Diarrhea & Loose Stools in Young Children

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Toddler's stinky, mushy BM's

Aug 2008

Well, this might be the silliest question ever asked on this network, but is there some healthful way to make my toddler's bowel movements less gross? She is 2.5 and showing little interest in potty training and I am having a hard time with my near-revulsion changing her diapers. Her older sister also potty trained on the late side, and I really had no problem keeping relaxed with it. I believe the difference is, frankly, the poops! My older girl had more solid BMs you could dump in the toilet and clean up quickly. But, my current potty-trainer has mushy, stinky, poop-all-over-everything kind of diapers every day and it literally sometimes makes me gag to change her. I don't want to discourage her from eating fruit and lots of fiber-- is there something else I could do? Some foods to avoid? Foods to add? Or, alternatively, any really clever potty-training tips? It is hard to keep a positive demeanor while gagging, but I don't want to give the poor girl a complex. Thanks for any help you can offer! -Pooped Out

It is strange that your 2 1/2 year old a) isn't interested in potty training and b) that her stools are so mushy. I'd be wondering if she isn't having irritable bowel (IBS) or some kind of reaction to some foods she is eating? I have had IBS my entire life, and after 40 years of agony, I figured out what's been going on: I have a reaction to refined starches, white rice and regular potatoes. I switched my diet to only completely whole grains, and no starchy carbs and almost overnight the bowel issues resolved. Your dughter may not have IBS, but I suggest getting her off of all refined wheat products and increase her fiber. That will help with the soft stools. Maybe if she has firmer stools she will feel more in control of her bowel movements and will have more of an interest in using the potty. Anon

Three words: Bananas, bananas, bananas. They really help make the diaper changing a little less messy! mom of a messy pooper

Both Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and cystic fibrosis cause bulky, smelly stool. Have you mentioned this to your pediatrician? --

Your daughter's poops are not normal. Her BM's should be like your older daughter's--formed, fall into the toilet. You have correctly linked diet to the BMs, but you need to take it one step further and ask WHY are ''regular'' foods (presumably the same ones you fed to your older daughter) causing this GI distress? My 2.5 yr old son has the same problem--in his case, I know that the reason is that his immune system (which is based in the gut) is overtaxed--mercury exposure from my amalgams and immunizations did him in. This is FAR more common than parents today realize... I meet mother after mother who comments on her child's mushy poops and/or her child's constipation. These pervasive GI problems are coming from environmental triggers: too many vaccinations and too many toxins (including pesticides on foods)--it's too much for a developing immune system to handle. My advice is to cut out wheat, dairy, and soy, all of which are hard for a compromised gut to digest, and focus on whole foods, nothing processed, thereby eliminating aggravating food additives/chemicals. Best wishes.

Chronic diarrhea in 2 year old

Jan 2008

HI there- I am not necessarily asking for advice...but perhaps some experience with this... My otherwise very healthy (never sick, etc) 2 plus year old has had diarrhea for about 6 weeks now- she only goes one time a day, we have taken her to a doctor back east (over the holidays) and talked to her doctor here....she has had a full stool sample that all came back negative...we tried restricting her diet for a few days ( a long time ago) and took away dairy for a few days to no avail...We are a little stuck now. She is in no apparent discomfort, I do not think she has lost any weight, we have really cut back on her milk, and are wondering if ANYONE has had similar experiences.. We may go back to the BRAT diet for 3 days and MAKE sure that it works/doesn't work before all the other scary tests! Any other ideas???? thanks!

We had a similar experience with my son last year. He got a little stomach virus and then well after he was recovered from the virus (for nearly 12 weeks) he had persistent diarrhea. We too had all the tests and ultimately concluded that he became lactose intolerant when he got the virus and his stomach lining never fully healed. What stopped it? We cut him off ALL dairy for one full month. Absolutely no milk, no cheese, no yogurt - no dairy at all. His stools started to return to normal in about two weeks but we still didn't reintroduce dairy for another two weeks and then we did so very slowly.

