Gut health in children

Functional abdominal pain affects up to 25 per cent of children and presents with multiple symptoms including constipation, diarrhoea, cramp, leg pain, poor appetite and nausea.

It is distressing for children and equally concerning for parents.

In cases where there is no serious pathology, natural medicine can be of great relief.

It is imperative to identify and treat the cause/s of functional abdominal pain for complete resolution.

Triggers must also be identified as this will prevent recurrence while your child recovers.

Nobody likes to see their child endure ongoing pain or feel unwell with lethargy, picky eating, nausea and ongoing pain.

It can be hard knowing what else to do especially if you feel you have tried all options from the GP to the pharmacist.

However, this is a great opportunity to assess the problem from a holistic viewpoint, especially given the gut is affected by multiple external and internal factors.

Tummy pain is often multifaceted, complex and very individualised, yet a thorough and detailed assessment can yield great results.

Take nutrient deficiency, for example.

This can be a common cause of muscle cramp and altered movement, resulting in constipation.

Pain can also be caused by altered signalling systems in the body which are dependent on an array of nutrients to support physiological function.

Low-grade inflammation can drive tummy pain and should be resolved.

Deficiency of essential fatty acids, leaky gut syndrome and food sensitivity will all cause a degree of irritation and inflammation.

These nutrients are not commonly assessed at primary care level but can be assessed.

A common issue I treat frequently is parasitic infection.

This causes nutrient depletion, poor appetite, pain, nausea and lethargy.

Care needs to be exercised with treatment but an experienced practitioner can clear parasites with highly specific herbal and probiotic strains.

In extremely complex cases, functional pathology testing (which is more comprehensive than first-line GP testing and less invasive than scoping) can provide information on gut function throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract.

Realistically, the issue involves a combination of things that need to be assessed very carefully.

Functional tummy pain in children can be distressing and affect their entire wellbeing.

Parents are often at a loss on how to treat it, especially when serious illness has been ruled out, and yet a holistic approach taking into consideration the broad nature of tummy pain can yield excellent results.