Green beans for short gut syndrome

A recent article indicates that the addition of green beans may improve diarrhea and reduce dependence on parenteral nutrition (Adding Dietary Green Beans to Formula Resolves the Diarrhea ) (ICAN. DOI: 10.1177/1941406412469403). Thanks to Kipp Ellsworth for pointing out this reference on his twitter feed.

This small retrospective study of 18 infants examined the addition of green beans to the diet of infants with short bowel syndrome (SBS) (1 jar of stage 2 baby food green beans to every 8 ounces of 30 cal formula).  The average gestational age of the patients was 32 weeks (range 23-39 weeks) and the average birth weight was 1938 gram.  Nine patients had NEC, four had gastroschisis, two had Christmas tree defect, and three had other reasons for either SBS or intestinal failure.  The IF group (n=10) was defined as being dependent on parenteral nutrition to meet nutritional needs; the SBS group (n=8), who were more severely affected, was defined as the malabsorptive state that follows a massive resection.

Products that were used:

  • Gerber Natural Select: 3 gm of fiber per 4 ounce
  • Beach-Nut Homestyle: 2 gm of fiber per 4 ounce
  • HyVee Mother Choice: 2 gm of fiber per 4 ounce
  • These products average 32% soluble and 68% insoluble fiber

While the authors note that they use only amino-acid based formulas currently, at the time of the study, 61% were receiving Peptamen Junior.

It is not clear in the manuscript exactly at what age green beans are introduced. However, a previous case study suggested addition of green beans at ~4 months or >44 weeks postconception.  This prior case study indicated that adding stage 2 green beans changed the caloric density of 30 cal formula to 22 cal/ounce (Nutrition in Clinical Practice 2005; 20: 674-77).  In addition, this adds 2 gm/kg/day of fiber.

Results from current study:

  • 9 of 10 IF patients were able to discontinue parenteral nutrition
  • 2 of 8 SBS patients were able to discontinue parenteral nutrition
  • All infants had improvements in stool consistency, typically within 24 hours of dietary change.

While the authors acknowledge the limitations of the study, they hypothesize that the reason for improvement is due to the fiber content of green beans.   Fermentation of dietary fiber produces short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which in turn have a trophic effect on the mucosa and enhance nutrient absorption.

Studies have shown that adults with IF or SBS have improved stool consistency with the addition of fiber.  However, the authors note that there have been no studies documenting the effectiveness of dietary fiber in the pediatric SBS/IF population.

Whether green beans would outperform other sources of fiber like pectin, guar gum, bananas or benefiber is not clear.

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