Thinking Moms’ Guide to Red Flags: Diarrhea

Red Flags - DiarrheaThis week in our Red Flag series we bring you diarrhea.

My son had chronic diarrhea beginning at 13 months.  When I first brought it up to our pediatrician, he dismissed this red flag, telling me it was only “toddler diarrhea” and that it was perfectly normal at that age.  There was not as much information available online then as there is now, and I didn’t know anyone who had experienced this with their child. So we listened to our doctor and did nothing.  At 15 months my son was diagnosed with a global developmental delay and was having three to four massive and explosive diapers every day.  His stools were not liquid, rather mushy and runny with undigested food particles in them.  They were acidic, and no amount of stain remover could get the stains out of his clothing.  I securely wrapped him in three diapers at a time, and still I could not contain his poop.  I carried extra pairs of clothing for him and an extra pair for myself everywhere I went.

Over the next several months, our pediatrician maintained his position that this was normal.  At 19 months, my son was diagnosed with autism, and I asked our doctor if the diarrhea could be connected to the autism.  He told me absolutely not and that I should focus all my time, money and energy pursuing therapies instead of medical treatment.  It took persistence on my part to get him to finally refer us to a pediatric gastroenterologist — and he did so reluctantly, telling me there was nothing a specialist could do for us.  This specialist who was the “expert” agreed with our pediatrician that there was nothing he could do.  Mainstream medicine did not yet acknowledge gastrointestinal disorders in children with autism.  My son appeared to be in excruciating pain around his bowel movements, and we were told there was nothing we could do to help alleviate his pain.  After several months of 25 hours a week of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and Occupational Therapy (OT), as my son’s sensory dysfunction continued to decline further, I decided to do my own research and find answers.

What I can tell you now, four and a half years after our initial diagnosis, is 1) as Hippocrates so brilliantly taught – and we’ve obviously failed to digest – “all diseases begin in the gut,” and that includes autism. Studies have shown more than 70% of children with autism have underlying GI disorders, of which diarrhea can be a symptom.  And 2) chronic diarrhea is never normal.  There is ALWAYS an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.

What is Leaky Gut?

Chronic diarrhea is a symptom of a more fundamental problem: leaky gut.  A large percentage of your digestive, nervous, and immune systems reside in your intestines.  When you have a leaky gut, small perforations in your small intestinal lining can release undigested food particles, bacteria and toxins into your bloodstream.  This leads to malabsorption and can also trigger an overactive immune response, which will produce inflammation all throughout your body.   The body begins to reject the food it is supposed to get its nutrition from, and food sensitivities develop.  My son had 25 food sensitivities before we started healing his gut.

There is always an underlying cause when a child with autism — or any child — has chronic diarrhea.  I would recommend finding a MAPS doctor, functional medicine doctor, or homeopath and do a comprehensive digestive stool analysis (CDSA 2.0 by Genova Diagnostics) that can evaluate digestion, absorption, gut flora and the colonic environment and address the possible overgrowth of bacteria, yeast and parasites.  An IgG food allergy sensitivity test (ELISA) can determine food sensitivities, which may be causing low grade inflammation, which in turn may be contributing to bloating, gas and diarrhea.


The first step to healing diarrhea is to remove what is causing your gut to be out of balance in the first place.

  1. Food – Take out all processed foods, sugars and grains and food sensitivities that are contributing to inflammation in the gut. You can ask your doctor to do a IgG food sensitivity blood test.
  2. Infections – Have a doctor do a stool test to determine which pathogenic microorganisms and parasites may be contributing to the problem, and then treat them. If treating with medication, it is helpful to combine an antifungal with an antibiotic initially so that bacteria and yeast stay in balance.  It is helpful to follow up with a good homeopath to more completely heal these infections.  A parasite cleanse will treat parasites.
  3. Medications – Consider stopping all vaccines and antibiotics. Remove all over-the-counter medications, including Children’s Tylenol which depletes glutathione needed to rid the body of toxins.
  4. Toxins – Take a look at your environment for possible molds, heavy metals and other harmful chemicals. Research what you are putting on your child’s hair and skin.  Harmful chemicals and toxins included in toothpaste, shampoo, body wash and lotions are being absorbed by the skin and bloodstream.  Original Sprout is a clean brand developed for children.
  5. Stress – Stress can physically alter the nervous system, cause leaky gut and alter the good bacteria in the gut. If you are able to, take your child outside or to the park to get some exercise every day.  This can be calming to the nervous system and help with digestion.  Rhodiola is an herb that can be helpful for stress management.


