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What’s Causing Your Child’s Stomach Pain?

September 17, 2021

I’m Dr. Lindsay
I'm a naturopathic pediatrician based in Colorado Springs offering primary care, chronic care & telemedicine appointments. I'm so glad you're here!
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Tummy Aches Are Common In Kids. Does That Make Them Healthy?

“Mom, my tummy hurts.” 

You hear these four words all the time. You’re fairly sure it’s nothing. Stomach aches are all too common in kids. Maybe they ate their eggs too quickly this morning? 

But then they come back to you, again and again, day and night for weeks with these same words.

Something must be wrong… 

Your gut instincts are, more often than not, CORRECT, Mama. Listen to them.

While chronic stomach pain in kids is common, it isn’t healthy. This is usually a sign that something’s wrong.

But do not fear! By recognizing there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, you’ve taken the first step in healing your child. They’re already on the road to feeling better.

Today we’re going to look at what might be causing your child’s stomach pain, common digestive disorders in kids, and how we treat them. 

What Could Be Causing Your Child’s Stomach Pain?

A stomach ache could mean gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or cramping in the lower belly. Chronic stomach pain means your child is experiencing this on most days for weeks, or even months.

This is extremely disruptive. Growing up puts enough stress on kiddos without the additional strain of chronic pain.

Let’s take a look at what might be causing this:

  1. Poor Diet | A poor diet that includes a lot of processed food is flat-out bad for your child’s health. There’s no sugar-coating it. Processed foods feed the harmful bacteria in our gut. (1) This is damaging to your child’s digestive system and can cause long-term health problems. In more ways than digestive health. But these foods are usually quick and easy to serve. This convenience is affecting lots of kids.
  2. Food Intolerance or Sensitivity | Before we move on, what exactly is food intolerance? A child with a food intolerance has difficulty digesting certain foods. For example, a common one you might be familiar with is lactose intolerance, where the body struggles to process dairy. Sometimes there’s a seemingly healthy whole food that is actually causing your child pain. This could be the root cause of the problem. Eliminating the food that’s causing the problem, often just for a period of time, can help relieve stomach pain.
  3. Stress or Anxiety | Kids are more stressed out and anxious today than ever before. Especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. (2) There’s a strong link between mental health and digestive health. (3) Our gut microbiome is connected to our nervous system. Stress can have a profound impact on the gut, negatively affecting overall health.
  4. Your Family Tree | Studies show there may be a link between our family tree and our digestive tract. (4) Now this doesn’t mean that if your father has IBS, you’re sure to have it too. But it may enhance your risk of having digestive problems. As long as you focus on optimizing your child’s digestive health, you can overcome potential digestive issues.

Common Digestive Problems In Kids

Digestive problems are becoming more and more common in kids. This is primarily due to an increase in what we discussed above – poor diet, food intolerances, and stress. A few digestive disorders I see often in my practice include…

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS – chronic digestive pain that is related to changes in stools, such as diarrhea or constipation. IBS affects roughly 10-20% of people in the world. (5)
  • Functional Dyspepsia – bloating, burning, or abdominal pain that is experienced after eating most meals.
  • Crohn’s Disease – an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in the digestive tract.

If you suspect your child has any one of these digestive disorders, it’s a good idea to reach out to your trusted pediatrician. These digestive issues are common in kids, but they are no fun. The good news is there are natural treatments we can use to relieve your child of their stomach pains. 

Naturopathic Treatments To Heal Your Child’s Upset Tummy

I see kids experiencing chronic stomach pain all the time in my practice. Creating a healthy digestive ecosystem is key. This is accomplished using ancient naturopathic wisdom paired with modern advances. 

Here are a few common naturopathic treatments I use with my patients: 

Herbal Medicine – Herbal teas like chamomile and ginger work wonders for soothing stomach pain. Especially if the root cause of the problem is stress-related. Ginger especially has been proven to ease gastrointestinal pains. (6) Peppermint oil is another wonderful herbal remedy for healing the gut. It has a calming effect on the stomach muscles. *Be sure to check with your naturopathic doctor before trying this remedy, as too much may be unsafe.

Diet Changes  

It’s all about fiber! Oftentimes, although not always, simply adding more fiber to your child’s diet is the solution to their digestive issues. Eliminating processed foods that come in packages and incorporating more fresh, whole foods is crucial for supporting healthy digestion. I also tell my patients to try and eat digestive enzymes, like spring onion, garlic, papaya, and fermented foods with most meals. Food really is medicine. When there’s a tummy problem, the first thing I look at is what foods your child is eating.

Supplements 

I recommend these belly-supportive supplements to my patients. They address the root cause of many children’s tummy pain:

  • L-glutamine – This essential amino acid supports a healthy gut microbiome, protects our digestive tract, and regulates inflammatory responses. (7)
  • Probiotics – These healthy bacteria help restore our digestive system with good “gut bugs” and neutralize harmful ones. (8)

*It’s essential to note: The right course of treatment will differ from child to child. Seek guidance to safely implement any one of these at-home treatments. Here’s a safe and easy remedy you can do on your own AT HOME to help soothe your child’s stomach pain: Give your little an abdominal massage. A good time to do this is in the evenings before bed. Apply a bit of castor oil – or cooking oil, like coconut or olive oil – onto your kiddo’s tummy, below the belly button. Using firm but gentle pressure, rub the oil in circles around your child’s abdomen with flat hands. Do this until most of the oil is absorbed into the skin. Even a short tummy massage will provide some relief.

If Pain Persists, Visit Your Trusted Naturopathic Doctor

The truth is, there are many potential causes of your little one’s upset tummy. It’s difficult to know the best treatment for your child without working with a specialist.

If the pain persists, and you’re unsure about the root cause of your child’s stomach pain, you should see your trusted naturopathic doctor. They’ll work with you to get to the bottom of the problem and develop a treatment plan tailored to your child, ending their tummy problems once and for all. Looking for a naturopathic pediatrician in Colorado Springs? I’m here to help your child feel better. Book a visit with me here.

We’re in this together, Mama.

Resources:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30945554/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7844180/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22891508/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6160506/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6341159/
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213453021000112#
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4421088/#
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