Do Bananas constipate??
June 15, 2009 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Do Bananas constipate or do they do the opposite? My daughter needs to eat foods that make stool soft. Some people have told me to feed her bananas and others say to stay away from them. Which is the truth? My daughter is five years old.

Also, my daughter takes Miralax to make things soft. Is there any alternative to this? Like an herb or some natural vitamin/herb/spice combo that she could take instead?


posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bananas are a binding food, so I'd avoid those if the intention is to keep things moving along painlessly. What about some bran? There are some great muffin recipes out there that will get things moving along nicely. Also, some good tips here.
posted by jquinby at 7:13 AM on June 15, 2009

Bananas and rice bind. Most fruit will soften, but she needs fiber - look at the labels of everything you feed her and see if there is a slightly more fiber rich version you could replace it with. As much fruit and vegetables and you can get her to eat, hold back on the wheat and simple carbs. Hydration is key, as well.
posted by 8dot3 at 7:16 AM on June 15, 2009

Bananas are part of the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet which is a treatment for diarrhea and other gastro issues of the same.

Try pears and grapes.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:21 AM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Things that soften: Flax seeds (whole). Largish doses of vitamin C. I've also heard of Senna leaf tea, though I've never tried it. Also, anecdotally, I find that romaine lettuce has laxative effects.

For a source of fiber, oat bran makes a surprisingly delicious warm breakfast cereal - I find it very similar to cream of wheat. I cook it in the microwave with milk for about three minutes.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:25 AM on June 15, 2009

Kiwis make a nice stool softener.
posted by HFSH at 7:28 AM on June 15, 2009

This is not something I've looked into in detail, but my vague understanding is that this:

Constipation is a common complaint in childhood, and the etiology of many healthcare referrals. Despite literature documenting the high frequency of this problem, there is little research directly relating the food consumed and the eventual stool consistency. There is literature suggesting the importance of adequate fiber intake in children to maintain soft stools. Other dietary modifications actually have not been shown to be helpful or are not based on actual clinical studies. The presence of dietary allergies may also contribute to etiology of constipation. More studies to provide further linkages between diet and constipation are clearly needed.

is a good summary of current thinking.

(The BRAT diet has been discredited.)
posted by kmennie at 7:49 AM on June 15, 2009

an herb or some natural vitamin/herb/spice combo that she could take instead?

Do not try herbs as an alternative treatment for constipation. Herbal laxatives include some of the harshest, must uncomfortable, and unhealthy of laxatives, regardless of their "natural" source. Don't give your child any herbal remedy that contains senna, in particular, unless your daughter's doctor specifically tells you to. It's a stimulant laxative that causes painful cramping and can cause laxative dependence.

Psyllium fiber is sometimes referred to as an herbal laxative. It's pretty harmless, unlike senna, since it's just fiber. It's still probably best to use it only on your daughter's doctor's recommendation.

If your daughter eats wheat, substitute 100% whole wheat bread for all of the white bread she now eats. The label must specifically say "100% whole wheat", though, or else it's probably white bread with a little whole wheat and some caramel coloring added to make it look healthier than it is.
posted by Ery at 8:20 AM on June 15, 2009

I find that added fatty and capsaicin-laden foods make my business get moving easy. But I've never had and issue with blockage/back-up-age, nor am I five nor am I your doctor.
posted by ZaneJ. at 8:45 AM on June 15, 2009

It might be a hydration/electrolyte balance problem-- a little pedialyte or tomato juice couldn't hurt. Oats, apple wedges and veggie sticks are great for soluble fiber.
posted by aquafortis at 8:49 AM on June 15, 2009

Data point: My daughter had some constipation problems, and her pediatrician suggested we stop feeding her rice cereal and bananas.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:31 AM on June 15, 2009

posted by aielen at 10:14 AM on June 15, 2009

Whole wheat and apples are great for this.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2009

Prunes? Prunes were traditionally eaten for just that effect, so much so that they got a bad rap and are now called dried plums. We we told not to eat too many for that reason.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:18 AM on June 15, 2009

Here's a link to a google about prunes as stool softener.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:21 AM on June 15, 2009

In addition to the advice above, I've found that simply reducing the amount of sugar and other refined carbs in my kids' diet helps a lot.
posted by sively at 10:57 AM on June 15, 2009

bananas constipate. try prune juice to loosen things up - works for my 2 year old.
posted by spoons at 11:38 AM on June 15, 2009

I find that bananas tend to regulate, neither binding or otherwise.

For the effect she needs, add raisins, apricots, traditional oatmeal, more water, more fruits, more vegetables, beans. Things that are yummy: Apple or peach crisp, orange juice, a handful of apricots or raisins, whole wheat fig newtons, oatmeal with a little brown sugar, baked sweet potato with a little heart-healthy 'butter,' baked beans. Less cheese, less refined white flour, less meat. Make sure she has some oil in her diet; olive oil is healthy. If she has had hard poops, it may have been uncomfortable, and she may be trying not to poop.
posted by theora55 at 11:58 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

So, bananas are a good source of soluble fibre, as are other fruits that you eat without the peel (helpful memory tip: you get mostly soluble fibre from the "insides" of plants, like fruit flesh, and you get mostly insoluble fibre from the "outsides" of plants, such as bran and vegetables with woody stems, like celery.)

Soluble fibre creates gels in liquid. It also slows down the food going through your gut, which means more water gets sucked out of the food in your large intestine. So, it can bind stools, making them more thick and viscous.

Insoluble fibre adds more bulk to stool, and accelerates the food going through your gut, making it less dense and easier to pass.

Good sources of insoluble fibre are: bran, whole grains, and most vegetables. But one needs to ensure they drink plenty of water if increasing the amount of insoluble fibre in the diet.

Prunes and prune juice are a time-honoured natural laxative, as they contain a substance called dihydroxyphenyl isatin. Honey apparently can also have a laxative effect. Physical activity can also help, as can eating breakfast and drinking a hot beverage in the morning (seems to stimulate the GI tract to get amovin.')

Good luck!
posted by peggynature at 1:12 PM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by effluvia at 6:19 PM on June 15, 2009

I have noticed carers putting prune juice, smoothie and yoghurt with honey in somebody's diet plan for this purpose.
posted by yoHighness at 6:27 PM on June 15, 2009

apple juice!
posted by spinturtle at 6:47 PM on June 15, 2009

I'm seconding kiwifruit.
Just one should be fine.
posted by Elysum at 7:30 PM on June 15, 2009

honey dissolved in warm water works for me
posted by mirileh at 5:46 AM on June 16, 2009

Blueberries! (Also kiwi and watermelon as mentioned above). The blueberries rock, though.
posted by mdiskin at 7:46 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

kmennie - To put a finer point on it, the BRAT diet has not been discredited for children, or anyone else, suffering from diarrhea. People have been discredited. The problem was that people would see one soft stool, shriek diarrha, and put their healthy kid on a very limited diet for a week which is insane.

It's just like the thing about "no need to rinse wounds the way we used to," because all you need to do is "ensure there is nothing in the wound to cause infection" which means that most childhood wounds need to be rinsed thoroughly because kids don't tend to hurt themselves with stainless steel knives, they tend to hurt themselves with sticks and the edges of furniture and plastic toys covered with jelly.

Just a sore point with me, as I had to deal with some brochures that lead with "EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG!" and then wound down to "and by wrong, we mean 'exactly what we had been saying all along."'

Lynnie-the-Pooh - You really should go over this in detail with the child's doctor. Why the MiraLAX?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:36 PM on June 16, 2009

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