Many people have problems with constipation. Young children often experience constipation when they are potty training or going through picky eating phases. Other times, constipation can accompany illnesses or food sensitivities.
Furthermore, adults may experience constipation due to stress, lifestyle changes, illnesses, or side effects from medications.
Although many doctors prescribe MiraLax as a solution for both children and adults, some parents are concerned about potential side effects and look for natural solutions for constipation.
Some simple natural alternatives to MiraLax include drinking more water, getting more exercise, and adding more fiber to your diet. For a more targeted approach, prunes or prune juice or pear juice may relieve constipation in some people.
Adding fish oil, coconut oil, or olive oil to food dishes can ease the bowel and make stools pass more easily. Finally, adding probiotics and magnesium to your daily regimen can also help ease the symptoms of constipation.
Continue reading for clarification on how MiraLax works, what the current concerns about taking MiraLax are, and details about natural options for easing constipation in your family.
How Do Doctors Define Constipation?
Constipation occurs when a person does not have frequent bowel movements. The Mayo Clinic explains that for a child, fewer than three bowel movements per week, hard, dry stools, pain when trying to pass stools, and visible blood on the stools are clear signs of constipation in children.
Consequently, children who experience these symptoms may try to avoid bowel movements which increase constipation even more.
The Mayo Clinic reports that adults who experience chronic constipation have the same symptoms as adults and may also feel that they cannot completely empty their rectum or that they need help emptying the rectum.
What is MiraLax?
Now it’s time for a little science. MiraLax is an osmotic laxative made with polyethylene glycol 3350.
When you take MiraLax, it absorbs extra water into the stool (osmotic), making it softer and easier to pass. MiraLax may take 2-4 days to produce a bowel movement.
The label instructions state that it should not be used for more than 7 days without a doctor’s oversight.
According to the label, it is not approved for children under age 17, although it is often prescribed for children and adults on a long-term basis.
Why are Some Parents Concerned About MiraLax?
Some people believe that MiraLax makes a bowel “lazy” so that it doesn’t learn to do the work of passing stools.
This is not a side effect of osmotic laxatives. The common side effects of an osmotic laxative are diarrhea, cramping, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance.
Other parents report more serious side effects from MiraLax, including paranoia, mood swings, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anger.
The main ingredient in MiraLax is polyethylene glycol 3350 (PEG3350). Many consumers worry that this chemical construction is too close to compounds found in antifreeze: ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol.
In response to parental concerns, researchers have designed studies to determine the safety of using Miralax.
One study conducted by Nationwide Childrens’ revealed that both children who had taken MiraLax and those who didn’t all showed low levels of these compounds in their blood.
The scientists further tested their own blood and found similar levels of the compounds.
This result revealed that PEG3350 is a compound that we are all exposed to daily. Polyethylene glycol is a common component in many products that we use every day, like face cream and toothpaste. It is a safe product that has many applications in our daily lives.
Specialists with Nationwide Childrens’ report that the mood changes parents report probably occur along with constipation, not due to the MiraLax.
Dr. Kent Williams explains that behavioral problems in children often present with constipation as a symptom.
Is MiraLax Safe to Take or to Give My Child?
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, MiraLax has been safely given to millions of children over the last 20 years.
They highlight 8 studies that report that treatment with MiraLax seemed safe, and no adverse behavioral issues were reported.
However, they also point out that any medication should be taken only when necessary and for the shortest time possible.
12 Natural Alternatives to MiraLax for Children and Adults
1.Drink More Water
One common cause of constipation is dehydration. Increasing the amount of water that you drink makes stools softer and easier to pass.
Young children should drink 3-6 glasses of water each day. Teens should aim for 9-10 glasses of water each day.
Young athletes should be drinking even more water since they exercise and lose hydration through sweat.
Adults should drink 10-14 cups of water per day to maintain healthy hydration.
2.Increase your Fiber Intake
The foods we eat contain two kinds of fiber; soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber helps absorb water into stools, making them soft and easier to pass.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and helps to create bulk in stools, making them easier to pass.
Children under age 3 should eat 19g of fiber daily. Children between the ages of 4-9 should consume 25g, and anyone over the age of 9 should eat 30 grams of fiber daily.
Apples, oranges, carrots, legumes, barley, and oats are excellent sources of soluble fiber. Foods containing insoluble fiber are whole grains, peas, turnip, bran and wheat cereals, and kidney, navy, and pinto beans.
Most people only eat about half of the fiber they need on any given day. Simply adding more fruits, vegetables, and legumes to your diet can ease constipation symptoms.
3. Increase Physical Activity
Increasing the amount of physical activity your and your child participate in reduces the risk of constipation.
Physicians recommend that children and adults get at least 60 minutes of physical aerobic activity each day.
Exercise helps your intestinal muscles contract and relax therefore moving stools through your digestive tract.
4. Use a Squatty Potty
A Squatty Potty is the brand name of a stool that fits around the base of a toilet. It is designed for people to put their feet on when they use the toilet.
That raises the person’s knees above their hips, placing them into a more natural squatting position.
Researchers and anecdotal evidence have shown that people who use a Squatty Potty are more likely to empty their bowels more quickly and with less straining than those who do not.
5. Reduce your Dairy Intake
Often consuming cow’s milk and other dairy products can increase levels of constipation.
