You ponder, “Is porridge good for IBS?” on a crisp, winter’s morning and your little one sits at the kitchen table.
You’re not alone in wondering whether porridge can be your child’s gut-friendly morning hero.
I’m a registered paediatric dietitian, so I understand your concerns about your child’s gut health.
This article delves into porridge’s potential to comfort your child with IBS and general tummy troubles.
We’ll explore porridge’s nutrition facts and confirm whether this breakfast staple can soothe a sensitive tummy.
Oats vs oatmeal vs porridge – what’s the difference?
Have you ever wondered about the fine line between oats, oatmeal and porridge and which one is best for children?
Then this article will clarify the differences.
Oats are whole grains, while oatmeal is what you get when those oats are ground into a coarse or fine powder.
Porridge, however, takes it a step further, turning oatmeal into a warm, comforting dish by cooking it with water or milk.
But, you might wonder, how does this relate to IBS and its dietary nuances?
Let’s explore precisely that next. Is one of these options more IBS-friendly than the others? Let’s dive in.
How do oats affect IBS symptoms?
Let’s unravel the magic of oats in soothing IBS symptoms in children.
Oats are more than just a nutritious option; they are a source of non-digestible carbohydrates like resistant starch and beta-glucans.
This holds significant relevance for your child’s gut health.
Oats contain resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that isn’t fully digested in the small intestine.
Instead, it reaches the large intestine (or colon), where it’s a feast for the beneficial gut bacteria that reside there.
When the gut bacteria feed on resistant starch, it results in the production of short-chain fatty acids.
Short-chain fatty acids promote a healthy gut environment, provide desirable prebiotic properties and therefore optimal functioning of the gut.
For children with IBS, this can be particularly advantageous.
The positive impact of resistant starch on the gut microbiome may help alleviate discomfort associated with IBS long-term.
Furthermore, oats are usually well-tolerated by both children and adults with IBS.
This is because they are generally low in fermentable carbohydrates known as FODMAPs.
FODMAPs can trigger digestive distress such as bloating, diarrhoea or constipation in some people with IBS.
However, if your child is not used to eating fibre-rich foods, a bowl of porridge may cause some gas and discomfort at first.
Instead, start with a smaller portion of oats and gradually increase portion sizes.
In summary, oats can have a positive impact on IBS symptoms, primarily by providing soluble fibre that can improve bowel regularity.
Why is porridge good for IBS
If you are wondering why porridge is often considered a wise choice for children with IBS, let’s dive into the delicious details.
Porridge, primarily made from oats, is a champion when it comes to managing IBS symptoms in kids.
Gentle on Tiny Tummies
Porridge prepared with oats are usually well-tolerated by children with IBS because they are low in fermentable carbohydrates known as FODMAPs.
This gentle quality makes porridge suitable for managing IBS symptoms.
Cooked oats are also a great choice for children struggling with constipation or diarrhoea (keep reading to find out why).
Nutritional Goodness In Porridge
You can increase the nutritional value of porridge by adding gut-friendly foods like nut butter or fruit.
Porridge is usually also prepared with milk which is an important source of protein, iodine and calcium for growing children.
Are oats good for constipation?
Oats are excellent for alleviating constipation, both in children and adults.
Their richness in dietary fibre, specifically in the form of soluble fibre called beta-glucan, plays a pivotal role.
This type of soluble fibre has a unique talent for absorbing water, resulting in a gel-like consistency within the digestive tract.
For children with IBS, especially when constipation is the predominant symptom, oats are a go-to solution.
The gel-like substance formed by soluble fibre aids in softening stools and encourages regular bowel movements.
This ultimately reduces the discomfort that is often associated with constipation.
So, if you or your child are dealing with constipation, consider adding oats to your diet for natural relief.
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Are oats good for IBS diarrhoea?
Oats in porridge can be a helpful addition to the diet, especially for those experiencing IBS diarrhoea-predominant symptoms.
While oats are generally recognised for their beneficial impact on constipation due to their soluble fibre content, they can also play a role in managing diarrhoea in some cases.
The soluble fibre in oats, specifically beta-glucan, helps regulate bowel movements by adding bulk to the stool.
In cases of diarrhoea, this bulking effect can absorb excess water in the digestive tract.
This makes stools firmer and potentially reduces the frequency of diarrhoea episodes.
However, it’s important to remember that children with IBS have varying sensitivities and triggers for their symptoms.
While some may find oats beneficial for managing diarrhoea, others might not tolerate them well.
As such, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian who can provide personalised guidance on incorporating oats into the diet and monitoring their effects on IBS symptoms.
Also Read: Toddlers Diarrhoea & IBS Connection
Other benefits of oats and porridge
Oats offer a multitude of benefits beyond their role in managing IBS symptoms.
