Ava Satnick, MD -  - Pediatric Integrative Medicine

Holbrook Health

Ava Satnick, MD

Pediatric Integrative Medicine located in Portola Valley, CA

Constipation can happen from time to time, but if it’s happening often, causing abdominal pain or poor appetite these could be signs that your child needs medical treatment. Ava Satnick, MD, at Holbrook Health in Menlo Park, California, helps find the cause of constipation in young adults and children, resolves problems like fecal impaction, and helps prevent further episodes. To benefit from Dr. Satnick’s expertise with constipation and nutrition, call Holbrook Health, or book an appointment online today.

Constipation Q & A

What is constipation?

Constipation occurs when your stools become too dry and hard to pass without effort. It’s a common problem for both children and young adults, and although it can be painful and distressing, it’s usually a temporary issue.

However, if you’re experiencing frequent bouts of constipation or your bowels become so impacted you can’t pass stools at all, you should visit Holbrook Health to see if there’s an underlying cause.

What causes constipation?

Constipation can happen for several reasons, with some common ones being: 


Changes in your diet or a lack of fiber and fluid are the most likely causes of constipation.


Constipation can be a symptom of certain medical problems, such as hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It can also be a side effect of ­medicines that you might be taking for another condition.


In children, withholding is often an issue that contributes to constipation. Your child may have a bad diaper rash, be experimenting with independence and control (most often between two and five years old), or be putting off going to the bathroom because they want to continue playing.

Both children and adults may withhold their stools if they’re away from home and don’t like using public toilets. Withholding to avoid the pain experienced during a previous bout of constipation is also common in people of all ages.

What complications can constipation cause?

Constipation is a leading cause of hemorrhoids – painful, swollen anal veins that may bleed. Hemorrhoids are likely to develop if you have chronic constipation and regularly strain your bowels to pass stools. Hard, painful stools can also tear the anus as they come out.

Another problem constipation can cause is encopresis, which usually affects children who withhold their stools. The stools get drier and harder and eventually form such a solid mass that it stretches your child’s rectum.

At this point, small quantities of liquid stool may leak around the edges of the fecal impaction and into your child’s underwear. An impacted stool of this size requires medical treatment.

How is constipation treated?

You can often resolve constipation simply by eating more fiber and drinking more water. Exercising also helps to keep your bowels healthy. Treating any underlying causes is also important, including mental health treatment if you have anxiety.

You shouldn’t give over-the-counter laxative medications to children, but Dr. Satnick might recommend a stool softener to get the bowels moving. It’s also important to address problems like withholding to prevent fecal impaction.

If you or your child has constipation, call Holbrook Health today for expert advice or book an appointment online.