Constipation in children – 8 Tips to increase fiber intake

Is your child getting enough fiber? How to make sure your child gets enough fiber and prevents constipationConstipation is never fun, but when your 2 or 3 year old has abdominal cramps so painful you’re considering a trip to the Emergency Room, or is so terrified of a bowel movement that they refuse to go to the bathroom, you regard it as something more than an inconvenience.

You’re not alone.

Constipation is one of the primary diagnoses for abdominal pains in the pediatric emergency room visits. And while there are medical conditions that might contribute to a child having constipation, for many diet is significant part of the problem. (Severe constipation may result in impaction and obstruction and require medical management)

Registered Dietitian Amanda Gavel shares tips to prevent constipation in children and increase fiber intakeFor many children, the prescription for mild constipation is simply to increase the amount of fiber in the diet. But adding more fruit, vegetables, and fluids to a child’s diet isn’t always so straightforward. Amanda Gavel, Registered Dietitian at Tucson Medical Center shares these tips for increasing the amount of fiber in your child’s diet.

Fiber intake should be increased slowly to allow the gastrointestinal system time to adjust. Increase the intake of fluid/water too.

Tips for increasing the amount of fiber in your child’s diet:

  1. Skins on fresh fruits are a great source of insoluble fiber. For those children who don’t like the peel, cut those apple slices super thin and include the peel.
  2. Use canned pumpkin in baked goods instead of oil or butter.
  3. Add ground flaxseed to baked goods or on cereal or even applesauce or yogurt.
  4. Use a whole grain or high fiber cereal. To start, mix in a more ‘kid-friendly’ cereal with your high fiber cereal.
  5. Increase the amount of whole-wheat pasta versus refined pasta (check the back of the box to make sure that there is a difference in fiber content. Covered in pasta sauce your child may not notice the difference.
  6. Diced tomatoes in a cheese quesadilla, peas to mac and cheese. Adding veggies to favorite dishes can encourage children to eat their veggies.
  7. Add steamed and pureed veggies (or even baby food veggies to save time) to sauces and soups. Keep offering vegetables with meals to help with the child’s acceptance of foods.
  8. Kids learn by example. Be a role model for your child and eat a variety of plant based and high fiber foods.

How much fiber is enough fiber?

Amanda suggests the following recommendation to establish just how much fiber your child should have daily:

Child’s age + (5 to 10) = recommended fiber dosage in grams

Ex. A six year old would have 6 + (5 to 10) = between 11 and 16 grams of fiber per day.

Why preventing constipation in children is important

Amanda explains that constipation is not just an inconvenience, but has implications for later in life.

A poor fiber diet with chronic constipation can lead to hemorrhoids and is thought to be a factor in the development of diverticulosis (with risk of diverticulitis), though this would likely be seen later–more in the adult years.  Fiber is only found in plant-based foods, so eating a low fiber diet typically means a diet of animal derived foods and processed plant foods (such as refined grains, ex. white bread, white pasta, white rice), which has also been connected to chronic disease, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Constipation can actually cause a child to have a poor appetite and could potentially lead to failure to thrive.”

Is your child eating enough fiber?