I'll tell you it was really frustrating because the doctors in the practice kept giving me conflicting advise - some said to cut out milk but continue with yogurt. Others said try soy milk (goat milk, almond milk) and continue with cheese because it tends to bind. Some said continue for a couple of days, some said a week. It wasn't until we cut it all out for a full month that things changed. Finally I'll say that it was a challenge for my son for the first few days because he really enjoyed milk and yogurt and asked for them a lot. I just kept saying that he couldn't have it until his tummy was all better and eventually he stopped asking. Good luck. anon

It can take 2-3 weeks for dairy to leave the body, so I'd try a longer dairy-free period. Are you giving her probiotics? They could possibly help, just make sure not too give too much, because that could cause more diarrhea. Blackberry root tea (you can buy the herb at Llasa Karnak in Berkeley) is GREAT for diarrhea. You can sweeten it if need be, but it doesn't take unpleasant. Gently simmer the root for a couple of hours in water on the stove, then strain and cool to desired temperature. Consider taking her to a naturopath if what you're trying doesn't work. fellow mama

Chronic diarrhea is not normal, and it is dangerous to have it go on for so long because of the inability for your child to absorb nutrients from her food. I imagine she does have some significant food allergies; restricting milk for a ''few days'' is not nearly enough time to know if she has an allergy (elimination diets should last at least 2 weeks before adding back in the suspect food). She could also be reacting to wheat, soy, corn, eggs...Many children benefit from rebuilding the gut flora with probiotics, among other things. Switching to raw milk is often of tremendous benefit to kids with chronic diarrhea (I know this sounds crazy, but once you learn about it, it's pretty compelling). I recommend that you see a holistic nutritionist like Nori Hudson, (510)847-3197, who can recommend a combination of food and supplements to heal your daughter's intestinal tract and stop the diarrhea. Unfortunately, doctors are taught virtually nothing about the relationship between food and health (it's not their fault), and most disease does start in the gut. Best of luck to you. Ellen

My eldest, 21 yo now, went through this problem for 14 years before we found out that he had UC (ulcerative colitis) & Crohn's disease. Nothing could ever be found wrong with him. His appetite was always healthy, but he had recurrent & chronic diarrhea. As his condition worsened over the years, his symptoms became exacerbated: diarrhea was accompanied by stomach pains when he ate dairy, spicy foods and/or pork. Then, he suffered from rectal bleeding. Even then, no one knew what was wrong. They just figured the diarrhea was causing the bleeding. It wasn't 'til his freshman year of high school that he was diagnosed, after the vomitting started & he began losing weight drastically. Even then, I had to take him to specialists at Stanford University's Pediatric Gastrointerology Clinic. Thanks to God working through Dr. Gonzales & Dr. Davies & their staff, he was properly diagnosed. My son is now leaving the Atlanta Children's Center for Digestive Healthcare, where he plans to return as a volunteer during med school. I see many babies & toddlers being diagnosed early now because of advances in technology. This may or may not be your child's difficulty. ( I pray not.) However, it wouldn't hurt to request that your child see a Pedi GI specialist to make sure. Peace & blessings!

Try carob in her applesauce or yogurt (or anything else, really). It helps to firm up poo. Maybe her sphincter is not working properly, and due to lack of proper use, has forgotten how to work right. I have heard of this before. I would visit a naturopath very soon, though. Get another opinion. anon

3 year old has runny poop

June 2007

Okay, I am going to be graphic, so if you have a weak stomach, stop reading: My son has had soft runny poops off and on (more on) for most of his life. We really hadn't given it much thought until we are now potty training and when he does have an accident it's a runny mess all over the floor, not a solid poop. He also seems to have no control over when he poops. I asked his doctor, who said it could be a milk allergy, and he has had no milk for over a week, but still this soft poop. Not really diahrrea, more like tomato soup. Sorry this is so gross. The thing I am wondering is I have ulcerative colitis and took Asacol while I was pregnant and nursing him and am wondering if this could be a factor? Has anyone else seen this? I am going to get him tested for all food allergies, but wondering if it could be something else? S.