Here are some of the notable advantages:
Improving Gut Health with Oats
Oats served as porridge offer several benefits beyond just managing IBS symptoms.
It can be a valuable addition to your child’s diet to improve their overall gut health.
The secret lies in their rich content of fermentable fibres, particularly beta-glucan and resistant starch.
This remarkable fibre has a special talent for promoting a healthy digestive system.
This makes porridge good for IBS and supports general gut health.
Oats are a filling food due to their high fibre content.
Consuming oats can help control appetite, making it easier to manage and maintain a healthy weight.
Oat beta-glucan has been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol.
Beta-glucans in oats also contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease.
Stable Blood Sugar
Consumption of beta-glucans from oats or barley as part of a meal contributes to the reduction of the blood glucose rise after that meal.
This means that oats don’t cause rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.
This is beneficial for children and adults with diabetes or those looking to maintain stable energy levels.
Oats are a good source of essential nutrients.
It is a source of vitamins (like B vitamins), minerals (such as magnesium and iron), and antioxidants.
They provide a well-rounded nutritional boost.
Oat Fibre for Digestive Health
The fibre in oat grains contributes to an increase in faecal bulk, which can support healthy digestion.
Oat fibre is particularly unique as it can be beneficial for relieving both constipation and loose or watery stools.
The antioxidants in oats can benefit skin health.
Oatmeal is often used in skincare products to soothe and moisturise the skin, making it suitable for sensitive or irritated skin.
Oats contain other antioxidants such as avenanthramides, which help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
Reduced Blood Pressure
Some studies suggest that regular oat consumption may contribute to lower blood pressure, which is essential for cardiovascular health.
Oats are incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into various dishes. Think, breakfast cereals, smoothies and granola to savoury meals like soups and stews.
Economical and Sustainable
Oats are an affordable and environmentally sustainable food source, making them an eco-friendly choice for those concerned about their carbon footprint.
Including oats in your family’s diet can provide a wide range of health benefits, making them a nutritious and practical addition to your daily meals.
What about oat bran for kids?
Oat bran isn’t just a grown-up’s delight; it can be a fantastic addition to your child’s diet too.
Here’s why oat bran is a healthy choice for kids:
Oat bran is bursting with soluble and fermentable fibres, called beta-glucans.
This fibre is like a superhero for your child’s heart.
It can help keep their cholesterol levels in check, supporting a healthy heart.
Oat bran’s soluble and fermentable fibre is gentle on little tummies.
It promotes regular bowel movements, which can be a big relief for kids, especially if they struggle with constipation.
Oat bran has a low glycemic index, which means it won’t cause energy spikes and crashes.
That’s great for your child’s focus and energy levels, making it a smart choice for school days.
Oat bran’s fibre keeps your child feeling full, making it easier for them to manage their appetite and maintain a healthy weight.
Oat bran added to porridge is rich in essential nutrients like B vitamins, iron, and antioxidants.
It’s like a natural vitamin pill in their breakfast bowl.
Versatile and Kid-Friendly
Oat bran is easy to include in your child’s diet.
Add a small spoonful into their porridge or breakfast cereal, blend it into a smoothie, or even sprinkle it on top of their yoghurt.
So, whether it’s in a bowl of porridge, muffins, or pancakes, oat bran can be a tasty and nutritious addition to your child’s diet.
How much oats can children eat?
Good news for parents: children can include oats in their daily diet, especially in porridge for breakfast, as it’s an IBS-friendly food.
Oats are a nutritious and versatile choice, making it easy for kids to incorporate them into their meals.
For breakfast, a serving size of around ½ to ¾ cup of cooked oats is a reasonable portion for most children.
This provides them with a hearty and satisfying start to the day.
You can customise it with a variety of toppings like fruits, nuts, or a touch of cinnamon to suit your child’s taste.
Moreover, snacks made from oats, like oat cakes or oat-based biscuits can be a delightful and wholesome addition to your child’s diet. These snacks can offer energy and nutrition while being a tasty treat.
Some children may enjoy oats daily, while others may prefer variety in their breakfast options.
As with any food, moderation and a balanced diet are key.
Steel cut vs rolled oats vs instant oats – what’s best for your child?
When it comes to oats, there are several options to choose from, each with its unique characteristics.
Let’s explore the differences between steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and instant oats to help you decide which is the best fit for your child’s diet.
Steel-cut oats (Known as Course Oatmeal in the UK) for porridge
These oats are the least processed, chopping the whole oat groat into pieces. They have a chewy texture and a hearty, nutty flavour.
In contrast, steel-cut oats take longer to cook, but they retain more of their natural nutrients.
They’re an excellent choice for kids who enjoy thicker, heartier oatmeal and don’t mind the longer cooking time.
Also known as old-fashioned oats, these are made by taking whole oat groats and rolling them flat.
They cook faster than steel-cut oats and have a creamier texture.
