Parents love their babies. Holding them close and giving lots of kisses not only helps to strengthen the bond between parent and child, but it’s also an important way to transfer good bacteria and help a child develop a strong immune and digestive system.
Just after birth, the bacteria in a newborn’s stomach begins to stimulate the production of white blood cells and antibodies that are designed to target disease-causing microorganisms. Gut bacteria also teach a newborn’s immune system to recognize the difference between good and bad bacteria.
While all of this development is happening, the baby’s digestive system is still quite sensitive and can react to anything going into it. In the case of breast milk, it can be whatever mom is putting into her system as well.
When something doesn’t agree with the child’s system, diarrhea may be a result. Diarrhea can be distressing for parents, especially when children aren’t quite old enough to communicate how they feel.
According to Stanford Children’s Hospital, diarrhea is defined as watery and/or frequent bowel movements. The episodes of diarrhea can be acute, which means they last for only a few days, or chronic, which means they last four weeks or more.
Diarrhea is the body’s natural way to rid itself of germs. Some common causes of diarrhea are infections, like the flu, medications, and food poisoning. Other causes of diarrhea may be the result of an undiagnosed food allergy, food intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or Crohn’s disease.
In most instances, diarrhea is self-limiting and the body corrects itself in two to three days once it has rid itself of germs or toxins. The most important thing to do during this time is to support the child’s system by providing plenty of fluids and replacing electrolytes.
But what if the diarrhea doesn’t go away in a few days? What if the diarrhea is episodic, yet persistent? When is it time to be concerned that something more is at work in your child’s system causing the diarrhea?
Well, the answer to these questions depends on a few factors: the child’s age, how long the diarrhea has persisted, and the other symptoms the child is experiencing along with diarrhea. For instance, if your child is six months old or younger, has a fever of 105 degrees, has bloody stool, appears dizzy or confused, call the doctor right away for advice. This type of acute condition can be very dangerous and medical attention is necessary.
However, persistent diarrhea may also be a sign of an underlying food allergy, food intolerance, or a chronic health condition. When diarrhea simply won’t go away, it is time to take a deeper look.
A food allergy is an immune response the body has to ingesting or even just touching an allergen. The top eight food allergens are proteins found in milk, wheat, peanuts, fish, shellfish, soybean, eggs, and tree nuts. An allergic reaction to a food may present as diarrhea.
A food intolerance is a response to a food your system has trouble digesting. For example, children suffering from Sucrose Intolerance resulting from Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID) lack the function of the enzyme that digests sucrose, which is white table sugar. The symptoms experienced with CSID range from mild to severe gas, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. Since sucrose commonly occurs in many foods kids may eat on a daily basis, like cereal, ketchup, and juice, it is an easy intolerance to overlook.
The cause of diarrhea may be from a chronic condition like IBS or Crohn’s disease. In any of these cases, further testing is necessary to determine the underlying factor causing your child’s persistent diarrhea.
Doctors may ask how long your child has had diarrhea, if it comes and goes, and what the family history is. It is important to be armed with as much information as possible when speaking with the doctor. Doctors may also recommend allergy testing, keeping a food diary, or even following an elimination diet to help determine the cause. All of these steps are necessary when trying to root out the reason for diarrhea.
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