Tips to help your children fight constipation
Learn about the best tips on fighting constipation in children and find out whether it’s safe for them to consume fiber supplements.
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Dietary fiber is essential for the digestive health and welfare of the child, since it helps normalize bowel movements.
Benefits of fiber
- It promotes intestinal peristalsis and prevents constipation.
- It helps maintain normal cholesterol and sugar levels in the blood.
- It favors the maintenance of ideal body weight.
Fiber decreases the absorption time of fats and carbohydrates. For this reason when you feed your children, you must include sufficient fiber and you must teach them to eat healthy by including in their daily diet fruits, vegetables and grains.
If your child doesn’t eat enough fiber, he or she can suffer from constipation and other bowel problems, which is why the pediatrician may recommend the use of fiber supplements.
Many times it can be difficult to know whether your child is constipated since bowel patterns may vary. There are some children that spend over three days without a bowel movement, but don’t become constipated; while others may have relatively frequent bowel movements, but these are difficult and painful. Therefore it is important that you learn several signs that could help you realize if your son or daughter is suffering from constipation.
5 symptoms of constipation
- In newborn infants: their stools are hard and they can have bowel movement more than once a day (but this could occur in some babies with exclusive breastfeeding).
- In older children: there’s presence of hard and compact stools and, bowel movements occur every three or four days.
- At any age: big, hard and dry stools, and painful bowel movements.
- Abdominal pain: this improves after a big bowel movement.
- Stained underwear: there are traces of stools in the underwear after a bowel movement.
To improve problems with constipation it is recommended to increase the intake of fiber-rich foods (depending on your child’s age) such as plums, apricots, pears, papaya, beans, spinach and broccoli. Another recommendation is to drink more water, preferably with fruits and natural juices without sugar. If this doesn’t help, then fiber supplements may be helpful, but you should consult a pediatrician before giving your child these supplements, especially if they have a medical condition.
Most commonly used fiber supplements
Soluble fiber supplements: these are the most commonly used and are prepared with psyllium (Metamucil and Konsyl, among others). The seed or seed husk of psyllium is used for making the supplements. They thicken meals and beverages.
Fiber supplements made with dextrin: dextrin is a carbohydrate derived from corn or wheat (Benefiber). These dextrin-based supplements have no taste nor smell and don’t thicken foods or beverages. They are gluten-free and sugar-free; however, some brands add flavors to make them more pleasant for children, but you must be careful not to exceed the recommended dosage according to age.
Precautions on the use of fiber supplements in children
It is not recommended to give fiber supplements to children under six unless directed by your pediatrician. Remember never to give your child a natural supplement without first consulting your pediatrician.
Recommended dose of fiber supplements for children
Fiber supplements may cause abdominal bloating and gas, at least initially, that is why it’s recommended to start consuming lower doses than those suggested.
The American Heart Association recommends eating 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily and the Cancer Prevention Institute simplifies fiber consumption patterns for Americans with the rule “age 5+” for children aged 2 or more. A seven year old child may consume 12 grams of fiber per day to have optimal health. This rule should be applied during adolescence until the person reaches the age of 20, when they should use the guides for adults.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, Healthy Children, Medscape, nlm.nih.gov.
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