What is it?
As can be gathered from the name, Toddler Diarrhoea (TD) is a common gastrointestinal condition that occurs in children aged 1 – 5 years with symptoms of diarrhoea. Stools are loose to watery in consistency, can contain undigested food and be offensive smelling. Frequency can vary and be anything from 2 – 10 per day. Despite their symptoms, generally children continue to thrive and grow appropriately. They do not also tend to have any nutritional consequences such as malabsorption or vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Should your little one have diarrhoea, it is important to see your GP to rule out any other causes.
What is the cause of TD?
Although there is no definitive cause of TD, it may be due to the fact that a little one’s immature gut is unable to digest certain foods. This inability leads directly to the symptoms of TD.
Some toddlers may have increased gut transit time (how long food takes to pass through the bowel) meaning that certain foods and fluids move through the gut too quickly. The result is watery poo with undigested food.
What is the treatment of TD?
Although there is no definitive treatment of TD, dietary changes generally can be helpful in resolving or improving symptoms.
Although we know our littles microbes love to feast on fibre, too much fibre in a little one’s diet can worsen toddler diarrhoea. Trial reducing the dietary fibre by switching to a lower fibre breakfast cereal eg rice crispies or cornflakes. You can also avoid giving a large amount of fruit and vegetables at one mealtime, instead spreading portions out throughout the day.
Fruit and fruit juices contain fructose, which is a naturally-occurring sugar. Little tummies can find it more difficult to absorb fructose which can cause diarrhoea. Avoid fruit juice or dilute down with water and limit fruit to 1 portion of fruit per sitting. Processed sugar found in sweets and chocolate is also an irritant to toddler diarrhoea, so reduce or eliminate this where possible.
A good fluid intake is important to keep little ones hydrated and avoid constipation. Drinking too much fluid however, can contribute to toddler diarrhoea. Keep to 6 – 8 cups per day (more in hot weather!) and avoid giving sugary drinks, including fruit juice. Aim to give water or full fat cows milk (or dairy free alternative) to keep them hydrated.
Although in adults the general advice is to reduce the amount of dietary fat eaten to improve our health, in young children a low fat diet is not advised. One reason being they need enough energy to grow appropriately, but also fat reduces gut transit time. Not having enough dietary fat can therefore worsen toddler diarrhoea. Choose full fat options for your little one such as whole milk (blue top) and avoid giving ‘diet’ or ‘light’ food options.
If you are still having trouble managing your little one’s tummy, book here to see me at The Gut Health Clinic where I can offer personalised advice!