The ethnophysiology of digestion and diarrhoea in a Bangladeshi hospital population.
The results presented in this paper are drawn from a study of the acceptability of the weaning food, ARGC. The study aimed to investigate attitudes and practices surrounding weaning and the dietary management of diarrhoea. One hundred and twenty mothers of children aged between six months and 24 months suffering from mild diarrhoea and admitted to the ICDDR,B treatment centre were randomly selected. Diarrhoea was attributed by mothers to a number of causes; most common were contaminated food and breastmilk. Breastmilk was understood to have been spoiled either by the mother's diet or mystical forces termed batash. Batash was also suspected to directly making children sick in some instances. Thirty-six per cent of mothers attempted to manage diarrhoea at home by withholding normal foods from their children's diets and others modified their own diets. Less than a quarter of the children were normally fed vegetables, dal (lentils) or small fish. It appeared that fish was rarely given to young children and was regarded with some ambivalence and considered potentially attractive as a vehicle for malign forces that might attack young children and their mothers and cause illness. People were unwilling to feed their children fish and other items of the normal family diet because of notions about the digestive system and the concept of "digestive power" and the idea that young children did not have the digestive power to digest certain foods. It was suggested that early weaning might lead to poor and abnormal growth and development