What is causing toddler’s diarrhea… Is it Lactose Intolerance, or Fructose Malabsorption?

Diarrhea is a common problem for young kids. They get frequent loose, watery stools; without any other symptoms. In fact, there’s a term for this – “Toddler’s Diarrhea”. It even has a diagnostic code for billing!


So, what causes Toddler’s Diarrhea and why is it a problem?


—— Complications for Children ——

Not only is Toddler’s Diarrhea an irritating problem to deal with for both the child and the parent, it can lead to poor nutrient absorption affecting growth and development, poor weight gain, poor appetite, excess gas, and even dehydration. 


—— Common Causes ——

Often parents assume that diarrhea in young children results from a milk allergy or intolerance. Lactose intolerance can cause toddler’s diarrhea. 


However, it’s not the only cause. And, eliminating milk from a growing child’s diet can have significant consequences.


—— Lactose Intolerance ——

Lactose is a fermentable carbohydrate, and it is the most familiar and well-known fermentable carbohydrate in regard to its reputation for causing gas, bloating, and those all-too-familiar symptoms of IBS. Lactose is a disaccharide – a two molecule sugar – that is partially broken down by natural enzymes during digestion – but if a person doesn’t make enough of the natural enzymes, the undigested lactose can end up being fermented in the colon, leading to GI discomfort, which can include diarrhea or loose stools. 


Fewer than 1 out of 5 kids have true lactose intolerance. Most kids make plenty of natural enzymes to digest lactose, so true lactose intolerance is very uncommon among children. As many as 1 out of every 3 children have fructose malabsorption, and the younger the child, the more likely it is a fructose problem  – NOT lactose intolerance! 


—— Fructose Malabsorption ——

Fructose malabsorption is a common cause of loose stools and diarrhea in young children. Fructose is a single molecule carbohydrate, and similarly to lactose, if unabsorbed fructose makes it to the colon, it can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. 


Fructose is very common in popular kids’ foods, including fruits and juices, as well as many sweetened foods that contain High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Since fructose is often consumed in large portions by children, it can easily overwhelm their digestive system. 


—— Treating Toddler’s Diarrhea ——

Lots of families try reducing or removing milk from their child’s diet, but if lactose intolerance is not the cause, they won’t see any improvement. For many children, simply avoiding fruit juice and foods containing high fructose corn syrup is enough to stop diarrhea.


But some kids are extra fructose sensitive, and simply stopping juice and HFCS doesn’t fix the problem. In those circumstances, they might need to be on a more strict fructose restriction. Sometimes these children have multiple carbohydrate intolerances, and need to be on a trial of a low FODMAPs diet to more clearly identify the cause of their symptoms.


—— What Is The Low FODMAPs Diet? ——

The Low FODMAPs Diet is an elimination diet that can help relieve IBS symptoms and reveal your personal FODMAPs sensitivity. 


During the FODMAPs elimination diet, you will cut out broad groups of foods that are known to be frequent sources of digestive problems. This allows your digestive system to “clear out”, and at the same time your IBS symptoms will subside. After you’ve eliminated FODMAPs for a few weeks, you can then test different types of foods to see which ones prompt reactions. 


At the end of the 8-12 week diet, you will feel better, know your personal FODMAPs sensitivities, and be able to take control of your IBS.


To learn more about the Low FODMAPs diet, try out the recipes in the Low FODMAPs Recipe Kit: https://feedtosucceed.com/fodmap-recipes/