The next step is to add back in the nutrition and supplements needed to replenish the body with overall good gut health.

  1. Diet – Move to a Paleo, Specific Carbohydrate (SCD) or Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), or Body Ecology diet with 100% organic non-genetically modified foods. Fermented foods such as kefir and sauerkraut can also be added back into the diet slowly as you begin to heal the gut.   It is helpful to keep a food journal to track diarrhea as well as other physical and behavioral symptoms as you are removing and adding foods into the diet.
  2. Probiotics – High-dose probiotic supplements are needed to rebuild healthy gut bacteria. (Bodybiotics SBO Probiotics Consortia with Prebiotics, Culturelle (treats clostridia), Klaire Labs)
  3. Digestive enzymes – Broad-spectrum digestive enzymes can be helpful.  Signs of malabsorption include undigested food in the stool. If you are lacking digestive enzymes in the gut, you cannot properly convert food into the raw materials needed for good overall gut function.  (Enzymedica, Houston Enzymes, CREON Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy)
  4. Omega-3 supplements – A daily concentrated fish oil supplement will help lower inflammation in the gut. (Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil, Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil, krill oil)
  5. Glutamine and zinc – These supplements can help repair the lining of the gut so it can return to normal function.
  6. Replace medications – Add in herbs, homeopathic remedies and essential oils.  It is helpful to work with a good homeopath.  (Herbs: Gaia; Homeopathic remedy providers: Washington HomeopathicBoiron, Dr. King; Essential oil providers: Young Living and DoTerra)
  7. Detox – Epsom salts and baking soda (gluten-free) baths for 20 minutes every other night can help unload daily toxins.
  8. Exercise – If you are able to, try to take your child outside or to the park to get some exercise every day.  This can be calming to the nervous system and help with digestion.

Note:  If your child has a distended belly, he or she may have stool that is impacted and be constipated in addition to the diarrhea.  You can ask your doctor to do an x-ray.  (See last week’s Red Flags for Constipation.)

A few tips:

  • Focus on one or two areas at a time so that you do not get overwhelmed.
  • Consistency is important.
  • It takes several years to completely heal the gut and for most of the kids, it may not happen overnight.
  • Don’t give up.

Today, my son is recovering and doing amazing.

~ Rocky

For more by Rocky, click here.


Additional Resources:

Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders in Individuals With ASDs: A Consensus Report, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Gastrointestinal flora and gastrointestinal status in children with autism — comparisons to typical children and correlation with autism severity, BMC Gastroenterology

GreenMedInfo:  Leaky Gut, Diarrhea

TACA:  The Poop Page

Nutrition:  Nourishing Hope

Homeopathy:  Alan Freestone

Homotoxicology:  Mary Coyle

Detox:  IonCleanse



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14 Responses to Thinking Moms’ Guide to Red Flags: Diarrhea

  1. John Robert says:

    Hi, Thanks for your top-notch article. Actually, In most cases, diarrhea can be treated at home and it will resolve itself in a few days. Drink plenty of fluids, and follow the “BRAT” diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) to help ease symptoms. Take care to ensure infants and children stay hydrated. Electrolyte solutions such as Pedialyte can be helpful.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      This post isn’t about the once-in-a-while case of the runs that yields to a BRAT diet or Pedialyte. It’s about the consistent, frequent, constant sort of diarrhea that is largely unaffected by low-level interventions. That is indeed a “red flag” and is often associated with some form of neuroimmunue dysfunction. For instance, my own son had childhood apraxia of speech and did not have a formed stool until he was two years old, when I began giving him digestive enzymes and probiotics. Immediately after I did so, it was obvious that he found it far easier to talk.

