Constipation in infants: is it allergy?


IMPORTANT The information provided is of a general nature and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you think you may suffer from an allergic or other disease that requires attention, you should discuss it with your family doctor. The content of the information articles and all illustrations on this website remains the intellectual property of Dr Raymond Mullins and cannot be reproduced without written permission.

Constipation in young children is not rare. Treatment options include adding fibre to the diet, stool softeners (eg. non absorbable sugars like lactulose or Duphalac) so that bowel motion do not come out like concrete (thus causing pain and a desire to “hold on”) or gut stimulants that make the bowel work harder. But is constipation a form of food allergy?

Well, a number of small studies (some randomised) have trialled a dairy free diet for a month and report success rates of between 28 and 78%. A possible mechanism has been diet-provoked inflammation in the lower bowel. If constipation is a major problem, some paediatricians will recommend a trial for a month to see if it helps, and then diet liberalisation after another 12 months if clearly helpful. But allergy testing is of no use in this condition. Long term dietary restrictions should not be undertaken without medical and dietetic supervision due to risks of malnutrition, especially when restricting important sources of nutrients in early life like dairy products.


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Last reviewed 12 July 2020