Constipation In Children: How Prebiotic Inulin Can Help

Constipation In Children: How Prebiotic Inulin Can Help

Functional constipation is a common digestive issue with children. Constipation is associated with less frequent bowel movements – fewer than three per week, reduced faecal bulk and harder stools. This leads to gastrointestinal discomfort and may contribute to both physical and behavioural issues. More frequent bowel movements, through a reduction in transit time, increased faecal bulk, and softer stools, contributes to the normal bowel movements.

Experts recommend simple dietary or lifestyle changes to improve chronic constipation. Because there are many causes of constipation, treatment depends on the doctor’s findings and diagnosis. After serious problems are excluded, the doctor may recommend simple measures like adding fibre, bran or a bulking agent to the diet. Clinical studies have shown that inulin supplementation leads to an increased frequency of bowel movements and relief in constipation.

What is inulin?

Inulin is a natural, plant-derived source of non-digestible carbohydrate and dietary fibre. The lower gut depends on fibre to create soft, bulky and regular stools and the beneficial bacteria that impact the child’s overall health. Insoluble fibres that are part of foods pass through the colon without breaking down and form the basis for stool. Soluble fibres, including the beneficial prebiotics inulin and oligofructose, produce gases that fertilise the healthy bacteria that live in the lower gut. Together and when consumed in adequate quantities, soluble and insoluble fibres help improve constipation, nutrient absorption, immunity to disease, the symptoms of other lower gut conditions like IBS and IBD, anxiety, and more.

Unfortunately, many children, like many adults, don’t get enough fibre. Good bacteria live off of fibres within the diet, which is why high-fibre foods like fruit, leafy greens and beans/legumes are said to be good for gut health. Making these foods a regular part of the child’s diet, and cutting down on refined flour and processed artificial foods will help. In the absence of adequate intake of the right foods, the consequences of constipation of children’s health can be serious:

  • Constipation can lead to various complications like nausea, abdominal pain, or
    rectal bleeding caused by anal fissure in children
  • Children diagnosed with chronic issues like irritable bowel syndrome with
    constipation, for example, are more likely to report weight loss.
  • Digestive issues in children can impact their immunity, leaving them vulnerable to possible illnesses and infections.
  • Poor digestion leads to unfavourable changes in the child’s appetite. Inadequate absorption of nutrients can impact the child’s growth and their development of physical and mental abilities.

The way inulin works

Most plants have both soluble and insoluble fibres to varying degrees. Prebiotics, especially inulin and oligofructose, are soluble fibres. These fibres have shown multiple, significant health benefits. One of them is constipation-relief in children and adults. By increasing faecal biomass and water content of the stools, inulin can improve bowel habits, and cause significant changes in the composition of the gut microflora by increasing the number of potentially health-promoting bacteria and reducing the number of potentially harmful variety. Researchers who looked at data from a range of clinical trials found that inulin can have a positive effect on stool frequency and consistency.

How inulin reduces constipation

Because of its chemical composition, when inulin is mixed with liquid it forms a creamy gel. This structure is similar to lipids or fats that also help lubricate the digestive system and lessen risk for hemorrhoids. Not only does inulin work by increasing faecal biomass and water content of stools, but it also positively affects gastrointestinal functions and rapidly ferment in the colon to produce healthy bacteria.

Where is inulin found?

Inulin can be found in 36,000 types of plants. The best source of inulin is chicory roots but onion, garlic, and some whole grains like wheat and raw barley are also good sources. Here’s a list of natural sources of inulin:

  • Ground chicory root fiber
  • Dandelion root
  • Asparagus
  • Leeks and onions
  • Bananas
  • Wheat bran
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Fresh herbs
  • Yams.

Inulin supplementation

  • Inulin powder supplements are high in fibre and can be incorporated into your daily diet by dissolving into drinks or food.
  • Inulin prebiotics, often added to probiotic supplements to boost their effects.
  • Inulin added to fiber formulas, bars, cereals, meal replacements, etc.

What should be the dosage?

According to a 2007 report published in ‘The Journal of Nutriton’, “Inulin-type fructans have been used in infants and children because of their prebiotic potential to modulate the intestinal flora and influence the innate and adaptive immune response favorably. A mixture of long chain inulin (5-60 monomers) in combination with galactooligosaccharides (GOS) (2-7 monomers) has been added to infant formula in Europe in a 10-90% ratio for over 5 years. Clinical studies have demonstrated that these prebiotic formulas have significant effects on flora composition, improve stool consistency, decrease intestinal permeability, and reduce the incidence of gastrointestinal (GI) and respiratory infections and atopic dermatitis.”

Observes a 2007 research published in ‘The Journal of Nutrition’, “Addition of the inulin/GOS mixture in weaning foods of 4- to 6-month-old infants in a daily dose of 4.5 g during 6 week succeeded in increasing the Bifidus population from 43–57% of the fecal flora. A consistent clinical effect obtained by prebiotic formula is softer stools.”

Another study, undertaken in 2006 and published in the journal ‘Acta Paediatrica’ notes that “prebiotic enrichment of formula for premature infants at 1 g/dL during 2 week lowered stool viscosity and shortened intestinal transit time.”

For toddlers undergoing antibiotic therapy, “a mixture of oligofructose and inulin (70/30 Prebio 1) at 2.25 g/d for 3 wk is protective of the Bifidus flora during amoxicillin treatment” was recommended in ‘The Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition’ in 2004.

Speak with your healthcare practitioner to find out what type of product and dose might be best for your child. Inulin is relatively easy to incorporate into a variety of fresh foods and drinks.

Choosing a formula that includes prebiotics and probiotics will help improve GI flora with the right bacteria, as well as improve habitual constipation. It will go a long way in helping your child’s gut issues and immunity and have protective effects against infections, colic, crying, irritability, regurgitation, or vomiting. It will improve your little one’s health by increasing the absorption of essential nutrients from food that they have and strengthen their immunity for a healthy, happy growth.


With their still-developing immune systems, young children commonly experience constipation, diarrhoea, and other digestive health problems. Adding prebiotics to their diet helps. Infant studies have already shown that prebiotics of non-milk origin can mimic the prebiotic effect of breastfeeding and, consequently, have positive effects on the children’s development of the immune system and digestion.

Inulin is a prebiotic dietary fibre that is used by your gut’s good bacteria. As dietary fiber, inulin can stimulate and helps keep the child’s bowels regular and prevent constipation which is important for their overall gastrointestinal health. Inulin can help repair the gut microbiome when it’s been damaged by gastrointestinal diseases. Studies have shown that a healthy gut is linked to a healthy mind. A diverse microbiome and healthy stooling pattern can be linked to reduced anxiety, crankiness and depression in children, making it useful for a child’s physical and mental wellbeing.


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