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  • Writer's pictureAndre Shih

Can Orange Juice Cause Severe Constipation In Children?

There was a 3 yr old boy who has had constipation problem shortly after he was born. His stool was very large and hard like rocks. It was very difficult to pass. His parents took him to several western and eastern doctors. Usually the treatments were very effective in the beginning but slowly the same treatments wouldn’t work anymore. And the doctors couldn’t figure out why. When I first saw the boy, his energy was low, and appetite was poor. After a short time at the playground, he would be very tired and nap for 2-3 hours after going home. He didn’t like to eat except one or two particular things. He even lost some weight in the past few months. His parents were really concerned. After I did the abdominal exam, I found his abdomen was soft. In Chinese medicine, every condition can be divided into excess type or deficient type. If it’s excess, we need to purge even if it’s diarrhea; if it’s deficient, we need to supplement even if it’s constipation. Because how soft his abdomen felt, his low energy, and the experience from previous doctors, I could conclude that his constipation was the deficient type. Deficient type of constipation is generally due to the lack of movement in the digestive system. This type of patient would also have poor appetite or bloating. Unlike excess type of constipation, patient would still have normal or big appetite. The diagnosis is still mainly based on abdominal exam. Soft abdomen is deficient; hard abdomen is excess. Of course, there are some complicated cases, but this is the simplest way to put it.

I prescribed Xiao Jian Zhong Tang for this boy. The direct translation of this medicine is soup to slowly build up middle Jiao. Middle Jiao is the area above your belly button and below the diaphragm. Our liver, gallbladder, stomach, and spleen lie in this region. After a week of medication, the parents were very happy because it did not work right away like their previous experience, but it has a gradual effect of improvement. By day 5 or 6, the boy was able to have a bowel movement every day, although there were still some hard stools. After 3 weeks, the boy’s appetite was better. He even said he was hungry and wanted some food. His parents had to force him to eat before. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. His energy has also improved a lot and sleep was deeper with less tossing and turning.

After 5 weeks, something has changed. The symptoms this little patient had before all came back. Appetite was poor, energy was low, bowel movement was difficult again. This puzzled me for a while. After some digging, I found out he had been drinking orange juice every day. And this caused bloating in his stomach, so he lost his appetite. His mother remembered last he started to have these issues was also around the time that he had been given orange juice. Even though orange juice was such a harmless food, it doesn’t mean everyone should have it. It was the cause of bloating for this patient. When someone is born with a weaker digestive system, they have to pay attention of which food would affect your digestion and bowel movement. If we all pay attention to these little things in life, we can avoid a lot of health issues.

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