Constipation is a very common problem in children. A child has constipation when he or she has fewer than three bowel movements in a week, has trouble having a bowel movement, or when the stool is hard, dry, and unusually large. Portland Pediatric Gastroenterologist, Dr. Linda Muir comments, “A child should be having a bowl movement daily, ideally”.
A common medical treatment for kids with constipation is Miralax. Recent articles on Miralax with pending results from a study at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, point to possible links to behavioral problems in children. This concerns me and is why I don’t encourage families to use Miralax. My experience using Miralax in our family shows it can be difficult to wean off once the body has been using it on a regular, extended basis. I encourage families to focus on natural remedies first to help prevent and reduce constipation.
What are some natural remedies to address constipation with children?
A high-fiber diet with plenty of fluids. This means loading your child’s plate with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, high-fiber cereals, whole grain breads (look for at least 3-5 grams of fiber per serving), and a variety of beans and other legumes, like chickpeas and black beans. Two good sources of fiber kids are often happy to eat are trail mix and popcorn with minimal salt or butter.
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber pulls in water and becomes gel like during digestions. It slows down digestion making it easier for nutrients to be absorbed. Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, legumes (peas, beans, lentils), barley, fruits and vegetables (especially oranges, apples and carrots).
Insoluble fiber does not absorb or dissolve in water. It adds more bulk to stool and helps food pass more quickly through the intestines. It passes through our digestive system close to its original form. Insoluble fiber is found in wheat bran, whole grains, seeds and skin of fruit. This is why It’s important not to eat the peels!
A diet with plenty of soluble and insoluble fiber helps keep children regular and prevent constipation. Constipation can be caused by too much fiber too, so don’t over do it!
How much fiber do children need?
The Daily Reference Intakes (RDI) provides the following recommendations:
Children 1-3 years: 19 grams of fiber per day
Children 4-8 years: 25 grams of fiber per day
Boys 9-13 years: 31 grams of fiber per day
Girls 9-13 years: 26 grams of fiber per day
Boys 14-19: 38 grams of fiber per day
Girls 14-19: 26 grams of fiber per day