Diarrhea has a number of causes and is seen as an attempt by the body to eliminate some form of toxic or harmful agent. Most everyone will suffer from an acute diarrhea at one time or another, which is usually self-limiting. In infants and children however, the condition can become quite severe, resulting in a loss of fluids and electrolytes leading to dehydration. This condition can develop quite rapidly, and supervision by a physician and/or hospitalization is necessary. Any diarrhea accompanied by fever and vomiting is a concern for hydration as dehydration can occur rapidly.
Children’s diarrhea is quite often associated with intolerance to formula feeding, milk or wheat allergy, or an infant formula that contains too much fat or corn syrup. Diarrhea in nursing infants may be associated with changes in mom’s diet which include dairy or wheat products. Introduction of solid foods too soon before the digestive system has had time to develop predisposes infants to chronic diarrhea and food intolerances. After the first few weeks of life, diarrhea in infants is often associated with a viral infection that is somewhat self-limiting lasting up to a week. Anything longer than this may involve a bacterial infection or a change in microflora. Use of antibiotics also will cause a somewhat limited episode of diarrhea that resolves once they are stopped.
Chronic diarrhea usually indicates a serious underlying condition such as colitis, gastritis, parasite infection, heavy metal toxicity, infected water supply or a reaction to anxiety, stress or fear. Cases lasting over 72 hours or which lead to a rapid dehydration and extreme fatigue need to be evaluated by a physician. As with acute diarrhea, fluid and electrolyte loss also need to be considered when evaluating someone with chronic diarrhea.
WHAT TO DO UNTIL THE DOCTOR IS SEEN
- Assess dehydration parameters such as dryness of mucus membranes, urinary out-put, skin turgor (it should bounce back into shape with pinching), increased heart rate and retraction of the fontanels in children up to 10 to 14 months of age.
- Note the consistency, color and frequency of the stool so the information can be passed on to your physician. This information often helps the doctor determine the cause of the diarrhea.
- Take the child’s temperature, pulse and respiration rate.
- Administer whatever treatment you have available and monitor for any change. Continue to note hydration status.
- Children must be monitored closely because often there is a rapid progression of diarrhea and development of sequelae. Frequent prescriptions may be necessary when treating homeopathically.
Homeopathic Medicines such as Aconite, Aethusa, Arsenicum album, Calcarea carbonica, Chamomilla, Ipecac, Magnesia carbonica, Magnesia muriatica, Phosphorus, Podophyllum, Rheum, Silicea and Sulphur are useful.
Fluid Replacement Formulas
Do not give fluids orally until any vomiting has ceased. Then a solution of 8 oz water, 1 tsp of sugar and a pinch of salt can be given every ½ to 1 hour an ounce at a time. The amount of solution can be increased over the next few days.
- First Glass = 8 ounce glass of fruit juice + ½ tsp sugar + 1/8th tsp sea salt.
- Second Glass = 8 ounce glass of water + ¼ tsp sodium bicarbonate
- Patient drinks alternately from both glasses.
Oral Therapeutics/Medicines from the Kitchen – Charcoal capsules 4 capsules 2 to 3 times per day to absorb toxins and help bulk the stool. In the absence of charcoal capsules, burnt and blackened toast often will do the same thing.
Infants can be given Barley water or carob powder @ 2 tsp per 4 oz of water, given 1 to 3 ounces at a time. Apple pectin, or just green apples without the peel or mashed bananas can be given. Blackberry, Sauerkraut or Cabbage juice will also help allay the diarrhea.
BRAT Diet – Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast; or BRATT (add Tea); or BRATTY (add Yogurt)
Once the diarrhea has stopped, the gastrointestinal tract will need some time and nutrients to heal. In infants and children this can occur quickly, while in adults and the elderly, it will take a bit more time. Consider using the following:
- Peppermint tea.
- Carrot juice.
- Demulcents such as Slippery elm, Althea, Amaranth, Goldenseal.
- Pancreatic and Plant enzymes to aid digestion and absorption.
- Vitamins A and B Complex.
It is not unusual for children to have periodic bouts of diarrhea as this is one of the ways that nature helps develop their immune systems. Children who have been breast-fed in my experience have fewer episodes because their gastrointestinal tracts have been colonized by the good bacteria needed to digest and assimilate food. Those that have been formula fed, especially formulas with corn syrup in them, tend to experience more episodes. It is therefore important to provide your child with an adequate probiotic in order to maintain optimal intestinal microflora even if they have been breastfed.
This article is an excerpt from the
Natural Medicine Pediatric Home Health Advisor
Thomas A. Kruzel N.D. is a naturopathic physician in private practice at the Rockwood Natural Medicine Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. He received a BA in Biology from the California State University at Northridge, and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine. Dr. Kruzel is also a board certified Medical Technologist. He completed 2 years of Family Practice Medicine residency at the Portland Naturopathic Clinic where he was chief resident prior to entering private practice. He also completed a fellowship in Geriatric Medicine through the Oregon Geriatric Education Center and the Portland VA Medical Center.
He has been an Associate Professor of Medicine at National College of Naturopathic Medicine where he has taught Clinical Laboratory Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Clinical Urology. He is the author of the Homeopathic Emergency Guide A Quick Reference Handbook to Effective Homeopathic Care published by North Atlantic Books and Haug Publishers Germany, and has published numerous articles in The Journal of Naturopathic Medicine as well as other publications. He also is the author of the Natural Medicine Pediatric Home Health Advisor. He has been a member of the Alternative Medicine Review Editorial Review Board since 1997 and editor of the Clinical Medicine section of the Foundations Medical Textbook. He is also the past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and was selected as Physician of the Year by the AANP in 2000 and Physician of the Year by the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association in 2003.