Milk cause of watery BMs?

I have a sixteen month old daughter who up until two months ago has been very healthy. I weaned her from the breast at 12 months and onto whole milk per her ped. She took it fine with no problems, now all of a sudden every time she drinks milk she has a runny diaper with a bad diaper rash. The ped advise to put her on skim milk, we did and two weeks later we are still having the same problem. My concern is her father and his father are allergic to milk and to this day do not drink it, I on the other hand am pregnant again and go through 2 gallons weekly. I cannot take my daughter to a specialist without a referral from her ped (insurance).

Please help shed some light on this before my baby turns into juice from all that she drinks. I only allow 1/2 glass of milk daily because she is so uncomfortable with her bowels.

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Michelle,

I think you may need to do a little detective work with your daughter's diet to determine if in fact it is the milk that is causing her problem. Although allergies can pop up at any time, for children they usually manifest themselves early on and are then outgrown. If your daughter was raised on a cow's milk based formula, and then weaned to whole milk without a reaction then I think you do not want to automatically decide that the milk is the culprit. Juice, and lots of it, can cause all of those symptoms that you described... watery bowels and rash. Juice is often used to relieve constipation because it contains a natural sugar called sorbitol that is a laxative for many people.

It may also be that some other new food was introduced to her diet that may be causing the reaction. To help you and your doctor make a proper diagnoses begin by keeping a rigorous diary of all foods ingested, the amount ingested, and of the occurrence of any symptoms.

Start by eliminating both milk and juice from her diet for a couple of days. I know this may be difficult as far as fluid intake is concerned. You will need to offer her lots of water, and a larger quantity of solids to make up for the calories she is not getting from the milk and juice. If improvement has occurred on the elimination of those foods add them back, one at a time, allowing several days to a week to elapse between them. She should have at least two or three servings in that time period. Keep track of any symptoms that occur on their addition. If you should add back the milk first, and no reaction occurs, you can keep the milk in her diet when adding the juice. If the milk should cause adverse reactions, eliminate the milk from her diet before adding back the juice.

After you have challenged her with both juice and milk, take the results you get to your pediatrician to see if this detailed information will help him determine if your daughter suffers from a milk allergy. Also note if you have ever noticed an adverse reaction to other dairy foods like cheese or yogurt. It is also important for him to know that there is a family history of milk allergy. I know all this sounds like a tedious process, but it will be helpful in making a proper diagnoses. I would hate to advise you to unnecessarily eliminate such a major food group as dairy from your daughter's diet.

Finally, if you determine that it is milk that your daughter is reacting to, you may want to further determine if it is a milk allergy or a lactose intolerance she suffers from. Lactose intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzyme, lactase, in the gut that is responsible for digesting the lactose in milk. Lactose intolerance symptoms are also characterized by runny stools. To determine this, challenge her with lactose reduced milk. You can find it in the dairy case along with the rest of the milk. The lactose in it has already been 'digested' so it will not cause a problem. If she tolerates this milk, than you may try to gradually increase her milk consumption using that product. Yogurt is also often tolerated by lactose intolerant people because the live bacteria in the yogurt help in the digestion of the lactose.

I am curious as to why your pediatrician advised you to put your daughter on skim milk? The protein content of skim milk is higher than whole milk, and milk allergies are caused by milk protein. Also, the higher fat content of whole milk is recommended for children younger than 2 to help them meet their daily calorie requirements. Talk to your pediatrician to be sure that skim milk is necessary in dealing with her problem and if so, find out why. Otherwise it is best for a young toddler to have whole, or at least 2% milk.

Good luck in solving this problem. Let me know if I can be of any assistance. I would be interested to know what you find out.

Thank you for writing.

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