Constipation in Teenagers

Dear all,

My son is 14 years old, tall for his age, had early onset puberty and for the last two years has been battling with constipation and an impacted bowel. This condition literally came out of the blue, as he has always been regular and without issue. He has endured a lot of pain and he has missed so much school as a result.

He was referred at the hospital to a general paediatrician. The medications he has been prescribed to date have done nothing much to ease his discomfort (Movicol Paediatric and more recently Dioctyl) and the doctor we have seen has not offered any tests save for a blood test, with no answer as to why he is suffering in this way, dealing with the effects, but not addressing the cause.

My son is nearing his GCSEs (courses begin in September) and my fear is that unless this problem is rectified, he will continue to suffer and potentially fail his exams. Moreover, I cannot watch my son in pain any longer.

I don't currently have private healthcare and unfortunately, I cannot fund private fees myself and therefore, I am looking for a referral to another NHS hospital for a second opinion but it is a minefield trying to find the right one. What I need is a paediatric gastroenterologist.

Any advice gratefully received.


An anxious and frustrated mother

7 Replies

  • What a sad story, you don't say where you are in the country, but I would suggest that you go on the internet and Google Paediatric gastroenterologists. I would also make a BIG fuss with your GP....just keep going back. You cannot wait, your son is heading towards such an important phase of his education, he does not need this to deal with as well. Be a pain, Google for help. Also the NHS website might be able to help you.....I wish you all the best, and would be interested in hearing how you get on. Hopefully someone on hear may be able to help too, fingers crossed.

    Suzi, equally anxious mother!

  • Before looking for a solution you really need to look for the cause. My first question is what is he eating, may be when you are not watching him. If he's like so many teenagers he may be attracted to some of the less desireable foods which are blocking him. One old fashioned remedy is Syrup of Figs also you could get some dried figs and soak a portion in just enough water to cover them for about 24 hours. I love them but I have to control the number I eat! !

    What bread are the family eating that can have an effect; it should be 100% wholemeal which contains all the wheat bran which in itself is a laxative.

    Lastly there are some articles which are worth reading to get an understanding of the condition; this are not intended to worry you but help you understand. also then follow the buttons.

    Personally I would always want to consult a homeopathic doctor (note I say doctor not a homeopath) as they give the patient more time to discover the cause of a condition while being properly qualified as a doctor.

    I wish you success, keep us posted. Tibbly

  • I am in France, so I don't have someone to refer to you. Constipation like this can be due to many root causes. As Tibbly has said, diet can be a major one to watch. But there may well be other hormonal and stress factors too.

    Regular gentle exercise can really help:

    I have also found magnesium to be of great help. read this for details:

    Hope this helps,


  • Thank you ladies! I will definitely look into your advice.

    I am in the south of England.

    You are right about looking for the root cause. In my naivety, I have allowed a general paediatrician to waste time, hasn't offered any investigations and make me ply him with medication that is having little effect. FYI, my son does eat a fairly balanced diet with fruit, vegetables, fibre, protein and dairy products and does keep his fluids up (though perhaps not enough) and he does a lot of sport (rugby mainly). He's generally very healthy, apart from this issue which has plagued him for two years.

    TODAY...There is a small update. I managed to take my son to the GP this morning and was seen as an emergency 5 minute appointment. I asked for a referral to a specialist paediatric gastroenterologist that I found on the internet who is based in London after emailing the secretary of a professor who is also a paediatric gastroenterologist for a recommendation. He is based further away (up north) and therefore we cannot see him on the NHS.

    My GP was less than happy to write a letter requesting a second opinion stating that he preferred to keep all referrals within the county!!! I was less than impressed. I told him that my son needs to see a specialist and that I am entitled to a second opinion and I insisted that he write it. Reluctantly, he said he would, but he kept reiterating that he preferred to keep referrals in the county, perhaps in the hope he would wear me down and bring me around to his way of thinking. Ridiculous. Clearly, he doesn't want to (in his view) adversely affect his budget.

    I also asked if it were possible to order an enema or a colonoscopy but he said he couldn't do that. My son was in a lot of pain and he just sat there telling us that he was trying to help us, but obviously wasn't. I asked what could be done then so he wrote a letter, more a report really with a brief medical history to take to my local paediatric A&E.

