Diarrhoea

I’m writing this blog to answer a question in the Ask the Vegan Naturopath Facebook group. The question is about chronic diarrhoea, with a known gluten sensitivity. While the person I’m answering has had medical testing done and was able to provide a fair bit of information, I’m answering this in a more general manner for the benefit of others who may be suffering from diarrhoea without the benefit of having done this investigation:

First, make sure you have fully researched all gluten sources. Make sure you haven’t missed anything. And double check the ingredients labels on everything he is eating. Has this been medically diagnosed? I’ve seen children who appear to have diarrhea but it’s actually constipation with loose stool running out around this blockage.

If it is diarrhea, ask yourself if there is too much raw food or fruit in his diet. These can lead to diarrhea in some people. Loose stool in Chinese medicine is often thought to be due to weak or deficient spleen-pancreas qi, or if it gets really bad, deficient digestive fire. These people can have a pale tongue with a thin white coating, tend to be tired, have food sensitivities and other digestive troubles. They advise reducing excessive raw vegetables, fruit (esp citrus), sprouts, cereal grasses, tomato, spinach, tofu, wild blue-green microalgae, seaweeds, salt, dairy, sweets and vinegar (eg fermented foods). Helpful foods to add or increase are: sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, parsnip, turnip, garbanzo and black beans, onions, leek, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, garlic, nutmeg, and fruits cooked rather than raw. Food needs to be chewed well!

Other things to look into are under-active stomach acid. Symptoms can include loose stool, bad breath, bloating and flatulence just after eating. Good remedies include digestive enzymes (you can get vegan ones) or meadowsweet tea.

Also make sure you aren’t using too much artificial supplemental vitamin C, and check for B3 deficiency, which can be tied in with underactive stomach acid. I don’t know your son’s age, but other things to watch out for are coffee/caffeine intake, alcohol use, past laxative or antacid abuse, or recurrent antibiotics use. Doctors can also check for parasites in the bowel and blood in the stool (in case of ulcerative colitis). Happily, he is vegan, so you don’t have to worry about dairy!

If the diarrhea is worse during emotional upheaval, it may be irritable bowel syndrome, which I always think of as a sensitivity type disease. These people take their stresses through the digestive tract so managing stress is a massive part of reducing symptoms, along with identifying food sensitivities.

The important thing is to work on identifying the cause, but if you have exhausted all your options here, classic herbal remedies for managing symptoms can include astringents like meadowsweet or nettles tea. A favourite remedy in our house is slippery elm, but we use it sparing because last time I looked, the slippery elm tree was in danger of extinction and I’m not sure where we’re at with getting it cultivated for commercial use. I’ll need to update myself on that! The powder can be added to smoothies with probiotics, another useful diarrhea remedy.

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