Toddler’s Diarrhea

Toddler's diarrhea, also known as chronic nonspecific diarrhea of childhood, is one of the most common causes of chronic diarrhea in otherwise healthy children.


There are several factors that contribute to toddler's diarrhea.

Excessive Fluid Intake

Too much fluid can overwhelm the ability of the toddler's digestive tract to absorb water and electrolytes, resulting in diarrhea.

Carbohydrate Malabsorption

Fruit juices often contain large amounts of sugars and carbohydrates such as sorbitol and fructose, which are poorly absorbed in the child's digestive tract.

Low Fat Diet

Fat can slow down a child's digestion allowing more time for absorption of nutrients. Diets low in fat may cause food to move through too rapidly resulting in diarrhea.

Immature Digestive Tract

The nerves supplying the toddler's digestive tract may not be fully mature and result in rapid movement of food moving through the digestive tract. This may not allow adequate time for absorption resulting in diarrhea.


Toddler's diarrhea is suspected in a child with chronic diarrhea who is age 6 months to 5 years, gaining weight and developing normally, and otherwise healthy.

Children with toddler's diarrhea often have:

  • 5-10 loose, watery, large stools per day
  • Stools with undigested food particles
  • Diarrhea lasting weeks followed by weeks of normal stools

Contact a pediatric GI specialist if your child experiences other symptoms with diarrhea such as:

  • Blood in stool
  • Weight loss or poor weight gain
  • Chronic fever
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Stooling accidents
  • Greasy or oily stools

Talk with your doctor if your child experiences diarrhea associated with dairy products or other foods.


Changes in diet are often the best treatment for toddler's diarrhea.

  • Limit fruit juice, sport drinks and cola and other high carbohydrate drinks.
  • Avoid excessive fluid intake and “grazing” with bottles or sippy cups.
  • Increase the amount of fat in your child's diet with whole milk, butter and olive oil.
  • Increase the amount of fiber in your child's diet with fresh fruit, bread, cereal and beans.

Points to Remember

  • Children with toddler's diarrhea are healthy children who are growing and developing normally.
  • Diet changes may improve or alleviate your child's symptoms.
  • Symptoms may improve over time as your child's digestive tract matures.
  • Alert your child's pediatric GI specialist if your child experiences other symptoms with diarrhea such as blood in stool, weight loss or poor weight gain, chronic fever, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, stooling accidents and greasy or oily stools.
More Blogs

Should You Call the Doctor about Your Child’s…

July 2nd, 2014 | As a parent, you worry when your child has a fever, especially if it occurs late at night. When fevers come on, you might ask yourself, should we go to the emergency room or should we wait to see the doctor? While there are no hard and fast rules, the guidelines below may help you decide what kind of medical care to seek… Continue Reading

Butterflies and Belly Aches

August 23rd, 2013 | It’s a common childhood complaint: stomach ache. As a parent, it can be frustrating to know whether it’s just part of growing up, or if it’s a more serious disease or issue with abdominal organs. So when should you call the doctor about your child’s stomach ache? Here’s what you need to know about possible causes… Continue Reading

Leading the Way in Pediatric Gastroenterology

June 11th, 2013 | Quality care starts with the patient-doctor relationship. That’s what Allie Feldman and her family discovered when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of four. Crohn’s disease an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. Prior to her diagnosis, a long line of doctors… Continue Reading