For children with mild gastroenteritis, dilute apple juice is the best treatment. [Photo: Bigstock]

Treat kids’ tummy upsets with apple juice

3 May, 2016

Natural Health News — Children with mild gastroenteritis and minimal dehydration can be effectively treated with diluted apple juice rather than electrolyte drinks, a new study has shown.

Gastroenteritis is a common childhood illness. Special electrolyte drinks are recommended to treat and prevent dehydration, although it is relatively expensive and its taste can limit use. Studies also suggest that it benefits for children with only mild gastroenteritis remain unproven.

In this study researchers from the University of Calgary, Canada, randomly assigned children age 6 to 60 months with gastroenteritis and minimal dehydration to receive a combination of colour-matched half-strength apple juice or an apple-flavoured electrolyte drink.

What you need to know

» Children with gastroenteritis and diarrhoea are routinely prescribed electrolyte drinks to keep them hydrated and replace essential salts.

» Canadian researchers tested dilute apple juice against standard electrolyte therapy and found that children given apple juice, followed by free intake of their preferred fluids, actually fared better.

» The scientists suggest that the habit of prescribing electrolytes, especially for children with only mild gastroenteritis, is not based on particularly sound science and that apple juice is a more affordable and effective alternative.

After discharge from hospital, the half-strength apple juice children were allowed to drink their preferred fluids as desired; the electrolyte maintenance solution group replaced losses with electrolyte maintenance solution.

What researchers were looking for was signs of improvement or deterioration of the children’s health. Deterioration included the need for intravenous rehydration, hospitalisation, subsequent GP visits, protracted symptoms, and 3% or more weight loss or a diagnosis of significant dehydration.

Quicker recovery

The children who were administered diluted apple juice experienced treatment failure less often than those given electrolyte maintenance solution (17% vs 25%). Fewer children administered apple juice/preferred fluids received intravenous rehydration (2.5% vs 9%). Hospitalisation rates and diarrhoea and vomiting frequency were not significantly different between groups.

The authors suggest that these results which are based on a larger more reliable study population challenge the recommendation to routinely administer electrolyte maintenance solution when diarrhoea begins, which they say is based on very thin evidence of efficacy.

“In many high-income countries, the use of dilute apple juice and preferred fluids as desired may be an appropriate alternative to electrolyte maintenance fluids in children with mild gastroenteritis and minimal dehydration” they write.

If your child has gastroenteritis you may wish to consider the apple juice treatment – and go organic if you can because apples do contain very high levels of pesticide residues.