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Diet & Health : Children & Women Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Childhood constipation can be serious
By Sarah Han
Nov 26, 2008 - 2:15:08 PM

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Wednesday Nov 26, 2008 ( -- A study scheduled to be published in early 2009 in The Journal of Pediatrics found that treatment for childhood constipation in the United States was costly, about $4 billion each year.


Childhood constipation can be serious leading to surgery in some cases. Children often eat less fiber-rich fruits and vegetables than adults and they are prone to having problems with bowel movements.


The study found that one in every four children had constipation at some point in time due to a variety of reasons such as not eating enough fiber, not wanting to use unfamiliar bathrooms or simply ignoring the urge to go while playing.


"Despite being considered by many a relatively benign condition, childhood constipation has been shown to be associated with a significantly decreased quality of life," said Doctor Carlo Di Lorenzo at Nationwide Children's Hospital.


The study was based on a nationally representative survey of children under 18 years of age who were diagnosed with constipation or prescribed a laxative over two-consecutive years between 2003 and 2004 inclusive.


"Parents should talk to their children about their bathroom habits and make sure they are having a bowel movement at least every other day," said Hayat Mousa, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital and a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.


"For mild cases of constipation, prune or apple juice, high-fiber cereal, or over-the-counter softeners or laxatives made for children may help. If the problem persists, parents should seek the advice of a medical professional."


A health observer affiliated with suggested that cooked sweet potatoes can be often consumed to effectively prevent constipation in children.   He observed that sweet potatoes might be more effective than other common foods like cereal or prune juice, which are often recommended by pediatricians.


Another good way to avoid constipation, he suggested, is to reduce intake of dairy products, which could be hard for babies, but possible for toddlers and older children.   It is observed that dairy and other animal-based foods tend to stay longer than plant-based foods.

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