Does your child complain of tummy (abdominal) problems?

By Dr Sandra Cabot

It is not uncommon for a child to complain of abdominal discomfort and in most cases, it is temporary and does not recur. Temporary abdominal pains are most commonly due to food poisoning, constipation, colic, a viral infection or excess intestinal gas.

If abdominal pain is severe and located around the umbilicus (belly button) and/or lower right abdomen, think of appendicitis which is often associated with fever and vomiting. Also keep in mind that a urinary tract infection can cause abdominal pain.

The onset of puberty in young girls can present with lower abdominal pain and puberty is happening earlier these days.

Recurrent and frequent abdominal discomfort can be due to:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Food intolerances to things like preservatives, colourings, gluten, lactose etc.
  • The wrong bacteria in the gut (dysbiosis)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the abdominal cavity. Parasites

It is wise to consult your doctor or get a referral to a specialist for tests such as blood tests, urine tests, and a poo (faeces) test. An ultrasound scan of the abdomen should be done to check all the organs and the size of the glands. It is important to determine the underlying cause and to exclude serious problems.

Things that can help reduce tummy problems

  • A good probiotic and fermented foods such as Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt. It is hard to get a child to eat sauerkraut, but it is beneficial.
  • If the glands in the abdomen are enlarged, you may find that a diet free of dairy and gluten is most helpful.
  • Glutamine powder can settle an upset tummy associated with indigestion.
  • Children are picky eaters and nutrient deficiencies of minerals is common and may adversely affect intestinal function.
  • Rubbing the tummy with warmed organic castor oil can help and is relaxing for the child.
  • If your child refuses to eat fresh vegetables and fruit, you can juice things like apple, carrot, beetroot, parsley, watermelon and oranges to make a tasty drink. You can even freeze the juice into popsicles and ice blocks that taste great.
  • A healthy dessert could be grated apple, Australian good quality honey and yogurt (either Greek or coconut)
  • Fruits that contain digestive enzymes include papaya, pineapple and apple and may improve digestion.
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