Before you do a lot of testing, rule out wheat/gluten sensitivity first. If your son has trouble digesting gluten (which a lot of people have) then it will make his poops runny. Try not giving him wheat and barley products for a week and see what happens. Note that lots of non-wheat products have wheat in them, such as soy sauce, so check labels. Give him oatmeal or Cherrios for breakfast, rice cakes and such, no pasta, no sandwich bread, etc. Good luck

Maybe it's not the drugs that caused anything in your son but maybe what's causing your colitis is an allergy you have. So maybe your son has something genetically similar to you?

My son hardly ever had a solid poop until after 3 years old, they were always runny, like tomato soup as you say. I knew something wasn't right, but no one I asked had any answers. One day shortly after he turned 3 he tried a new food that had peanuts and he had an anaphylactic reaction and had to go to emergency. He was OK, but it was scary. Later we got him tested and he is a highly allergic child, they didn't test him for everything, but his overall number was high. He was allergic to some nuts, soy and ''off the charts'' for peanuts. Our 2nd child does not have the runny problem. I had some allergies as a child & asmtha, my dad has tons of allergies.

Anyway, we've kept him away from nuts & soy and his poops are normal now (at 4 years old) but he sometimes now wakes up with super puffy eyes and has a postnasal drip that causes him to cough all night. So there's something else out there that he's reacting to still. I wish we would've insisted they test him for as many allergies as they could (they only tested for about 7 things) because having that blood drawn was very traumatic to him and it's going to be hard to bring him in there for more testing. That's our story... anon

Have you heard of Celiac Disease? You should have your child get his blood tested b/c he may not be able to handle food with gluten or wheat products. This was all new to me too. I was diagnosed as an adult last fall (had biopsy of small intestines done to confirm) and my almost 3 yo son is exhibiting similar problems, loose stool, and need to get him tested. There is no cure for this disease, besides totally eliminating wheat products from the diet. It's so hard to do, but let me tell you how much better he will feel, if in fact this is the problem. It's often not diagnosed. Feel free to email me. Trust me, nothing grosses me out anymore! Good luck! Shannon

I would get him tested for celiac's (gluten allergy). EAB

I would highly enocurage your child to see a naturopathic doctor as well as a homeopath. best of luck anon

I would definitely get him tested for allergies. My almost 2 year old son is seriously allergic to dairy and every time he has the tiniest amount his body really reacts and his poop is really soupy. He could be on the lowest fiber diet and it would still be some variety of ''loose.'' It's definitely firmed up since eliminating dairy. c

Dear S, I would definitely recommend you test your son for food allergies and intolerances. We had our son tested for food allergies, and he was fine - but his stools were loose (and had been since birth - he had colitis as an infant) and he had drastically dropped on the growth charts. His sister, 2 years younger weighed the same). Anyhow, we just had a food sensitivty panel done by US Biotek (we had a naturopath in our pediatric office do it for us). They basically test the antibodies for certain foods in their blood: http://www.usbiotek.com/Services-96General.htm

Similar to you, I thought it could be milk and it turned out it I was wrong. We found out that while he was a bit sensitive to milk - the big problem was gluten (all wheat, rye, spelt, barley etc..) and eggs. I am so glad we had him tested b/c i was just going to take him off of milk. Gluten intolerances can be celiacs disease or just a gluten intolerance but it is important to find out b/c it prevents them from absorbing their nutrients and can impact growth (physical and mental). So our 4.5 year old is finally on the egg and gluten free diet he should have been on years ago and is finally having solid bm's. It is well worth checking out. Good luck! A concerned Mama

All 3 of my kids seem to have chronic diarrhea

April 2005

HELP! I am about to rip my hair out over the chronic diarhea that all three of my kids now seem to have. For the last 2 years my now 5 yo twins have had not-so- great bowel movements. It all started with multiple rounds of antibiotics and a case of giardia (all within a few months). They saw a GI doctor and took medication (furozolodine)for the giardia. This improved things but not completely and that is where we have been for two years now. Now, my 2 yo, after a case of MRSA staff infection and a heavy antibiotic to treat it, too has chronic diarhea. He took flagyl for what my pediatrician assumed was c difficile (an overgrowth of a bacteria as a result of the original antibiotic killing off all the good bacteria). This improved things ( just like what happened with my twins) but not completely and this is where we have been for the last 2 months. I want to scream because I am so frustrated and not getting the answers I need. Has anyone ever had an experience like this? Has anyone ever had a case of c difficile that was not completely solved by one round of medication? I have read about this before but my pediatrician says it is rare. It seems to me that if it at least improved things then it was doing some good and could continue to help if we tried it again. Who's right here? We have been to GI doctors (with the twins) and a naturopath and nothing is changing. Limiting dairy seems to help and we are also not eating soy because the naturopath says they are sensitive to those, but no radical improvement. I am trying not to loose my mind but this is insane! Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,
Worried mom

