Nobody really wants to talk or think about poo, but as I said in my last post on Constipation, it can tell us a lot about how well our kids are digesting their food and if their body is reactive to foods they’re eating. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the smell, shape, color and firmness (or lack of) can tell us a lot about the body’s level of balance and health. In this post I’m going to review what loose stool is, what can cause it and how to treat it naturally. But before you read further, I have to warn you…
Let’s Talk Poo: Loose Stools – Watch the webinar replay below:
What’s Normal Poo
Normal poo in a baby or child who eats solid food should be formed and eliminated in long pieces. Size and shape will depend on the age of the child and the quantity of food they’re eating. Color will vary depending on the child’s diet but is usually brown. It should be easy to eliminate and when wiping it shouldn’t take much to clean their bottom. It should have an odor, but not an offensive one. Your child should have a bowel movement anywhere from 1 to 3 times per day.
What is Loose Stool?
Loose stool is mushy or watery and may contain undigested food particles or white-grey mucous. It is unformed or lacks a solid shape, but is not completely liquid (which would be diarrhea).
What Does it Mean if Your Child Has Loose Stools?
Loose stools are a sign that your child is not digesting their food very well. The food is passing through the large intestine so rapidly it can’t reabsorb water from the stool so it comes out unformed. The more important question is why is this happening. According to TCM, loose stools may be related to other issues such as poor appetite, stomachaches, chronic low immunity, chronic sinus congestion, allergies, physical weakness, fatigue or poor motor skill development. When your child’s body is not getting optimal nourishment from the food they’re eating other health problems may also occur.
Causes of Loose Stool
- Short term loose stools may be due to a meal or food that doesn’t “agree” with your child’s body such as rich, deep-fried, sweet or spicy foods.
- Too much dried or fresh fruit can cause loose stool.
- Antibiotics can disrupt the normal balance of good bacteria or probiotics like acidophilus and bifidus. When good bacteria are inadequate it will interfere with proper digestion and can cause loose stools.
- Stomach flu can cause inflammation in the gut causing loose stools while the gut is healing. Help the gut heal quickly by avoiding dairy and adding probiotics.
- Food Sensitivities cause a slow immune response mediated by IgG antibodies which cause low-grade, often chronic, symptoms like loose stools, belly aches, sinus congestion, poor immune function, constipation and more.
- Food Allergies that cause loose stool are mediated by IgE antibodies which are fast acting. Symptoms occur rapidly after your child consumes the offending food. IgE antibodies are also the cause of anaphylaxis, like swollen lips, mouth and throat or hives.
- Strong Emotions such as anxiety, nervous tension and worry can also cause situational loose stools.
Couldn’t It be Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
IBS is a functional diagnosis based on symptomatology, but it doesn’t delve into the underlying causes of problem. In my experience, children with IBS typically have food sensitivities that haven’t been addressed, creating chronic low-grade inflammation. The inflammation in the gut makes it “irritable”. IBS symptoms may be compounded by anxiety or nerves especially if the child is emotionally sensitive. Once the food triggers are removed and the gut has a chance to heal symptoms will often disappear.
Natural Ways to Address Loose Stools
Treating loose stools naturally is not always the easy, but solving the root of the problem leads to overall improvement in your child’s health. I’ve listed a number of suggestions below. Where you start depends on your child’s specific situation, so trust your gut instincts (just had to throw that in there).
1. Elimination Diet
If you suspect food allergies or sensitivities I would start with an elimination diet. The most common food sensitivities are to dairy, gluten, corn, soy, nuts and eggs. Often times kids crave the very foods which are the culprits causing loose stool. A two or three week elimination diet can help determine what foods are triggering the loose stool. Prior to the elimination period make sure that you have suitable alternatives, read all labels to make sure you’re not inadvertently giving your child the food you’re testing and be sure to check the ingredients of all foods your child eats at a restaurant. Eating a very small amount of the food your testing can spoil the test, so make sure your child is 100% off the test food during the trial. For in-depth guidance in discovering your child’s food sensitivities I would recommend Dealing with Food Allergies: A Practical Guide to Detecting Culprit Foods by Janice V. Joneja, PhD.
Chewable enzymes support the digestive system, helping your child’s body break foods. It is important to give your child’s body extra digestive support if you suspect there is food sensitivities or allergies.
Probiotics like acidophilus and bifidus help promote healthy balance in the gut to promote normal digestion and immune function. You want to look for a high quality probiotic with multiple strains that your child can take daily.
4. Saccharomyces Boulardii
Saccharomyces boulardii is a beneficial yeast that helps to “weed out” harmful yeast like candida. It is an important part of getting the gut flora back in balance to correct loose stools.
Glutamine is an amino acid supplement that supports normal digestion by healing and sealing the gut and reducing gut inflammation.
6. Bone Broth
Bone broth is rich in minerals, protein, gelatin and nutrients. It is easy to digest and absorb and is great for healing the gut. Have your child consume 1/2 cup of broth daily in soups or other foods. Need some ideas on how to get broth into your child’s diet? Check out the article from Yummy Inspirations on 10 Ways to Get Your Child to Eat Bone Broth.
7. Avoid Raw Foods
Raw foods may be difficult for your child to digest if they’re having chronic loose stools. Limit raw foods, including fruits, to just a couple servings a day if you notice undigested food in your child’s stool until the problem is resolved.
8. Avoid Excess Fruits
Even though dried and fresh fruits are good for us, too much of a good thing can cause digestive problems. If you child has loose stools from eating too much fruit, it is a good opportunity to teach your child that what they eat affects their body
9. Custom Chinese Herbal Formulas & Acupuncture Treatment
If your child has loose stools accompanied by poor appetite, stomachaches, chronic low immunity, chronic sinus congestion or allergies, physical weakness, fatigue or poor motor skill development I would highly recommend getting a custom herbal formula and a series of acupuncture treatments prescribed by a pediatric acupuncturist. Click Here to go to our Pediatric Acupuncture Directory.
Treating loose stools, especially chronic loose stools can take months to heal. If you suspect your child has food triggers, but are having difficulty determine the problematic foods I suggest contacting a pediatric health practitioner, like an acupuncturist, who can guide you in the process, order food sensitivity testing and/or a stool analysis to enable accurate identification of the cause of your child’s loose stool.
Seek medical attention for you child if they have severe diarrhea, diarrhea with puss or green mucus, bloody diarrhea, rectal bleeding, severe or worsening abdominal pain, weight loss or signs of severe dehydration.
Concerned About Your Child’s Loose Stools? Solved the Problem Naturally? Share Your Story in the Comments Below.
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