Stomach aches are one of the most common complaints in children. And, adds American paediatrician, Dr Robert Mendelsohn, they are also 'a leading source of pointless visits to paediatricians'.
The causes of tummy pains can be elusive - which means good detective work is often required. If the pain is not accompanied by symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, loss of appetite or acute pain, then it is unlikely that your child needs medical attention. Common causes of recurrent tummy aches are: constipation, food allergy, overdoing 'party food', high juice consumption, anxiety or emotional stress. Recent research from King's College School of Medicine has indicated that children who complain of stomach aches for no obvious cause are more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders as adults.
To avoid tummy troubles feed your children a simple, whole food diet with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, wholegrain, seeds, fish, poultry and love natural yoghurt. Dilute fruit juice by half or more and encourage your child to drink water at least once a day.
If you suspect food allergy, begin by eliminating foods you think may be the source of your child's symptoms. If you are not exactly sure where to start, begin with the foods that most commonly cause a reaction: milk, wheat, citrus fruit, tomatoes, corn, nuts, soya and eggs. Remember that if you take a food or food group out of your child's diet, it is important to replace it with suitably nutritious alternatives. Cut out the suspect foods for two weeks – for a longer period of time you will need proper dietary supervision. Reintroduce the foods one at a time. Keeping a food diary and noting any symptoms will be useful in tracking down the culprit. Once you have, avoid it for three months and then introduce it again.
Stomach aches can be a symptom of deficiency. If the pain is accompanied by constipation, then suspect a lack of magnesium. Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, seafood, whole grains and soya beans. Magnesium can be given in either liquid or powder form at a safe dose of 6mg of magnesium for every pound of body weight. Other symptoms of magnesium deficiency are restlessness, tiredness, and poor sleeping habits, grinding teeth, pins and needles and muscle cramps.
To soothe a stomach ache, gently massage your child's tummy in a clockwise direction. This will ease any build-up of wind through the colon. Herbal teas can be very soothing, camomile and peppermint being the best for digestive upsets. Sit down and have a chat to find out if there is something worrying your child; sometimes all we have to do is listen to find the solution. Sometimes, a big hug was all that was needed.