You mentioned that limiting dairy helped. While it would be quite a coincidence, have you considered lactose intolerance. My son developed it at 8yo. Symptom? Diarrhea. He's now taking Digestive Advantage, a supplement that gives him the lactobacillus he needs to make lactase. He has as much dairy as he wants with no side effects. Good Luck

This is probably not strong enough, but my son had terrible diarrhea after pnemonia and some very strong antibiotics, and I remember how frustrating it was, anyway a nurse recommended probiotic or probiotica (sorry can't remember the exact name), and maybe it was coincidence but his diarrhea went away soon afterwards. It is a pill with 'good bacteria'. I remember finding it easily at longs drugs or some such store. Good luck.

I'm a middle aged woman not a child, but maybe my experience is relevant. Two years ago I was hospitalized with bowel obstruction surgery, and I was given 2 simultaneous heavy duty antibiotics + Flagyl, and I have never been the same since. I've developed severe food allergies and intolerances, and it has taken a long time to figure out what I can eat. I went on a really severe food elimination diet to figure things out. For a long time I could only eat lamb and some vegetables, and gradually I've been able to eat more, but my diet remains pretty restricted though quite manageable for the most part. It's good that you've eliminated dairy and soy, but other common foods - wheat and corn especially - are likely culprits. Good luck. It must be so frustrating. Had similar problems

As your doctor has mentioned and as you learned the hard way, antibiotics can take away all of the good bacteria in your system. It's a good preventive measure to take acidopholus (in capsule or powder form - which you can stir into water) daily, or to eat plain (not sweetened) yogurt. This will ensure that your good bacteria is at a good level. Maybe this will help you out. loves acidopholus

We had the same problem in my son when he was 5. Started with a case of Giardia also. First is recheck a giardia antigen test to make sure the Giardia is gone. If so, probably a bacterial imbalance perhaps with clostridia involved. We eliminated all dairy, and used low dose tapering flagyl for 1 month to clear it. Good luck. I remember how difficult it was My heart is with you

I'm not sure I can help, except that I know acidopholus is supposed to make a difference. Have you tried giving these tablets in food? I also know that certain foods hinder the immune system and make it hard to fight this stuff off. I've heard it's good to elminate all sugary foods and refined carbs, including, for at least a while, fruit and fruit juice. in addition, you should avoid dairy and wheat, as well as caffeine. you can find these recommendations online if you do a search. my son has had diarrhea quite a lot, which I'm beginning to think has been caused by a parasite or improper growth of bacteria. A very restricted diet as above has made a huge difference, although we haven't diagnosed the exact cause yet. good luck

My kids always got diarhea from antibiotics when they were young and then we started using a quality probiotics from the natural foods store. The one we had best luck with was the Jarro-dophilus + FOS from JARROW FORMULAS, inc.

Two years ago, my son got very sick with e-coli. We are not sure how or where he was exposed but the rest of the family was fine so we suspect is was NOT from undercooked meat.

It was pretty scary and he was in a great deal of pain and was admitted to the ER where he received IV fluids. After he was re-hydrated we gave him the Jarro-dophilus and he seemed to bounce back pretty well. Looking back I realize that we were lucky because e-coli cannot be treated with antibiotics. I wish I knew more about digestive issues but it just makes sense to me that in order to keep it healthy, you have to keep up with the ''good'' bacteria.

This is in a powder form and can be mixed with water. It's tastless so the kids don't mind. It's probably a good idea do this regularly just to keep the digestive tract healthy.

