Prebiotics, an answer to your child’s constipation woes!
Hard stools in children are distressing. Here is a solution that can help put an end to the frequent bouts of constipation.
How many of you spend days on end worrying about your child’s constipation or just hardstools? You may have tried many different things. The problem is, most of the things available over the counter in the pharmacy are for adults.
But, there is a solution that can help children — with Prebiotics
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are carbohydrates that are not digested by the human body but help in making the stools softer and bulkier. They are, in fact, acted upon by beneficial bacteria that reside in our intestines to help in the formation of soft, bulky stools.
One of the most researched prebiotic mixture is GOS/lcFOS (9:1). This is an answer to your child’s bowel movement woes! In fact, this particular prebiotic has been studied for over 20 years and there is strong evidence that this works!
The process of digestion
Before we begin demystifying the scientific jargon, let us take a moment to understand how digestion works.
When your child has her favourite mashed peas, the digestion begins right from the mouth. The saliva starts breaking down the carbohydrates in the food. The food then passes through the digestive track-the food pipe, stomach, intestines and is then thrown out in the form of stools.
Barring a few exceptions, there is an absorption of nutrients and/or water throughout the alimentary canal. Organs like liver, pancreas and gall bladder help in the digestion of food. As the food matter traverses the intestines, it becomes more solid, as more and more water is absorbed from it.
Hard stools are formed when the absorption of the water is more than desired. This often happens when there is inadequate roughage in the food. Roughage is dietary fibres, like the oligosaccharides, that retain water and give the stools a form. Now you can guess why addition of this to the formula is a good idea!
Prebiotics GOS/lcFOS (9:1) mixture
The health benefits of 9:1 mixture of galcto-oligosaccharides with long chain Fructo-oligosaccharides is a validated by over 20 years of research. It forms a base for the normal soft stools to be formed. But in addition, it helps the good bacteria grow in the intestine of your child. This in turn, inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria that cause infections.
Thus it helps in three main ways
- By strengthening the gut protective barrier and making it difficult for harmful bacteria from entering the blood via the gut
- Promoting good bacterial colonies, essential for normal health and wellbeing
- Providing necessary roughage leading to formation of soft stools
Would it work if child has hard stools?
If your child suffers from hard stools, prebiotics would help change the consistency of the stools. They pass undigested to the intestine where they are acted upon by beneficial bacteria. The result: formation if short chain fatty acids. They play an active role in the movement of the bowel.
The bacteria in the stools at this point cause two things. Firstly, as a process of digesting the prebiotics, they release gas. This gas gets trapped, causing lighter stools. The digested fibres and the bacterial cells absorb and retain water in the stools causing the stools to soften. Thus, the quality of bowel movement improves with consumption of prebiotics.
Here is an illustration of how prebiotics Gos/lcFOS (9:1) works.
Result? Reduction in FGIDs
By definition, Functional Gastrointestinal disturbances (FGIDs) are gastrointestinal disorders that include chronic or recurrent symptoms that cannot be explained by obvious structural or biochemical abnormalities1. In children, these are mainly spitting up, colic, and constipation.
Research indicates that 50% of children experience at least one form of FGID early on in life2,3. This causes significant distress to the child, not to mention the emotional and financial distress to the family.
Proper diet, teamed with the regular intake of these oligosaccharides have shown to reduce the symptoms of FGIDs. The softer stools also reduce the abdominal discomfort that usually accompanies constipation.
Reason enough to try it out, right?
- Benninga MA, et al. Gastroenterol, 150(6):1443–55, 2016
- Iacono G, et al. Dig Liver Dis, 37(6): 432–8, 2005.
- Vandenplas Y, et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 61(5): 531–7, 2015.
Dr Anay Bhalerao (MBBS, India) writes about health and wellbeing for TheAsianparent.com. He is exploring a scientific way to raise his child with his wife.