A review of the literature, Are Diet and Constipation Related in Children?, revealed that diet and constipation have not been adequately studied in order to prove or disprove this. Constipation is often poorly defined in children and parents often base their views of what constitutes constipation on their own expectations and patterns, as well as their own cultural background. As this review alludes to, this makes it very difficult to study constipation and it creates confusion when comparing studies, depending on whether or not constipation is defined by parents or by a practitioner.
This review also revealed very little literature that studied the effects of diet on constipation. The most common pathology found in the literature were painful bowel movements that led to stool-retentive constipation. Three studies regarding fiber intake found that constipated children had lower fiber intakes than nonconstipated children, but this is not proof of causation. To prove this would be very difficult and would require a very large, prospective population study over a number of years. Juice and fluid intake have both been studied, although not very well, but have not proven to be useful as treatment for constipation. Milk-protein sensitivity and celiac disease may be linked to constipation, although again, this has not been adequately studied.
The result of this literature review is that diet and constipation haven’t been adequately studied, so dietary changes for constipated children are not linked to science, except with increasing fiber intake. Parents who are taking care of children with encopresis are well informed that changing the diet does not fix the issue, but it is interesting to find such a lack of literature and science regarding diet, since so many people believe diet is a major cause of constipation.