You Want Fiber with That?
8/1/2010 12:00:00 AM
Have you ever thought of fiber helping to “clean the cobwebs” out of the bowel system? Dr. Deb Winburn, with Overland Park’s Premier Pediatrics, explains “Soluble fiber (whole grains, fruits and vegetables) not only transport vital nutrients (to) where they can be absorbed, but also ‘drag’ water along to flush out waste products.”
“Diets with little fiber promote slow gut function, and therefore allow more time for stool to sit in the bowel,” according to Winburn. “The result – a dry bowel movement which can be difficult to pass.”
Melissa Mereghetti, a Kansas City pediatric registered dietitian, instructs her patients to eat the recommended soluble daily fiber. “Try to make half of your grains come from whole grains by changing from white bread, white pasta, white tortillas and white rice to whole wheat (products),” she says. “If your kids seem resistant at first, you can mix whole wheat pasta with regular pasta, or white rice with brown rice.”
Increasing Children’s Fiber:
Mereghetti advises to increase fiber intake gradually to ensure that your child tolerates it well. Begin the day by offering a higher fiber breakfast cereal (at least 3 grams of fiber/serving). She also suggests, “Top cereal with fruit for extra fiber and nutrients. Whole fruits provide more fiber than fruit juice.”
At snack time, provide vegetables with dip or peanut butter. Smoothies, popcorn, whole wheat crackers and homemade trail mix are also great choices, Mereghetti counsels. For dinner, set out a plate of fruit or vegetables to go along with your meal.
Prevention of Constipation:
Winburn says, “It doesn’t take long for toddlers to associate hard or painful stools with the act of passing them. This can result in withholding or toileting refusal.”
“Failure to eliminate fecal matter leads to decreased appetite for solids and liquids, which leads to dehydration and a larger stool load. Increasing liquids (16-32 oz. daily), increasing fiber, and the addition of softening agents (juices, raisins, prunes, etc.) are instrumental in correcting constipation.”
She also recommends exercise and a scheduled time to sit on the stool after a meal as essential elements of regular stooling. “Unfortunately, ‘slow guts’ run in families.”
“Added fiber supplements can help with bowel irritation or constipation,” says Winburn.” She advises these should only replace fiber when you cannot get the child to eat the fruits and vegetables. The real thing is better if possible, but it’s nice to know there is a backup plan for those picky eaters.
Stacey Hatton is an Overland Park pediatric nurse, mom of two daughters and freelance writer.