Is There a Fiber Supplement for Kids with Allergies?

We’ve written a few blogs in the past relating to fiber and prebiotics. One of them discussed what fiber is, and why it’s good for us and another touched on prebiotic fiber. In a previous blog that I wrote, I mentioned that I decided to supplement my all-Neocate diet with fiber. If you feel your child might benefit from a fiber supplement, we have some tips to help you choose the right one!

Know what your child needs

Before exploring the options, make sure to check with your child’s healthcare team to be sure that additional fiber is needed. As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, fiber can help to improve gut health. For many folks, adding fiber can mean being more “regular,” which would be a decrease in constipation, diarrhea, or both. Your child’s healthcare team will consider the symptoms your child has, his or her medical condition, the amount of fiber he or she is getting, and whether or not more fiber might be helpful. Nutricia already has the only amino acid-based formula with fiber (Neocate Junior with Prebiotics), which can help meet your little one’s fiber needs.

Know what’s available

Fiber comes in MANY different forms, and is found in a variety of foods. The best sources of dietary fiber are fruits, vegetables, beans (or “legumes”), nuts, and whole grains. However, many children on an elemental diet are limited in one or more of these food groups. They may be especially limited in processed foods, or foods that might include fiber but also have an allergen (such as whole grain bread, which can often have dairy or egg ingredients). Again, be sure to check with the healthcare team to see if the foods your child is eating meet his or her fiber needs.

While there is a lot of variety in the types of fiber in whole foods, the types of supplemental fiber tend to be an isolated single type of fiber. For instance, many fiber supplements are bran-based. They use the outer husk of a grain to provide both soluble and insoluble fiber. Since insoluble fiber tends to speed digestion along, it may not be the best choice.

Another common form of fiber supplement is an isolated fiber, either soluble or insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves easily, so it mixes well into Neocate Junior, Neocate Splash, or Neocate Nutra. It can help slow movement through the gut, and can help add bulk to stool. This is the type of fiber we include in Neocate Junior with Prebiotics. Many of these isolated fiber supplements are inulin, which is derived from the root of the chicory plant, which poses low risk for most children with allergies.

Know what questions to ask

One of the best questions to ask is what the source of the fiber is. For children with a wheat allergy, a fiber source which is derived from wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oat might not be appropriate. For those, a parent should look for a “gluten-free” claim or contact the company for more information.

Some fiber supplements carry the label “non-allergenic” or “hypoallergenic.” It’s always best to contact the company and ask them exactly what they mean with these terms. Also be sure to ask what the source of the fiber is and whether or not the product poses any risks for your little one’s specific allergies or sensitivities.

If your child’s healthcare team recommends supplementing fiber, make sure to ask how much to add and how to start using it. It’s best to introduce more fiber to the diet slowly and increase it gradually instead of adding the full dose all at once. This gives the body time to adjust to the change. Fiber should also be spread out throughout the day.

Do you have questions about choosing the right fiber supplement?  Let us know in the “Comments” section below.

Rob McCandlish, RDN

Published: 08/11/2011
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