Everything You Should Know about Constipation in Children (Part Two)
In the first part of our blog, we’ve seen what the causes of constipation in children were and how to diagnose it. Today, we are going to give you more information about the dietary measures that can be used as treatments. Keep reading!
In the treatment of childhood constipation, there are different lines of action: dietary measures, hygienic measures and, in some cases, pharmacological treatment. In all cases, the treatment depends on the intensity of the condition and the age of the child.
Not a Radical Approach
Treatment of constipation requires education of parents and children. The primary care physician and community pharmacist play a very important role in this education. Parents and caregivers should be aware of the importance of diet in constipation, the need to correctly follow the established treatment plan, and the need to remain calm and expect an adequate response to treatment. For children, the treatment approach should never be radical. In older children, establishing a regular bowel habit will, in most cases, require parental encouragement and a great deal of patience.
Dietary measures should be adopted according to the age of the child.
Infants under 6 months of age
In formula feeding, it is important to avoid the use of adapted milk with high amounts of calcium and saturated fats. Formulas with a low saturated fat content, which contain mainly fat in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids, are recommended.
Concentrated bottles should be avoided and even the amount of water in the bottles should be increased slightly. In case of natural lactation, small spoonful of water can be given between feedings.
From the age of 4 months, you can give the child orange juice also in tablespoons.
Between 4 and 6 months, the pediatrician will introduce fruit into the child’s diet. The introduction should be done gradually, fruit by fruit, to avoid possible allergic reactions. Among the fruits, in case of constipation, orange and pear should be preferred and banana and apple should be avoided.
Children over 6 months old
In children over 6 months of age, you can rely much more on diet to eradicate the problem of constipation. The amount of fiber and fluids given will be increased. Fruits (avoiding apples and bananas) and vegetables (green beans, spinach, chard and artichokes) are recommended. Once gluten is introduced into your diet, cereal porridge should contain oats or whole grains. Fruit and cereal porridges can be sweetened with a tablespoon of honey. Water is essential to resolve constipation, especially during the warmer seasons and if the child tends to sweat.
Preschool and school age children
For this age, a high-fiber diet and plenty of fluids are recommended. Dietary fiber increases fecal mass, which speeds up bowel movements and prevents constipation. There are two types of fiber depending on their solubility in water:
- Insoluble fiber: this is the fiber found mainly in whole grains. It is almost entirely excreted in the stool and thanks to its capacity to retain water, it increases the fecal mass and promotes intestinal motility.
- Soluble fiber: viscous fiber found in fruits, vegetables and legumes. This fiber, when it reaches the colon, is transformed by the action of intestinal bacteria into short-chain volatile fatty acids, which give the stool a particular odor. It also delays the passage of food from the stomach to the intestine.
The fibers that help the most in solving the problem of constipation are insoluble fibers. It is advisable to replace refined carbohydrate products that are low in fiber with whole grain products that contain a high percentage of fiber.
For example: refined bread contains 2.2 grams of fiber, while whole wheat contains 8.5 grams. For this reason, taking advantage of the fact that bread is a daily food, it is convenient that it is whole grain.
A “treat” with a lot of fiber is popcorn, another easy way to incorporate fiber in the diet of children. In summary, we can say that the foods richest in fiber and recommended in diets against constipation are: cereals, vegetables, legumes and fruits.
It is advisable to administer 30 grams of dietary fiber or 14.4 grams of crude fiber per day, for at least one month, before checking the response to treatment.
The increase in fiber should be done gradually to avoid the appearance of side effects such as flatulence, abdominal distension, pain and colic. On the other hand, the ingestion of large amounts of fiber (more than 30 grams per day) can reduce the absorption of certain micronutrients such as calcium, zinc and iron, in addition to producing the aforementioned undesirable effects.
In general, the ingestion of a liter to a liter and a half of water daily is recommended to favor the action of the fibers. The child should drink plenty of fluids, especially in the very hot months.
Children with constipation should not abuse milk and its derivatives, nor should they consume large amounts of meat. They should also avoid astringent foods such as rice, carrots, bananas, apples, and chocolate.
There you are! You now know more about the dietary measures to be taken to treat constipation in children. And if you want to learn more treatments, come back to check out the third part of our article.