Good Luck! sheila

After reading your post, I thought ''hey, I wonder if my 16 mos son has had a parasite all this time they said it was food allergies.'' Sure enough, he tested positive for giardia!

Since then, I've done a ton of research. Here's what I've found out: there's a very high recurrence rate. probably because something's wrong with the gut. usually low gastric acid is the culprit. good bacteria flora (as mentioned by others) also helps prevent infection. try giving your kids papaya and pineapple enzymes to aid digestion. also try the probiotics.

if they test positively for reinfection, consider using a combination of probiotics and garlic tablets. there have been studies done that show garlic is very, very effective (it's worked very well for us).

there are also some other home remedies out there: grapefruit seed extract (this gave me a headache), oregano oil, sauerkraut or kimichi, apples. it's also very common to have wheat and dairy intolerance for quite a while after the paraiste infection, so keep away from these, eat a low-fat low sugar diet. wheat germ and small amounts of yogurt are very helpful if you can tolerate them (the above makes it difficult).

there is also a list of good foods to eat if parasites are the issue: kale, sweet potato, green beans. and of course, lots of fiber to help pass the cysts through. by the way, the cysts are very hardy--can survive chlorine for up to 4 hours. the best way to kill them is high heat or alchohol (90%, not 70%, that has prolonged contact). you might consider cleaning door handles, etc, in your house to prevent reinfection.

almost over it!

Chronic loose stools in 4 year old twins

March 2004

For almost a year now my 4 year old twins have been suffering from loose bowel movements. It all started when they contracted Giardia from a previous preschool last Feb 2003 or so. They were treated with Furozolodine (sp?) last May (2003) and that helped some, but they are still not back to normal. They also had a few runs of antibiotics and subsequently had some yeast problems in the Fall of 2003 when they first started preschool and began getting lots of ''preschool colds''. They have been to a GI doctor and tested for possible causes (parasites, c-dificil- all negative). She does not believe it to be inflamatory bowel disease or Crohns disease as they are still growing and flourishing and there is no blood in the stool. They just don't have normal bowel movements. They have been off dairy for almost two months with no change. Does anyone have any ideas here? I'm tired to just sitting back helplessly and getting no answers from anyone. Thanks

If you haven't already, you should try to give your kids probiotics, especially acidophilus and bifido bacteria. Antibiotics and anti-parasitics will knock out the good flora from the gut as well as the bad, and the good guys need to be replaced or the digestive tract doesn't function optimally. Also, without the good bacteria, you can set yourself up for yeast overgrowth. There are lots of probiotics supplements available, and some are better than others. Be sure you get one that has both acidophilus and bifido bacteria in it (important at this age) and ideally one that is in a powder or liquid to get it down. I don't know most of the over the counter brands, but Metagenics, which is a practitioner-only supplement line, makes a good powder that I think they sell at Pharmaca on Solano. jarrow also makes good probiotic products. Good luck! Tara

My son had problems like that we he got Giardia in kindergarten. The Giardia antigen tests became negative, but the diarrhea kept coming back. We finally put everyone in the house including the pets on 10 days of flagyl (metronidazole) and it finally cleared. I had to crush up the flagyl and load it in very small capsules to get it down but there is a liquid formulation available from Mexico. I am a vet, and recent evidence in pets is that you continue to carry Giardia at some level forever (they isolate it by PCR)and that your body has an inflammatory reaction to keep it under control initially. We used no milk for about a year around that time just to help things out. Would love to hear if other folks have run into this also. A vet who has been there with her kids

My daughter had chronic loose stools from day one with no other symptoms. As she was my first child I thought this was normal. However, when potty training became difficult we looked deeper and it turns out she was/is lactose intolerant. Once we took her off milk, she has been fine with normal stools. It's an easy problem to deal with - lactaid milk and lactaid pills with the first bite a milk-containing food. This makes birthday parties easy. There is also a new lactose free organic milk. Take him/her off of all milk products for a few weeks and see what happens. Good luck. Anon. Anon

My son (16 months) has also had loose stools since an episode of diarrhea when he was 8 or 9 months old, and all parasite tests have come back negative. I didn't think it had anything to do with Giardia until I saw an answer to your posting a couple of weeks ago. I had Giardia about 15 years ago, and about 2 years ago, right before my pregnancy, developed some Giardia-like symptoms (including nausea, loose stools, and weight loss), which got much much worse during the pregnancy, and continue on now (although in a less severe form). We did several Giardia tests and all were negative. I saw the posting by the vet who treated her whole family with Flagyl and talked about the recent veterinary studies about the persistance of Giardia and the body's inflammatory response and wondered if she (or anyone) could provide more information about this research. I am very curious and would be grateful for any leads!

