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Do my kids really need more fiber?

Updated: Jan 14


So, I know what you are thinking. Does my child really need to eat more fiber? My child is a picky eater and there is no way I can get him to eat more fiber! Is fiber really that important?


Believe me, I get it. Kids are picky eaters and they often don’t eat what you want them too. But the answer is yes, fiber is really that important. And here’s why.


THE CLINICAL PERSPECTIVE

Imagine your child comes to you in excruciating abdominal pain – nothing like he’s ever experienced before. You are frightened and for a moment you don’t know what to do. The pain is getting worse. He’s crying and moaning in pain. He can’t walk. You panic on the inside. The pain is so bad that you take him straight to the emergency room. They do a full work-up and then the doctor comes back in the room and says, “Your child has constipation”. Come again. Constipation! All of this for constipation!


I’ve seen scenarios like that happen ALL the time. I’ve seen kids of all different ages admitted for bowel cleanouts. This means your child will get a tube placed in her nose that goes to her stomach. A special fluid is given through that tube to help get the stool out. She also has to have rectal enemas every two hours. The child is miserable. You do this all day and night. It’s still not enough. She now needs to go to the Operating Room for a manual disimpaction. Yes, this means your child needs sedation because of constipation. She finally gets cleaned out and she is able to go home. But, in a few weeks later, she’s back, FOR THE SAME THING. This ACTUALLY happens in kids. More frequently than it should. Can you imagine doing this every few weeks?


I’ve also seen kids come into the hospital looking nine months pregnant. Instead of a human baby, they have a stool baby. No joke. The child’s colon has stretched and stretched to hold all that stool that it no longer works the way it should. It can’t push the stool out like it should. A vicious cycle. Once all of the stool is out (see above), we need a new plan. The new plan is to send her home on daily large volume rectal enemas. For 6 months to 1 year until her colon shrinks back down.


All of the above scenarios can be prevented. More fiber, more fluids, more activity.


PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE

Children, teens, and adults in the U.S have very low intakes of dietary fiber. It is so poor in fact, that dietary fiber intake for the U.S population is now considered a public health concern. This is coming from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. What does this mean exactly? And what is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025?


If you haven’t heard of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is a science based guideline of what Americans should eat and drink every day with the goal of promoting health, reducing chronic diseases, and meeting nutrient needs. Basically, it’s the bible for what we should eat every day. It is updated every 5 years by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). And now it provides guidelines for each stage of life, from infants through older adults


This guideline states that there are four dietary components of public health concern for Americans: calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and dietary fiber. Americans simply do not eat enough of these powerful nutrients and low intakes are associated with health concerns.


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