Natural remedies for children's digestive upsets
Cheryl Wright, RNCP, RHN
Children often have digestive problems because of poor diets. Three of the most common digestive ailments in children are enzyme deficiencies, constipation, and parasites. Here is a look at some natural remedies for children's digestive upsets.
When we think of digestive problems we tend to think they only affect adults. Yet children often have digestive problems because of poor diets.
Most Canadians eat what is termed the Standard American Diet (SAD). This diet is comprised of too few fresh fruits and vegetables and too many refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and chemical additives. Since most children eat the same diet as their parents, they can suffer the same digestive problems. Three of the most common digestive ailments in children are enzyme deficiencies, constipation, and parasites.
Digestive Enzyme Deficiencies
When consumed continuously, a poor diet can result in gas and bloating. The SAD fails to provide the required micronutrients to make digestive enzymes. The body needs digestive enzymes to break down food into smaller, absorbable components. Without enzymes, undigested food passes through our systems (often leading to food allergies), while required nutrients are not absorbed.
Look for a full-spectrum enzyme that includes supportive ingredients like L-glutamine, which helps repair and rebuild the intestinal tract lining, and a probiotic blend, which provides a healthy bacterial balance. Taking this type of supplement can also be helpful in combating food allergies and sensitivities.
Constipation in children is a common and often painful problem. To remedy children’s constipation, first look at the diet; are they getting enough water, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains? If the diet is generally good, but your child still has occasional constipation, look for a children’s natural laxative formula.
Children should not use harsh laxatives like senna (Cassia sp.) or cascara sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana), which can be addicting and make it difficult for the colon to work on its own. Instead, use prunes, figs, rhubarb, and peaches, which help stimulate bowel movements naturally not purgatively.
Fibre is also important for children. Flaxseeds are the best choice of fibre, as they are less harsh on children’s delicate intestines.
Children are more susceptible to parasites because they may have less-than-ideal hygiene habits, and small children often will put anything in their mouths. Parasites can be found in undercooked meats, but also may be contracted by playing with pets or walking in sand or dirt with open sores on the feet. Parasites are a common cause of stomach pain, gas, and bloating in children. There are natural herbal formulas available to treat parasites. Look for one that contains antiparasitic, antifungal, and antimicrobial herbs.
Children’s supplements should come in small capsules and natural, fruit-flavoured nonalcohol tinctures. Only children over the age of four should use the supplements listed above. If your child is younger, check with your registered health care practitioner before trying any natural product. You can find these supplements in your local health food store.