    The staff at the hospital were as useful as a 'chocolate teapot' because unless your child is broken or their airway is obstructed, they won't help you (things have really changed in the NHS). How bad does my son need to be before they take action? Unconscious? Unable to move? Writhing in agony? They said that they don't order enemas or colonoscopies either but while first telling me that they would give him a suppository, they quickly changed their minds and instead decided to give him another planned course of Movicol Paediatric Plain to deal with the impaction and maintenance programme coupled with Senna. This is what was offered originally two years ago. And they offered to email his present general paediatrician (the one who has just unhelpfully discharged us!) so she could order any such planned investigations but she hasn't in two years. Some use that is. I feel as though I am fighting fires without knowing why they started - reacting to the problem rather than proactively seeking a cause and solution.

    So now I have to give my son more medication and wait for the referral letter to reach the specialist. All the while, he loses even more school and is still in pain. He has only opened his bowel 5 times in the last two weeks! :( I am so stressed by this whole debacle...

  • I thought you were able to select an appointment where ever you chose....can't remember the "catchy" title of it.....maybe book and select? I am in East Anglia, and I have nothing but praise for our GP surgery. All the doctors are amazing and go so out of their way to help you. I have had calls at 8 in the evening from the doctor saying that she had been looking in to so and so and had decided that the medication she had prescribed wasn't as good as the one she had just read about. In those 10 minutes of rushed (though not in our surgery) consultation, there are so many things that are not mentioned because they don't come up or the question wasn't need a list for sure.....but that aside, I can't understand their lack of compassion, if nothing else. I found this, haven't read it but this is what I was referring to. My mother was in Kent and her surgery and waiting times were ridiculous. I moved her up to us and she was diagnosed with Alzheimers within 3 weeks. Not a good outcome, but at least she could get on to some medication instead of waiting on Oxleas and Bexley Adult whatever they call themselves. It is a quagmire down there, an overloaded understaffed and poorly managed system with no spare cash......I would be worrying about the impact this long term compaction is having. Diverticulosis....diverticulitis.....these are the diagnoses my mother eventually got from being in severe pain from constipation, most of her life. She lived on Movicol.......why do they give your son paediatric medication? My son is only 14 but he weighs the same as a small adult.......he is a rugby player too :) Keep at it, don't let them grind you down........and please update me/us. I hope some of what I have written has helped, if nothing else, you are not alone.....Suzi

  • I forgot to add, aloe vera juice may have the desired result. In all good health stores.......apparently very cleansing though I am a bit scared to use it as I do not suffer from constipation, quite the opposite!

  • Thank you again for your comments, advice and the useful links. It helps a little to know there are people who understand despite the fact it also saddens me at the same time, as it also means there are many people suffering out there...

    A FURTHER UPDATE... After the de-impaction plan of Movicol prescribed by my A&E (4,6,8,10,12,12,10,8 and then 8 everyday since). It has now been nearly 4 weeks since we went to A&E, my son is up and down with how he feels. The pain comes and goes and is bolstered by the Buscopan for the cramps, and pain relief and hot water bottles when it is really bad.

    I don't know why he is being given the paediatric medicine in answer to your question, Suzi, suffice to say that it is moving things again, that is, until the next time when he becomes used to the new dose! He too is a rugby player, is a man (-in-training) certainly size-wise and nearly six feet tall! I digress...

    I have started giving him Magnesium supplements everyday, in addition to a high fibre diet. I'm not sure what physical benefits to look out for and maybe it is too early to tell.

    This week, I finally received a letter from a hospital in London (we live in Surrey) for 31st July!!! How ridiculous! I can only imagine what my GP wrote in the referral, in that it was not an urgent issue. I am so angry. I actually also started a new job this week (it has been an incredibly stressful and busy time recently!) and one benefit is private healthcare. I am going to see if my son can see someone sooner because I cannot wait that long after 2 years watching my son suffering, and suffering inside myself. I am disgusted in certain elements of the NHS. I hope that my HR department are understanding and compassionate and that they will facilitate my need to do this for my son.

    I am also looking to arrange tutors for GCSE assistance as I am very worried...

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