Monday, August 4, 2008

Chronic Diarrhea and Unformed Stools in Toddlers and Young Children

Because diarrhea and unformed stools are relatively common conditions for everyone at one time or another, they are often overlooked as a symptom and not taken seriously and dismissed as "toddler diarrhea." But chronic diarrhea for a baby or toddler over the age of one (who is not being breastfed) should be looked into carefully and treated. Severe cases of prolonged diarrhea can be a sign of celiac disease or a milk allergy or an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut. But the most important reason to take chronic diarrhea seriously is that malabsorption of food often means the child is not absorbing nutrients from food. Not absorbing vitamins at critical times of development can lead to developmental problems. Pediatricians are reluctant to try to get to the bottom of unformed stools because so often with gut problems, testing does not reveal anything. Blood tests for celiac are unreliable for children under 3 because it can take years to develop antibodies and allergy tests are often negative. Elimination diets can help tease out if juice or fruit or dairy is a factor, but if the child is intolerant of several foods, removing one of them won't help. If removing suspected food for a few days doesn't help, then you might need to look at the diarrhea in the context of how the child is doing otherwise. A child who is not meeting milestones or has any other developmental problems should take the diarrhea more seriously. A child who has loose stools after too much juice is very different from a child who NEVER has formed stools.

WHAT TO DO: For mild diarrhea: Limit fruit juice--try to have kids learn to drink water. If you do buy apple juice buy the cloudy apple juice not the clear apple juice. For more chronic diarrhea: take probiotics like GI flora from Allergy Research Group which have bifidus strain of good bacteria to repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria and think about allergies and intolerances playing a part. Remember a daily multivitamin with minerals (a gummy: Hero Yummi Bears Multi Vitamin & Mineral, Trace Minerals Complete chewable or powdered Rainbow Light) in case your children aren't absorbing enough nutrients. For any child with severe digestive issues who also has developmental problems: Find an integrated doctor, like Nancy O'Hara or Dr. Fred Pescatore, who understands the importance of nutrition and gut function for development.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello! This is a great post! I am wondering what you would think about a 14 mo-old who has had extremely loose stools with undigested food present for several months. For the past week or so there has been mucus in the stool, and very foul-smelling. Otherwise, she is happy, not in pain, has an appetite, and is gaining weight. I give her kefir everyday and have eliminated cow's milk (but the kefir is dairy!). Maybe too early to tell if it was the milk? Also, no juice and minimal fruit. Oh yes - she is still b/feeding.
Thanks!
please email me at jrshinn at gmail dot com.
Best!

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Anonymous said...

I feel like I am reading about my own child....(except for the kefir)..
I have a 5 year old son who is gluten-sensitive (what I call undiagnosed celiac), he also tested positive for food allergy to milk, eggs, wheat and several other things; however the allergy test by skin was negative, the blood test was positive, and our doctors have conflicting opinions on what that means...
Okay, back to the point- I have two younger children that have had foul-smelling, unformed stools for some time now, and cultures have ruled out bacterial, viral and parasitic causes, leaving me to believe that my children may be genetically predisposed to Celiac Disease, or a lesser form of gluten sensitivity. There is now a blood test offered to check for this gene, called Prometheus Celia-Plus panel . There is also a stool test, known as Gluten Sensitivity Stool and Gene Panel Complete
Fecal Antigliadin. You may have to seek a referal to a pediatric endocrinologists in order to have these tests, which is the area I am headed in. Good luck!

Thanks to the Gluten-Free Family, I am grateful for your resources!

Leah W
nutrinutmom@aol.com

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Anonymous said...

My son is in the middle of having test after test ran. He has had chronic diarrhea since I stopped breastfeeding him at 6 months. It has just recently gotten worse and concering. He has been on soy milk since 1 year. We were asked to stop giving him juice and that didnt help. We took him off the soymilk and are trying hemp milk to see if that might help. So far all that the tests have shown is that his body isnt absorbing nutrients. Any thoughts or ideas?

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Anonymous said...

For all of those people posting comments about their children with diarrhoea and/or foul smelling poo, etc, etc. these two things alone are indicators of coeliac disease!! children should not be experiencing these things. it is very important they have a small bowel biopsy to rule in or rule out the presence of coeliac disease - if they do have it, it is lifelong and has massive implications if it goes undiagnosed. stop posting on blogs and get to the general practitioner for a referral to a gastroenterologist - if you are serious about getting your child well again. coeliac disease cannot be diagnosed without a biopsy. this is not an incredibly bad procedure - it is quick and safe. it is better than the child developing all sorts of nasty things as he gets older, as well as being prone to awful infections that go around which he will have no resistance to as his body won't be absorbing vital nutrients from food. Go see the proper medical experts and get coeliac disease excluded!! Parent of two coeliacs (i.e. experienced).

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Marlene said...

I found this while searching about Diarrhea from gluten free food. It is very common for people to get horrible diarrhea from sugar alcohols. Xantham Gum, used in most Gluten free foods is related. After trying a gluten free diet I became dehydrated because of the small amount of Xantham gum added to gluten free baked goods.
It does not make me feel sick, but my stools are loose. If your family is going Gluten free, you may have a child with a severe reaction to Xantham gum. Just an idea you may not have thought of.

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Anonymous said...

I have a almost 3.5 old, who has been having unformed stools for about 2 years now. He usually only goes 1 time maybe 2 times a day, but it is never formed. He has battled parasites and candida between the ages of 1-2 and last year he and his sister and myself had some kind of funky bacteria, causing regular vomiting and diarrhea etc....which we we no longer have. Otherwise he is happy and healthy, never complains of feeling bad. His does have dry skin though.

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Anonymous said...

I have a 15 month old who has had diarrhea since I stopped breastfeeding at 9 mos. He isn't growing as well as he was prior to it. We've been to gastroenterologist and pediatricians. He's had every test and biopsy except for cystic fibrosis. I am curious how the rest of the commenters have been doing and if they found the answer to their child's issues. This is so frustrating. The biopsies did not show celiac, cultures negative, parasites negative.

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Anonymous said...

I've had loose stools my whole life, I just thought I was lucky. Sure beats being impacted!

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