Although it can seem difficult, consider completely eliminating dairy from your child’s diet.
You can easily find substitutes for cow’s milk at most grocery stores. Almond milk and coconut milk substitutes are tasty dairy-free choices.
Try eliminating all dairy for 3 weeks and evaluating how if it affects your child’s bowel habits.
Reducing or eliminating the intake of dairy can be a long-term solution for constipation.
6. Add Prune or Pear Juice to Your Diet
Prunes and prune juice have long been known as a remedy for constipation. If you find the taste of prune juice to be too strong, you might add some organic pear juice. Some people find pear juice by itself to be sufficient for constipation relief.
One of the essential minerals that we need to make our bodies function properly is magnesium.
Many people have a magnesium deficiency because they don’t get enough magnesium from their diets.
Maintaining a proper amount of magnesium in your body can be a long-term solution to constipation.
In order to have magnesium work quickly as a laxative, you will need to pay attention to which kind of magnesium you are taking.
Magnesium Malate is very easy for our bodies to absorb, and then our bodies want to hold on to it, especially if we have a deficiency.
It would take a long time for it to build up in your system enough to ease constipation.
On the other hand, once you have reached an equilibrium, Magnesium Malate can help you maintain a proper amount of magnesium in your body.
Magnesium Citrate is a form of magnesium that is not well absorbed by the body. Therefore, it works well as a laxative. Magnesium Citrate can work as quickly as 1-3 hours.
However, you shouldn’t use it regularly because it can cause cramps. Natural Calm magnesium citrate is a good product for both children and adults.
It comes as a powder that is activated by hot water and can be mixed into another drink or as gummies.
Magnesium citrate may be used to empty the bowels before a colonoscopy. It will be more effective more quickly than a course of MiraLax.
Magnesium citrate can be purchased at any drugstore as a bottled drink. It is good for occasional use, not daily use.
Magnesium Oxide also helps with constipation, but like magnesium, citrate is not well absorbed by the body.
Mag07 is a product that requires high doses over a few days to produce a thorough bowel movement. This product is best for adults.
Omniblue Ocean Minerals
Omniblue Ocean Minerals has magnesium and other mineral nutrients that can bring your child’s electrolytes into balance.
Even very young children can take a few drops of Omniblue Ocean Minerals to improve their bowel habits.
Children under age 4 can have 2-3 drops with each meal until they maintain regular stools. Children ages 5-8 may have ¼ teaspoon, and children ages 9-13 may have ½ teaspoon.
Teens can have ½ to 1 teaspoon with each meal, and adults may have 1- 1 ½ teaspoon with each meal.
8. Add Probiotics to Support Gut Health
Probiotics support the growth of gut bacteria that are helpful for digestion. These helpful bacteria are commonly found in yogurt, cheese, and miso and in fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha.
You can also buy probiotic supplements. Live probiotic supplements that may help with bowel problems include Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Saccharomyces boulardii.
Eating yogurt with live active cultures can help both children and adults with digestive discomfort.
Natural Laxatives that are Better for Adults
9. Fiber Supplements
Some people choose to take a fiber supplement to ease constipation. Some people have had success using Benefiber or FiberOne as occasional treatments for constipation.
These products have been highly processed, so they should be used only in moderation for occasional relief from constipation.
10. Add Coconut, Olive, or Fish Oils to your Diet
Some people offer anecdotal support for using coconut oil to relieve constipation. First, choose organic virgin or unrefined coconut oil that has been through the fewest refinements.
Then, incorporate coconut oil into your diet by cooking with it, mixing it into smoothies, or pouring it on top of your popcorn.
Be sure to incorporate coconut oil slowly into your diet so that you do not experience cramps or diarrhea.
Much like coconut oil, choose the purest forms of olive oil you can find. Then you can cook with it, mix it into a salad dressing, or pour it over cooked vegetables, rice or pasta.
When you incorporate the olive oil into your meals, you will start eating enough olive oil to ease your constipation.
Omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in fish oils can help lubricate the intestine helping to ease constipation.
Likewise, Omega-3s also reduce inflammation and promote healthy gut bacteria.
11. Take Senna to Stimulate a Bowel Movement
Senna is a stimulant laxative that triggers muscle contractions in the gut helping you to have a bowel movement. One example of a senna laxative is Ex-Lax, a common over-the-counter product.
Additionally, Smooth Move senna tea also helps improve bowel motility. Senna can cause cramping, so it should be used with care and only by adults unless prescribed by a doctor.
12. Enjoy your Morning Coffee
For adults, drinking coffee can help stimulate the muscle contractions needed to have a bowel movement.
Caffeinated coffee works best for this, although some people have success with caffeine-free coffee.
Furthermore, you may also try adding coconut oil to your coffee to ease constipation.
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- Natural pre workout Alternatives
While multiple studies have shown that MiraLax is safe and effective for use in both children and adults, some people prefer using more natural methods for easing and preventing constipation.
Adults and children should drink more water, eat more fiber, and get more exercise. Using a squatty potty to improve toilet posture can also ease constipation and improve bowel habits.
Other simple changes can make big differences in relieving constipation as well.
Reducing the amount of dairy you or your child eats, drinking prune or pear juice, maintaining your magnesium level, trying a natural oil, or adding a probiotic can ease constipation and create regular bowel movements.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.