Fiber, water intake for children: Healthy bowel habits

Is your child getting enough fiber in their diet? Do you know how many bowel movements they have per week? Asking children about their bowel habits is not a common conversation at the dinner table, and arguably there are better times to inquire. However, knowing about your child’s bowel habits is an important piece of information about your child’s overall health. As we discussed in our previous blogs, your child should be having more than three bowel movements a week, ideally daily, to fall in the ‘’normal/healthy’’ range. Your child should not need to strain, and they should describe stools that may look snake-like.

If your child is straining in the bathroom and/or having infrequent BM’s, it could be an indicator of dysfunctional voiding habits or a diet that is lacking in enough fiber or water. Water and fiber are a necessity to keep things “moving”.

How Much Fiber do children need?

To calculate how many grams of fiber your child should be getting each day, simply add ‘5’ to their age until the age of ten. So, for example, a 6 year old should be consuming 11 grams of fiber every day. After ten, it is advised that children get the “adult” recommendation of 25-35 grams.Fresh whole fruits and vegetables, bran and whole grains are the best sources of fiber. For example: One cup of oatmeal, one apple or 2 pieces of whole wheat bread each have about 4.0 grams of fiber.

Understanding Types of Fiber

Soluble vs. Insoluble. You don’t need to worry about how much your child eats of each unless directed by a health professional to achieve a specific purpose such as eating more soluble fiber to lower cholesterol. Instead, focus on providing your child a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. This will provide a variety of soluble and insoluble fibers and all of the health benefits.

Read the label. It can be helpful to learn to read nutrition labels to choose foods that are high in fiber. Fruits and vegetables, especially if they are raw and unpeeled, are good choices. Vegetables that are particularly high in fiber include beans (especially baked kidney, navy, pinto and lima beans), sweet potatoes, peas, turnip greens and raw tomatoes.

Other foods that are good for children with constipation include vegetable soups (lots of fiber and added fluid), and popcorn. Extra bran can also be helpful, including bran cereals, bran muffins, shredded wheat, graham crackers, and whole wheat bread.

What if it is difficult to get my child to eat enough fruits and vegetables?
This is a common problem in our time of fast and pre-packaged foods. Vegetables and fruits aren’t always what our kids grab first to eat. While at school, who knows what actually is eaten and what ends up in the garbage? Some other options can include cereals and breads enriched with high fiber. Dried fruit is also a good source fiber, and kids tend to enjoy dried apples, pears, apricots—plus, they are easy to pack in a lunchbox.

If your child is really resistant to eating fruits and vegetables and you are feeling a little desperate, we have found that Juice + Fibre fruit juice is a good choice. Each juice box has 10 grams of fiber and is low in sugar.

How Much Water Should My Child Be Drinking Every Day?
It is probably not a surprise that water is important for the GI tract health but how much is enough? It is generally accepted that kids need 5-8 glasses of water/day. They made need more water if they are active, sick, or recovering from an illness.

Remember: Bottom line, your child should have relatively clear, or yellow tinted urine. Urine should not be dark or smelly! It’s a good thing now and then to check out the scene before they flush.

Kids may not take time to drink water while at school using the drinking fountain. Many schools now allow water bottles for kids to have at their desk that they can refill between classes or during lunchtime. Letting your child pick out a fun reusable water bottle can encourage more water consumption during the day.

Your child’s posture on the toilet matters.
Most toilet seats are made for adults. When kids sit on an adult sized toilet usually their feet dangle and their knees are lower than their hip level. If you remember the days when your child was in diapers, you may recall that they would often squat to have a bowel movement. Squatting on the toilet isn’t a very practical position for safety reasons but putting a stool under their feet can be very helpful and even a stool that is high enough to bring their knees higher than the hips to simulate a squatting position can be quite effective.

Here at Pelvic Wellness Center, we team with parents and children to modify diets for healthier potty habits. If you suspect your child has bladder and bowel problems, contact us today.

An infographic showing different fiber-rich foods for children.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes provide valuable fiber for children.