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Kids and Flavored Water

Expert Pediatrics Q&A

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Updated July 13, 2011

Updated July 13, 2011
Q. My son is 8 and has a major problem with constipation. To help, I have been sending him to school with a bottle of Propel flavored water each day. Is this okay to do (I saw a report on TV about giving flavored water to kids that scared me) and will it help his constipation?

A. I wasn't aware of any controversy surrounding the flavored fitness waters and so half expected to find that they were full of sodium, sugar, caffeine or something else that would really raise some eyebrows. Instead, I didn't find much of anything and they really are basically flavored water, with a little bit of sugar (2g per serving), calories (10 per serving), and some vitamins and minerals.

Some, like Propel Zero, don't have any calories.

On the other hand, they don't really have anything that makes them stand out from regular drinking water, especially since they don't include the nutrients that many kids actually need in their diet, namely fiber, calcium, and iron. And keep in mind that the sugar in flavored water, although it is not as much as is in fruit juice or a can of soda, might still put your child at risk for cavities if he drinks the flavored water regularly throughout the day, especially since they don't contain fluoride, like regular tap water might.

Keep in mind that the lack of fluoride makes drinking any kind of bottled water a little controversial for kids.

Some parents won't like the fact that some flavored waters, like Propel, do contain artificial sweeteners. It isn't easy to notice this on the label though. You have to review the list of ingredients and see that sucralose or Splenda is listed. And although not as popular as Splenda, another artificial sweetener is also listed on Propel's list of ingredients - acesulfame potassium. Now although the FDA and most leading medical organizations say that it is safe to give artificial sweeteners to kids, some parents still don't feel comfortable doing so, and that is likely what the controversy you heard was about.

As far as your child's constipation, drinking flavored water would likely help your child, but again, a flavored water is not going to have any extra benefit over regular water. If that is the only way he will drink it, then that may make it worthwhile though.

Many types of flavored water are now available in powder forms that you can make on your own. If you make one of these with fluoridated tap water, then your kids will still get fluoride with their flavored water.

Constipation Treatments

Other things that usually help kids who are constipated include:
  • encouraging a diet that is low in fat by drinking low fat milk and avoiding fried foods, fast food, etc.
  • increasing the amount of fiber and bran in their diet
  • eating raw, unpeeled fruits, including apples, grapes, prunes, etc.
  • eating vegetables and legumes (beans)
  • getting on a regular schedule of trying to have a bowel movement once or twice a day
Since constipation is often a chronic and difficult to treat condition, you might also talk to your Pediatrician about your using a stool softener to keep your child regular.

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