All About Diarrhea


Posted 3.31.11 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

Here at Neocate, we get lots of questions about diapers. I mean lots! Many questions relate to constipation or diarrhea. We’ve posted about constipation in the past, but I thought it would be helpful to pull together our past comments on diarrhea, as well as provide some more medical information on the topic courtesy of the National Institutes of Health, or NIH.

Defining “Diarrhea”

Simply defined, diarrhea is loose, watery stools. It also means having these loose stools three or more times a day. There are more specific guidelines, but most people know diarrhea when they see it. Diarrhea happens to everyone, usually about once a year for adults and twice a year for young children.

Typically, diarrhea is acute, meaning that it lasts one or two days and then goes away. This type of diarrhea is typically caused by an infection. If diarrhea lasts more than two days, it can be something more serious. Diarrhea lasting more than two to four weeks – chronic diarrhea – may be a symptom of a chronic disease or condition.

The concern with diarrhea, especially when it lasts more than two days, is a risk of dehydration. Our bodies absorb most of the water and some minerals at the end of our digestive tract. When we have diarrhea we can’t absorb those things, leading to dehydration, which can be serious.

Diarrhea in Infants

New parents quickly become experts at several things, one of which is changing diapers. Since infants go through about eight diapers a day, parents easily pick up on anything abnormal. Every baby’s stools are different in terms of how watery they are, which makes defining diarrhea in infants difficult. To keep it simple, diarrhea is typically a sudden onset of frequent bowel movements that are more watery than usual.

The risk of dehydration from diarrhea is much higher in children than most adults, and especially in infants. Since infants can’t tell us what they’re feeling, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of dehydration. With children and infants, you shouldn’t hesitate to call their healthcare provider if you have concerns. For infants under 4 months, the recommendation is that you contact the doctor at the first sign of diarrhea or dehydration.

Diarrhea and Food Allergies

Pulling this all together, diarrhea is one of the top signs of a food allergy, especially for infants. In infants with food allergies, diarrhea often lasts more than just a few days and may even be combined with other symptoms. It’s not uncommon to also see blood or mucus in the stool. Diarrhea can also result from lactose intolerance, which is not as severe as a food allergy, but which may also require a change in diet.

Like we hear from many Neocate parents, diarrhea is often one of the first signs to clear up after they start using Neocate. This is because Neocate doesn’t contain any lactose (or any dairy at all!) or whole proteins. These substances would normally cause a reaction in the body that leads to poor absorption and diarrhea. Infants are able to absorb the nutrients they need from Neocate without the bad reaction that often results in diarrhea. Most parents tell us that the switch to Neocate has meant more solid stools and many fewer diapers.

- Rob

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Read Comments (2)

  • 2016-09-18 | Vanessa Williams

    My son just turned 1. He’s been on Neocate full time since I stopped nursing him around 7 months. We transitioned to Neocate Junior with Prebiotics last week. He’s been having diarrhea every day—about 3 times a day…getting worse this weekend to about 5 - 7 times a day. Do you have any experience with this and do you know what it could mean? i.e. is this normal…is there a transition period…or should I not do Neocate anymore? Thank you.

  • 2016-09-19 | Nutrition Specialist

    We’re sorry to hear that your little one has had an increase in stools. For some, a transition period from the previous formula to the new formula is beneficial. The fading technique is often used to help with this transition: https://www.neocate.com/images/uploads/Files/TransitioningToNeocate_July2014.pdf .

    Please don’t hesitate to contact our team of Nutrition Specialists if you have any further questions (Monday-Friday, 8:30a-5:00p EST at 1-800-365-7354, option 2). If you haven’t done so already, we would encourage you to discuss this concern with your little one’s health care professional as well.

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About Us

Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.