Psyllium comes from the husks of tiny, gel-coated seeds of Plantago ovate, a shrub-like herb found commonly in India. Doctors use psyllium husk to treat constipation, diarrhea and other intestinal problems. Psyllium husks relieve constipation by forming a gelatin-like mass when exposed to water that helps move the contents of the intestines through the digestive process. Although psyllium husk is generally an effective over-the-counter treatment for adult constipation, never use laxatives, even natural ones, with toddlers without your doctor’s express approval. Consult your pediatrician for use guidelines and dosage recommendations personalized for your toddler’s situation.
Pediatrician Dr. William Sears, author of “The Family Nutrition Book,” recommends psyllium husk to treat constipation in toddlers and children. You can sprinkle psyllium husk flakes on their favorite cereal or combine it into fruit-and-yogurt parfaits. According to Sears, toddlers and children should start with 1 teaspoon a day. Increase this dosage to 2 teaspoons if necessary.
Bulk-forming laxatives, such as psyllium husks, might make it more difficult for the body to absorb other medications, which might lower their efficacy. Don’t take other oral medications within two hours before or after you take psyllium husks. Psyllium husk needs lots of water to work effectively, so always take it with an 8-oz. glass of water. If you do not drink enough liquids while taking bulk-forming laxatives, they can clog up your intestines and make constipation worse.
Toddlers should optimally get adequate fiber intake through their diet. Using psyllium husk on a regular basis to make up for dietary inadequacies can be habit-forming. Long-term use can damage your toddler’s muscle tissues or intestinal nerves. Never take psyllium husk for longer than your doctor recommends. Call the pediatrician immediately if your toddler experiences problems with choking or swallowing, nausea or vomiting, stomach pain or cramping, or constipation that lasts for more than seven days.
When solving toddler constipation woes, Dr. Sears recommends attempting natural methods first. Add more liquids into his diet and include more fibrous foods such as whole-grain crackers and high-fiber vegetables such as broccoli, beans and peas. Give your toddler up to 8 ounces a day of prune juice, or offer him strained or pureed prunes. Include other fruits with a laxative effect, such as apricots, pears and plums, in his regular diet. Sneak in some extra fiber by letting him spread the fruit purees on top of graham crackers.