  2. Thomas says:

    Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 jrone

  3. Barbara H Bryan says:

    With infant twin boys in diapers I took their 19-month older brother with intractable diarrhea repeatedly to their pediatricians where he was prescribed bowel-slowing meds. His movements ultimately produced foul-smelling mustard-colored stools with the consistency of watery milkshakes. They burned holes in his infant flesh. That’s when I read through every page of the then current Merck Manual to decide we needed to try a gluten free diet. Within 10 days the child had passed a fully formed BM, never mind it was in the bathtub. For 2 1/2 yrs he (and the rest of the family) enjoyed plenty of rice and potato flour. That was 43 yrs ago in the days before even butter was miraculously “gluten free.”

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Wow, Barbara! I am totally impressed that you figured all that out 43 years ago. That was anything but common knowledge then. I recently read a book about How Doctors Think and the first chapter of the book was about a woman with celiac disease who went from doctor to doctor who just kept diagnosing her as a “non-compliant anorexic.” That was far more recently and that was DOCTORS who are SUPPOSED to be more aware of what different symptoms can imply.

  4. Hans Scholl says:

    Off topic (sry about that) – Great website though

    Distrust of vaccinations on the rise across EU
    Europeans are turning away from vaccines, amid rising distrust of immunisation for infectious diseases. France’s Constitutional Council has upheld legislation obliging parents to have their children innoculated. EurActiv France reports.
    Given the choice, not everybody would vaccinate their children. Marc and Samia Larère asked the French Constitutional Council for a “priority preliminary ruling on the issue of constitutionality” (QPC) on whether they could legally be forced to vaccinate their children.
    The response came on 20 March: compulsory vaccination is legal under the French constitution. Like many parents, the Larères feel that the obligatory DTP vaccine (against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) poses too high a risk and protects against illnesses that are virtually non-existent in France.
    The only DTP vaccine to not contain aluminium was withdrawn from the market in June 2008, and the others have been out of stock for months. The only remaining option is the hexavalent vaccine that also immunises against hepatitis B, although this is not on the obligatory vaccination list, and the vaccine has suspected links to multiple sclerosis.

    Michèle Rivasi, a Green MEP, called this “a forced sale”. “Vaccination is not benign. I am not against vaccination but I believe in moderation,” she said at a press conference on 24 March. Together with pharmacist Serge Rader, she has launched an operation to blow the whistle on conflicts of interest and corruption in the public health sector.
    For recommendation, against obligation
    If there is one domain within the sector that tends to keep its nose clean, says Selon Serge Rader, it is vaccination. In Europe, France is the only country to maintain the policy of compulsory vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
    Portugal has kept compulsory vaccination for diphtheria and polio, and Belgium just for polio. Elsewhere in Europe, Germany, the United Kingdon, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and others have all abolished compulsory vaccination.

    >> Read: Merkel’s ‘vaccine summit’ raises $7.5 billion

    The Commission’s objective in this domain is to maintain or increase rates of vaccination against preventable diseases. The Executive has committed to assisting with the introduction of vaccines against cervical cancer and promoting the vaccination of “people at risk” of seasonal flu. The Council recommendation of 22 December 2009 advised member states to aim to vaccinate 75% of their “at risk” citizens against flu by the winter of 2014-2015. Only the United Kingdom and the Netherlands achieved this target, but experts say that if it was reached across the EU, between 9,000 and 14,000 lives would be saved every year.
    “We are in favour of recommendation, not obligation,” said Michèle Rivasi. Serge Rader said it is important not to forget that vaccines can be dangerous. Thousands of cases of multiple sclerosis have been detected following hepatitis B vaccinations and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) has been linked to cases of autism. In Canada, a 15 year-old girl died immediately after her second injection of Gardasil, the vaccine against the papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer.
    “I would like to give people two pieces of advice. Firstly, there should be no rush to vaccinate babies, as their immune systems are too fragile to receive vaccines in the first year. Secondly, be vigilant for side effects and declare them to the pharmacovigilance organisation,” Serge Rader said. “This is in the interest of public health, which today is dominated by financial interests,” he added.

