Fascinating reasons why your child might have runny poop

runny poo

Fascinating reasons why your child might have runny poop

runny poo

Runny poo on the Bristol Stool Chart can look like mushy porridge or overtly watery with no solid pieces and entirely liquid. 

A good, healthy stool is one that is shaped like a sausage, and is smooth and easy to pass. 

Runny poos are not want you want to be seeing in the toilet after your little one has gone. 

Should I be concerned about runny poop?

This can be a sign of a tummy bug or a bad reaction to food. If on-going, it can be a red flag for a stubborn gut infection such as a parasite, side effects from certain medication such as antibiotics or a more sinister condition such as coeliac disease or an inflammatory bowel disease. 

A one-off runny poo caused by a passing gut bug usually resolves on its own. 

It is the on-going, chronic cases that we need to get to the bottom of (pun intended!!).

Not only is the runny poo causing a loss of nutrients to support growth, development, energy and mood but also a loss of electrolytes leading to potential problems with dizziness, cramping, confusion and irregular heartbeat. 

What causes runny poop?

Your child lacks important enzymes that are responsible for breaking down certain sugars and sugar alcohols in foods such as:

  • Lactose in milk and other dairy products
  • Fructose in juices, fruits and some vegetables
  • Sorbitol in foods such as pears and apples 

These reactions are fairly easy to pinpoint as they occur about half an hour to two hours after consumption and you may notice a pattern. 

Your child will also typically complain of gassiness, tummy pain and will look bloated.

Your child may be reacting to natural food chemicals called biogenic amines such as histamine.

Histamine is a natural chemical found in a number of foods but especially high in things like fermented foods, fish, shellfish, meat and cheese (particularly aged ones). Histamine can also be produced by some gut bugs. 

Our guts have an enzyme that breaks down and clears out the histamine but when our gut health is not so great, those enzymes are fewer and the excess histamine will cause symptoms such as runny poos, itchy skin and hives. 

Your child may have a food allergy. 

A food allergy can be an immediate or a delayed reaction; generally within a couple of minutes to 2 hours. There may be diarrhoea alongside other symptoms including vomiting, hives, swelling of the lips, eyes and/ or face, wheezing or a more severe, life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis (a medical emergency). 

The top foods responsible for food allergies in infants and children that can cause runny poos are:

  • cow’s milk and other dairy products (Cow’s milk protein allergy/CMPA)
  • eggs
  • wheat
  • Peanuts, tree nuts (hazelnut, cashew, pistachio, walnut) and seeds (sesame). Generally responsible for the more severe reactions.

That last gut bug infection could have really messed around with your child’s gut and is causing on-going issues. 

Chronic infections with the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni and the parasite Giardia are two common ones found in children. A sample of your child’s poop can be tested to identify what is lurking around so that we know what we are needing to target. 

That last round of antibiotics may have thrown the balance of good and bad gut bugs out the window. 

Without enough good gut bugs to deal with the bad guys and keep things in order, bacteria such as Clostridium difficile and even resident locals such as the yeast Candida albicans (okay in low numbers) can set up shop and cause gut inflammation and dysfunction. 

Your child may have an autoimmune condition such as Coeliac disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. 

These autoimmune conditions can make your child quite unwell with runny poo, tummy pains, anaemia, fatigue/ lethargy, and weight loss. 

Struggling with runny poos?

Getting to the bottom of runny poos will need a thorough case history. We are looking for information on what the stools are like, what else is going on for you child, how long has it been going on for, what happened around the time it started and the lead up to it…. There is a lot of detective work involved for both you and your practitioner.  

So, if your child has been struggling with persistent runny poos, get in touch so we can work through it together and develop an individualised treatment plan to get things back to balance. 


Cows milk allergy

Intestinal candidiasis and antibiotic usage in children

Epidemiology of Cow’s Milk Allergy

PMID: 23384809

Giardiasis: An Overview

Pediatric Gastroenteritis

Chronic diarrhoea in children: A practical algorithm-based approach

Food allergy and hypersensitivity reactions in children and adults—A review

Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea: A Refresher on Causes and Possible Prevention With Probiotics—Continuing Education Article

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