Are Chronic Digestive Complaints the Result of Abnormal Dietary Patterns?
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We studied 149 healthy children at 22 months of age and 74 at 40 months of age, employing a 24-hour dietary record based on premailed food measurement guide and telephone questionnaire. Parents cooperated in 94% of contacts. Chronic digestive complaints decreased from 27% to 5% of the sample over the study period: constipation from 16% to 3%, chronic diarrhea from 8% to 1%, and abdominal pain from 5% to 1%. Excessive fluid intake (1470 +/- 600 vs 840 +/- 300 mL/d) correlated most strongly for seven children at 22 months experiencing alternating symptoms of chronic diarrhea and constipation or abdominal pain. Many other children tolerated dietary extremes without complaint. All macronutrient categories except dietary fiber intake increased over the study period. Thus, excessive fluid intake may provoke symptoms suggesting the irritable bowel syndrome in a susceptible group of younger children. Failure to increase fiber intake from 22 to 40 months of age leaves children on an immature diet whose effects require further study.
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