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Effectiveness of using a behavioural intervention to improve dietary fibre intakes in children with constipation

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Background:  Functional constipation is common in childhood; diets in affluent industrialised countries may be a significant contributory factor as a result of inadequate fibre content. Only a few intervention studies have been reported where childhood constipation has been treated by increasing dietary fibre. The present study aimed to demonstrate that dietary fibre intakes of children with constipation can be increased using a specifically‐designed behaviour modification technique with a self‐monitoring and reward system.

Methods:  Forty‐three children, aged 2–14 years, with functional constipation (defined as less than three bowel movements per week with hard stools and difficulty or delay in defecation) were randomised to one of two treatment groups: Control (n = 20), receiving general advice on increasing dietary fibre intake, or Intervention (n = 23), using the intervention tool. Fibre intake, laxative use and stool frequency were assessed at baseline, and at 3, 6 and 12 months, using parent‐filled diaries.

Results:  A behavioural intervention method significantly increases the fibre intakes of children with constipation at 3 months compared to standard dietary treatment (P = 0.005), remaining so after adjusting for baseline fibre intake (P = 0.007). Follow‐up at 6 and 12 months showed no further increase. No significant benefit in terms of a reduction in laxative use or increased stool frequency associated with additional fibre intake was demonstrated.

Conclusions:  The findings confirm the difficulties encountered in beginning and maintaining high‐fibre diets in children.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Paediatrics, Level 2, Children’s Hospital, John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK 2: Centre for Statistics in Medicine, Wolfson College Annexe, Oxford, UK

Publication date: 2012-02-01

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