Dietary factors that cause, worsen, or relieve constipation.
Normal stool patterns vary and are different for every one. Some may have a bowel movement more than once a day while others may have one every other day, but normal stools should not be painful or difficult to pass.
Constipation is defined as infrequent bowel movements that are hard and difficult to pass. It can occur chronically or infrequently. Constipation may result from a diet too low in fiber or fluid, from inadequate activity, or from a medical condition.
Vegetables, fruits (especially dried fruits) and some cereals such as whole wheat, bran or oatmeal are excellent sources of fiber. It is easy to remember that the harder a vegetable is (like celery), the more fiber it has. To reap the benefits of fiber, however, it is very important to drink an adequate amount of water to help with the passage of stool in the intestines.
Babies who are breastfed usually do not experience constipation, bottle fed infants often do. Dietary changes that may help alleviate constipation in infants are as follows.
1. Offer one to two ounces of apple or prune juice from the bottle or by spoon.
2. Babies who have advanced to solids may be offered more fruits and vegetables or small amounts of bran sprinkled on top of cereal (about one teaspoon).
3. Babies age birth to six month should receive most of their fluids from breastmilk or formula.
The diets of older babies and toddlers should start to reflect the recommendations of the food guide pyramid.
Offer fruits and vegetables with chunkier textures (as opposed to strained). Begin to offer more whole-grain breads and cereals as your child begins to tolerate a wider variety of foods. Be sure your child is drinking adequate amounts of fluid, pay attention to this as formula or breastmilk feedings decrease.
CHILDREN AND TEENS
The food guide pyramid is an excellent guide for choosing an appropriate diet. Choose whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Bran cereals can help as do prunes and prune juice.
Adequate fluid intake (8-10 cups a day) is also important in preventing constipation. Fluids other than water are acceptable in children because they require calories for growth.
Fluid requirements vary for children based on their size, activity level, and temperature. To assure adequate fluids offer water, milk, juice, and other beverages often, more frequently during exercise and in extreme heat.
A diet high in vegetables and bran cereals is very effective in treating and preventing constipation. As mentioned above, adequate water intake is crucial as is exercise. Exercise aids with the movement of stool in the intestines. This lifestyle is especially important for the elderly, for whom constipation is very common.
PERSISTENT (LONGER THAN ONE OR TWO DAYS), FREQUENT, OR RECURRING EPISODES OF CONSTIPATION SHOULD BE REPORTED TO YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER AS IT MAY SIGNAL AN UNDERLYING CONDITION.
by Mamikon Bozoyan, M.D.
All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.