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Fiber Beats Other Remedies for Constipated Kids, Study Says
Date:9/27/2011

ssed foods. Low-fiber, "white" diets, replete with bread, pasta, rice, crackers and dairy products, are mostly to blame for the 3 percent estimated prevalence of chronic constipation among children in the Western world, experts said. In addition to infrequent stools, the condition is characterized by abdominal pain and "fecal incontinence," or uncontrollable soiling caused by leaking stool.

Over time, chronic constipation may impair a child's development and disrupt psychological and social functioning, the authors pointed out.

Dr. Howard Bennett, a pediatrician in Washington, D.C., and author of It Hurts When I Poop! A Story for Children Who Are Scared to Use the Potty, said the first thing many doctors do is ask parents about a constipated child's diet and suggest either cutting back on white foods and adding fiber-rich foods and supplements, or both. Stool softeners and other gentle medications may also be recommended, he said.

"We can't force a 3-year-old or an 8-year-old to eat a prune . . . so if we cut back on cheese and highly processed foods and increase fruits and vegetables . . . we find most of these kids do better," Bennett said.

Samuels and Bennett said they recommend stimulant laxatives -- which are thought to be potentially habit-forming -- after other options are exhausted.

"By and large, we see these kids pooping," Bennett said. "Often parents won't use enough (medications) or use them long enough. Constipation is not a serious problem, but you have to take it seriously . . . or the ability to evacuate gets worse."

More information

The U.S. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse has more information about constipation.

SOURCES: Merit Tabbers, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric gastroenterologist, Emma Children's Hospital, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Howa
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