Recently we shared this post that I wrote describing life with two toddlers. While the post itself is meant to be funny and light-hearted, I mentioned in it that our son is dairy- and egg-free, and many of you have messaged us asking about why that is. I’m so glad you did – I almost can’t believe I haven’t shared a post on this already! So I thought I’d tell you about our journey in case it helps you or someone you know.
Healing Constipation Naturally Through Diet
We began noticing our son Ciro, now almost 2, becoming constipated shortly after he started eating solid foods (around 6 or 7 months). It seemed no matter what we did (prunes, prune juice, remove binding foods, probiotics, etc.), he would struggle. And by “struggle,” I mean he was in pain, and not eliminating properly. It would build for days until it all came out in a stressful event that put him (and sometimes me) into tears each time, and then the cycle would begin all over again.
Anywhere from 10 – 20 times per day he would start to try, and push, until he was red-faced and screaming. We couldn’t leave the house most days because once it started to come on I had to help him. This meant quickly lying him down, bicycling his legs, rubbing his tummy, and sometimes even literally (gently) pulling it out of him. Sometimes a little would come out, but we knew it wasn’t what my husband and I soon began to refer to as “the mother load.” Our poor little guy was so uncomfortable, that sometimes he couldn’t sleep.
Through all of this we were going to doctors, but we weren’t getting any answers. Our main pediatrician couldn’t help. (She did a standard allergy test, but nothing came up except for bananas, which we had already stopped feeding him). She then referred us to a specialist, an “excellent” G.I. doctor all the way across town.
The “excellent” doctor seemed to not mind that our son was screaming every time he tried to go to the bathroom, that he would get backed up for days, and was constantly uncomfortable. He told me to give him MiraLAX every day, along with Milk of Magnesia, and said to me that “as long as he isn’t crying, he’s good.” I told him that many times he did cry, and that he was clearly in pain, but this doctor just shrugged his shoulders and said he’d “probably outgrow it.” Did I mention that while we were there he suggested I stop breastfeeding him, and start supplementing him with formula, because “he needs to gain weight”? My son’s weight was perfectly fine. He just needed to get his poop out.
I knew his answer wasn’t good enough. I was exhausted, my son was in pain, and I wasn’t getting any help. As for the MiraLAX and Milk of Magnesia, I’m not saying that there is anything totally horrible about these products if needed in a pinch, but they are by no means an answer or long-term solution. Definitely not. I knew something was causing my son’s constipation and I wanted to figure out the root cause, not just feed him laxatives.
After the above run-around, I did more research and finally took our son to an integrative specialist in our area: Dr. Sheila Kilbane. All it took was one conversation with her and I knew we were in the right place, finally taking the correct approach. After a few dietary changes and the addition of some supplements, I’m so happy to tell you that my son is no longer constipated. He is happy, he is playful, and he is smooth sailing. We saw the changes almost immediately. There was even times that we didn’t know he was pooping, which is unheard of, because he was constantly straining and screaming every time he tried to go in the past.
So, what did we do?
Steps we took to remedy constipation
In order to get Ciro on the right track we had to make some changes to his diet. That meant we had to remove certain foods, and add in others, in order to balance his system.
I’ll start with what we removed. The first thing Dr. Kilbane instructed us to do was to remove dairy from both his diet and mine (since I was nursing him). Dairy is the number one cause of inflammation, and his system was clearly inflamed. This was not hard to do for him since he only had yogurt a few times per week and that was the extent of his dairy, but there are however many food items that contain dairy where you wouldn’t expect to find it. As for me, I have a love affair with cheese so it was more difficult, but we did it, and it’s been worth it in every way. (I want to note here that it takes at least two weeks for dairy to be cleared from your system, so if you are doing a dairy elimination, give it time.)
After removing the dairy we saw a significant change for the better, although he would still struggle from time to time. We then tried removing eggs from his diet. We wanted to make sure he was getting all of his necessary vitamins and nutrients, like omega-3s, proteins, etc., so we carefully made the adjustment. (I’ll get into what we added in to make sure of that in just a minute.)
The second thing we did is give him a magnesium supplement, once in the morning and once before bed. This is a pure supplement given to us by Dr. Kilbane that does not have other unnecessary added ingredients. We continued with probiotics, and for a short time we added a digestive enzyme that helped him digest the good foods he was eating.
As a side note, I learned that almost all of us are actually deficient in magnesium. Coffee further depletes our magnesium levels so if you are a coffee drinker (like me), it’s especially important to add magnesium back into our diets.