Rolled oats are versatile and can be used in a wide range of recipes, from oatmeal to baking.
As a matter of fact, these are the most processed among the three, with the oats pre-cooked and then dried.
They cook the fastest, usually requiring only hot water or a quick zap in the microwave.
While they’re convenient, instant oats may have a slightly different texture and a milder flavour compared to steel-cut and rolled oats.
They’re a good option when you’re short on time.
The best choice for your child depends on their taste preferences and your family’s schedule.
If your child enjoys a heartier, nuttier texture and you have a bit more time in the morning, steel-cut oats (or “course oatmeal” in the UK) are a great choice.
If you’re looking for convenience without sacrificing nutrition, rolled oats offer a balance of texture and speed.
However, instant oats are perfect for busy mornings when you need a quick and easy option.
As they will be digested more quickly, save these for occasional use or for baking.
Ultimately, all three types of oats are nutritious and can be a valuable addition to your child’s diet.
The key is to select the one that best aligns with your child’s taste and your daily routine.
Oats and gluten
One common misconception is that oats contain gluten, and individuals with IBS need to avoid gluten.
The truth is that oats themselves are naturally gluten-free.
However, there can be cross-contamination issues during processing if oats are handled in facilities that also process wheat, barley, or rye.
For individuals without coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, including children with IBS, there’s generally no reason to avoid gluten.
In fact, oats can be a valuable part of a balanced diet for those with IBS.
It provides essential fibre and nutrients without gluten-related concerns.
That said, it’s essential to ensure that the oats you choose are labelled as “certified gluten-free” if you have coeliac disease or a specific sensitivity to gluten.
This certification guarantees that the oats have been processed in a gluten-free environment, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.
In summary, oats can be a safe and beneficial option for children with IBS.
There’s no need to avoid gluten unless you have a specific gluten-related condition.
Just be mindful of the source and opt for certified gluten-free oats if necessary.
Oat recipes: how to include oats in your child’s diet
Oats are not only nutritious but also versatile, making them an ideal addition to your child’s diet.
Here are some delicious ways to incorporate oats into your child’s meals:
Start with the basics. Cook oats with water or milk. Then let your child customise their bowl with toppings like fruits, nuts or a sprinkle of cinnamon.
For infants see:
Prepare granola by mixing rolled oats with a touch of honey and a variety of nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Afterwards, bake until golden brown, and serve as a crunchy cereal or yoghurt topper.
Swap out some of the flour in your pancake recipe with rolled oats.
Additionally, these pancakes are heartier and more nutritious while maintaining their fluffiness.
Blend oats into your child’s morning smoothie for an extra fibre boost. The oats will provide thickness and creaminess to the drink.
Add rolled oats to your muffin batter for a fibre-packed, grab-and-go breakfast or snack option. Mix in fruits like blueberries or mashed bananas for added flavour.
Bake oat-based cookies with your child. You can use a portion of whole-grain flour to make them even healthier.
Oat Crust for Pies
Alternatively, instead of a traditional pie crust, consider using oats for a wholesome, nutty base when making dessert pies or quiches.
Combine oats with nut butter, honey, and your child’s favourite mix-ins (like chocolate chips or dried fruits) to create energy bites for a convenient, no-bake snack.
Oat-Crusted Chicken Tenders
Crush oats and use them as a coating for chicken tenders or fish sticks. It adds a pleasant crunch and extra fibre to your child’s meal.
Make no-bake oat bars by combining oats, dried fruits, and a sticky binder like maple syrup or peanut butter. Press them into a pan, chill, and cut into bars.
If your child is lactose-intolerant or prefers plant milk alternatives, you can try calcium-fortified oat milk in their morning porridge.
Above all, oat milk is an excellent dairy milk alternative that you can also use as a drink.
Please note that this is only suitable for children over the age of 12 months and can be used as a drink, or in baking and cooking.
With oats’ versatility, you can explore a wide range of delicious and nutritious recipes, ensuring your child gets the most out of this wholesome ingredient.
What’s a good breakfast with IBS?
We have now established that porridge is an excellent breakfast for children and adults with IBS.
If you are looking for low FODMAP recipe ideas read: Ten Delicious Low FODMAP Breakfast Recipes
In our quest to determine the benefits of porridge for children with IBS, we’ve explored the science of oats, their impact on IBS symptoms, and the versatility of this gut-friendly breakfast.
From soothing constipation to managing diarrhoea, oats provide a host of benefits.
So, start your child’s mornings with a hearty bowl of porridge and explore the countless ways to make it a delicious and nutritious part of their daily routine.
Let Me Help
Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?
No matter what you are worried about, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.
Bahee Van de Bor is a registered paediatric dietitian, specialising in gut health, food intolerance and fussy eating. You can work with her 1-2-1 inside the Happy Belly Club.