    Distrust of vaccination
    According to the French National Institute for Prevention and Health Education, distrust of vaccination has risen from 10% in 2005 to 40% in 2010.
    “There has been a startling drop in vaccination in France, particularly against potentially serious diseases,” said Professor Roger Salamon. “Some whistle-blowers are very dangerous […] because they cause people to lose their trust,” he added.
    In November 2014, a panel of experts advised the EU to launch its own information campaign to counterbalance the work of the anti-vaccination lobby.

    >> INFOGRAPHIC: Vaccine R&D leaders
    The Italian Health Minister said that it was “only thanks to a new alliance between the institutions and stakeholders, including the scientific community, and thanks to a new public communication strategy that we can ensure that everybody has access to vaccines. This service is essential for public health”.
    In September 2014, the French High Council for Public Health called for a public debate on whether vaccination against certain diseases should remain compulsory in France or not, and suggested setting up free public vaccination centres.

  5. Jennifer says:

    My son is 2 and suffers from digestive issues like gas, bloating and sometimes undigested food. I have IBS and I’ve been looking into healing both of our guts. My toddler is very picky so I’m not exactly sure how this plays out with picky kids in terms of their diet and getting the proper nutrients. Anyone in this boat?

    • Nikki Roxby says:

      Jennifer, I can totally relate to your situation. I often tell people that my son saved me. Because of him, I know now that I have celiac and leaky gut and as a result have made the same changes to my diet and environment. My son is also a picky eater and feeding therapy was helpful. Many of the kids also have sensory reasons for being selective with their food. We worked on back chaining his food, so for example knowing he only tolerates crunchy foods, we try to stick with paleo foods that’s are crunchy, like bacon or sautéing meat and vegetables in olive oil. A good Occupational Therapist can help with this.

  6. Nikki Roxby says:

    Cathy, I am using Gaia brand for Rhodiola. I would check with your doctor or homeopath for individual dosing. Good luck!

  7. Nikki Roxby says:

    Ann, my son did not have rages, but he did have severe anxiety and meltdowns. He was diagnosed with Kryptopyrrole at age three which is basically a B6 and Zinc deficiency which can cause anxiety. I think a lot of the kids with malabsorption have extreme behaviors that relate back to the gut. I know that feeling of walking on eggshells and it is so hard when it is your child. Congratulations for being a thinking mom and catching the red flag early! It sounds like your daughter is doing great.

  8. Nikki Roxby says:

    Kim, it does sound similar to our story. It sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress. Homotoxicology may also be helpful to detox at the cellular level. We posted a link to Mary Coyle’s site up above.

  9. Kim says:

    Sounds exactly like my son . He had chronic diarrhea tull age two . He seen a Baturopath and started him on probiotics and supplaments. He was allergic to everything so feeding him was a challenge. He also had undefigested food in his loose stools .
    He is ten now and diagnosed with wheat allergy,possible to be celiac. We’re still doing more testing. MTHFR, sensory processing disorder, learning disability and ADD.
    It was refreshing to find natural doctors that healed my sons stomach issues and I learned vaccine reactions are real.

  10. Ann Nielsen says:

    Thank you for posting this. This is very close to what I did for my daughter who had extreme rages and mood swings. It started after several doses of antibiotics and huge amounts of Tylenol starting at 9 months and by age 6 she was full on raging and hysterical and emotionally all over the place. It took 4 years to figure it out. We also did the 23 and me and discovered the MTHFR mutations as well as other mutations. I am happy, no actually ecstatic, that I have my daughter back at age 11 and we have been rage free and just breathing. We were a household walking on egg shells never knowing what would set her off. I never vaccinated my children but feel in my heart that autism would have been a diagnosis that she would have had if I did vaccinate. I wanted to post this because I am meeting so many moms who confide that their child has deep rage and anger issues and when I started researching I could not find any help except for personal stories.
    Thank you for all the TMR for what you do.
    Hang I’m there….

  11. Cathy says:

    Curious for those of you using Rhodiola what brand and amount works for you?

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