I’ve also learned that magnesium is a calming nutrient, the natural and original “chill pill.” So not only is my son pooping better, but the magnesium supplement also calms him a bit, especially right before bedtime. This works for adults too. On a personal note, I’ve struggled with anxiety, and magnesium has been shown to help with anxiety and depression.
healthy, Non-Dairy Foods
Now, if you’re wondering what we added in to make sure he was getting enough calcium, omega-3s, iron, and protein, here it is. He already ate salmon fairly often, so we made sure to keep up with that. Some other items we incorporated into his meals and snacks to be sure he got enough nutrients are white beans, dried figs, kale, almonds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, and spinach. One thing I do each week is buy a rotisserie chicken to keep in the fridge, and throughout the week he eats pieces of the chicken with his dinner or lunch. (Win for me for having zero prep there!) We also love chia seed pudding, which takes two seconds to make a batch and only a handful of ingredients.
He also gets a smoothie almost every day (at least every other). The ingredients in his smoothie are rotated often, mainly so no one gets taste fatigue, but the ingredients that remain staples are chia seeds, flax oil, blackstrap molasses and aloe vera juice. This might sound complex but I promise you it is not that bad, and it got my older toddler involved in helping make the smoothie. And at the end of the day, if it is helping my son with his constipation, I’d be willing to make ten of these.
(This isn’t a comprehensive list of everything he eats, but if you are interested in learning more, comment on this post and we’ll be sure to blog some recipes and sample feeding schedules for dairy-free diets.)
To Sum it Up
So to sum it up, we removed dairy, we added magnesium, and we added a green smoothie almost every day packed with natural vitamins, nutrients, and ingredients that help ease digestion. These changes have cured our son’s constipation issues AND helped our entire family adopt some additional healthy eating habits. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
I’m no longer nursing, but the elimination of dairy has felt great for me. I mainly stay off the cheese but I save my indulgences for nights we are out to dinner, and other special occasions.
And if we slip-up, or he eats something that causes constipation, or we are on-the-go and off-balance, we know what to do. Our action plan is to give him a bit of extra magnesium, give him some prunes (which thankfully help now), and make sure he has his smoothie that day. We also temporarily put a stop on the breads and gluten until he’s feeling better.
This whole experience has reinforced our stance on the importance of foods and diets more than I ever knew. When Amy and I first wrote our cookbook, we stressed the importance of clean eating and starting at an early age, and how important one’s diet is to overall health. With Ciro, I’m seeing it firsthand on yet another level, and I’m so happy to have been able to help heal his gut with healthy foods. While a few of the recipes in our cookbook do have dairy ingredients I’m happy to report that they are easily substituted to be dairy-free (for example, I feed Ciro our “Cool Cucumber Sandwich Bites” but I swap out the cream cheese for hummus).
Need some help? Here’s a $200 coupon
If you live in and around the Charlotte area and would like to see an integrative specialist, I highly recommend Dr. Kilbane. She has worked wonders for our son and has taught me so much in terms of the overall health of our entire family.
If you don’t live in the area, you might want to know that she has an on-line course you can benefit from as well, and she was kind enough to create a coupon exclusively for our readers for $200 off of the course. ($200 off!!!) You can grab all of that info here: 7 Steps to Healthy Kids and Happy Moms, and use the coupon code GOODEATER, which will be valid until the end of August.
The experience made me realize that things are not always black and white, and just because someone doesn’t show an allergy on a standard test does not mean that they aren’t still sensitive to something. Ciro is not allergic to dairy, but it jacks his system up so much that he can’t tolerate it. Removing dairy may not be the answer for you. I’m certainly no doctor, and my son’s situation is likely not the same as yours, but I can tell you firsthand that it is so worth it to dig a little deeper and find an integrative specialist that can help you get better in a healthy way.
Food matters, and we can heal our bodies with the way we eat. We can help our kids feel better, naturally. And finding someone both knowledgable and caring who can help you on your journey feels way better than being dismissed and sent away with a bottle of MiraLAX.
Did you find these tips helpful? For more tips, sample meal schedules by age, healthy snack ideas, and family friendly recipes, check out our cookbook What a Good Eater! for baby & toddler recipes with healthy herbs and spices to add flavor and broaden your baby’s palette, now available on Amazon! If you enjoyed this post, sign up to receive our newsletter for other great ideas on feeding your baby, toddler, and family.
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