I would highly recommend putting your twins on a gluten- free diet. One of the symptoms can be chronic loose stools as well as many other health related problems. The condition is called Celiac disease. I also responded to a posting about gluten-free foods for twins with chronic diarreah. Could that have been you? Laurey

I am the vet who pushed my family's physicians to put us all on Metronidazole and managed to clear the chronic diarrhea. I treated my pets at the same time to be safe. The doctor that I know who has done the most research on Giardia is Michael Lappin from Colorado state. (You probably can find some of his work on the internet via VIN etc) I am not sure if it is in his published articles, but I was speaking with him at a conference, and he mentioned that when he used the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to isolate giardia, he questioned whether he cleared the infection completely by treating it. In our practice in Oakland, Giardia is one of the leading parasites we see in pets. I suspect we are doing a good job controlling other parasites with monthly heartworm preventative but Giardia is not covered by that. In addition, Giardia does not show up on standard fecal tests. My best success is with the Giardia antigen test run by outside labs. I did read somewhere that kaopectate and pepto bismol can produce false negatives for this test by binding the antigen, so be careful what is given in the few days before the sample for the test is collected. a local vet

Consistency of one-year-old's poops all over the map

May 2002

I am wondering what range of stool consistency is considered normal for a one year old who is eating a lot of solid food. My son's stools tend to be on the ''sticky'' end of spectrum (i.e. sticking to his diapers and making it hard to flush them down the toilet). I know that they definitely get more solid when he eats more rice than wheat -- I am sure there are other factors, but before I decide that I even need to start tracking them down, I thought I'd ask what other parents' experiences have been. Thanks. Teresa

my child is now 3 and his poops have always been all over the map in terms of color, consistency etc., from soup to rocks. Makes diaper changing a constant thrill. I think this is OK... their systems just aren't developed enough to really process the different stuff they get into nice perfect poops every time. Fran

Just a thought: you mentioned that his stools are more solid when he eats rice than when he eats wheat. If he had a sensitivity to gluten (wheat and barley) then this could explain is - gluten is harder to digest, so it passes through faster, ergo the softer poops.

I had this same concern about my 1 1/2 yr. old and just talked to my pediatrician about it last week. She said that everybody's poop is different and I shouldn't worry unless it is obviously diarrhea (ie. watery). Margaret

Ah, the joys of parenting! Ah, the obsession with poop! Your son's poops sound fine to me. I recall the lovely butt-shaped ''poo pancakes'' my son would produce in his diaper. Poop is good if it's soft, as it is easier to come out. One friend of mine, who has a child with gluten and casein allergies, was told by her pediatrican that good poop has the consistency of yogurt. Her child had really bad explosive, rank, runny, gross nasty stuff. I mean, no poop is really pretty but you could just tell by looking at it that there was something wrong with this poor kid. Sounds like yours is not in this category. You can try a few things to deal with the poo issue:1) Use a special (i.e. used for nothing else) rubber spatula to scrape the poo into the toilet or 2) use paper biodegradable liners in the diaper (available online). When your son poops, throw the liner+poop into the toilet and flush away. Most of the poop will have been caught by the liner and you can either scrape the rest off or deal with the diaper accordingly (you don't mention whether you are using disposables or cloth). Hope this gives you some perspective. Laurel

Hello! I am the Family Director at the Berkeley Y. In my role, I have changed literally hundreds of diapers on hundreds of different children. The range can be from very loose to constipated. Diet can make quite a difference, but your situation seems normal. Watermelon and other fruits loosen stools, while bran and other fibers can help turn things the other direction. Good luck! Eden