the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and diaphragm, and slows our heart rate while improving our breathing.
The second area is in the mid-neuro gastric, stomach area. This area was responsible for getting food digested and into the top one-third and two-thirds of the neuro gastric system. If the food cannot be broken down in steps one and two, it cannot be eliminated in step three, which is how digestive motility works.
The third area (L3-L5 and sacrum) goes to the large intestine. As the good nutrients from food are absorbed, the large intestine keeps things moving so the waste can be eliminated properly. The sacrum houses another plexus of what’s called parasympathetic, or “rest and digest,” nerves.
Chiropractic care does not aim to treat or cure constipation. Rather, our focus is on taking care of the nervous system by removing stress and subluxation through gentle and easy Neuro-Tonal adjustments. By doing so, we aim to relax the Nervous System and improve the tone and coordination of the neuromuscular system as a whole, which is essential in cases of neurogenic constipation – the most common type of constipation.
While there are various factors that contribute to constipation, such as poor nutrition and excessive toxins, many families are making positive changes in these areas by incorporating good foods and supplements while limiting or eliminating toxins. However, as has been mentioned, even with a healthy diet and lifestyle, subluxation can still occur during pregnancy, delivery, and early stages of life, making it crucial to seek out neurologically-focused, pediatric chiropractic care. If you aren’t local to the Twin Cities, we have a network of trained and ready chiropractors in our PX Docs Network that can address this missing link and ensure optimal nervous system function.
To learn more about how to take care of constipation naturally, please read this article. We encourage you to share this information with other moms and families to reach more people who may benefit from this knowledge. If you’re ready to explore pediatric chiropractic care and the role of subluxation in digestive motility, please reach out to us to schedule a consultation. We can provide customized adjustments that are personalized to your child’s specific needs, which can lead to better gut health, improved immune system, sleep, and motor tone.
We want to help families find answers to their constipation concerns before turning to heavy medications with potentially harmful side effects. As always, we are here for you to provide hope, answers, and help in any way we can.
Check out more with Dr. Tye’s webinar on Constipation and Digestive Struggles: