First, I have to apologize to all of you who are wondering why in the world I would write about such an unpleasant subject. If you are wondering this, you probably don’t have a child on the spectrum. The statistics vary, but the lower end of the statistics tell us that 70-80 percent of autistics also have digestive issues. Of the digestive issues, constipation is the most common. Because of this, I suppose I should not be surprised that both of my boys have had issues with constipation. Fortunately, this is one area where I feel like we have won the battle! P’s issues were so bad that we ended up in the ER more than once, but now we have pretty much no issues with him and we never have to give him laxatives or drugs.
These have been our primary strategies (not only for kids on the spectrum):
1. Squatting on the toilet.
It is just easier for your body to go in this position. People squatted for centuries until the invention of the toilet. If your child will not squat, at least try a stool or something that will elevate his/her feet.
If you child is verbal and can assess how they feel, or if you feel that they have not gone in a while and maybe they are eating foods that have been constipating in the past, have them take a chewable enzyme with their meal.
3. Increase fiber and magnesium.
There are many foods that can help you with this, but our standard is Salba Chia Seeds. They have changed P’s life completely and we notice a difference when we don’t give them to him. There are lots of ideas on their website, but we put two tablespoons them in the pancake batter every day. Since he eats about half (the other half is for R), he must be eating about a tablespoon per day. We skip the syrup and top them with a thin layer of homemade Nutella-type spread or Choco Dream (like Nutella, but better). (Note: Salba has lots of other benefits too – see here, but they are expensive.)
4. Avoid foods artificially enriched in iron.
This is one is almost never on the list of things to do for child constipation, but it has been very important for us. I am not saying avoid iron all together and let the child become anemic, but there are many, many foods that are artificially enriched in iron. This includes many flours, breads, cereals, snacks and many other things. Look at the label and see how high the iron content is. Look at the ingredients. Many foods will say ” [x ingredient] enriched in iron [and other minerals].” Avoid these. If you don’t believe me, look up the side effects of iron in vitamins. If you have ever had to take an iron supplement (maybe during pregnancy, for example), chances are good that it caused some constipation. Foods that are naturally high in iron have not been a problem for us, but those enriched in iron have been very problematic.
We struggled with constipation for years and now that we have found some things that actually work, I hope others can benefit from what we have learned. Obviously, I am not a doctor and can not give medical advice, I am just a mom that has found some solutions for us.