If a parent suspects her child’s chronic stomachaches are diet-related, there are several adjustments that can be made that can improve the situation.
Set Up a System
First, get clear about the exact nature of the problem and set up a system to identify possible food culprits. The easiest way to accomplish both goals is by keeping a diary of food consumption and symptoms. Write down exactly what the child is eating and when the symptoms occur. Relying on memory alone usually does not go well, even for the cleverest detectives. Just today I spoke with a frantic parent about her daughter’s chronic stomach pain issues. She claimed her daughter was “always complaining” but further discussion revealed that days could go by without incident. Sometimes it was joint pain rather than stomach pain, she added, but it was confusing because her son had some stomach issues also. You get the picture. A noticeable pattern could emerge after only a few days.
Analyze Your Records
If the pain is almost daily, the likely culprit is something the child is eating frequently. The two most common reactors are dairy and/or gluten-based foods. These foods are pervasive in children’s diets, and casein (dairy) and gluten proteins are complex and irritating.
Look at foods in terms of their major ingredient and group. For example, bagels, pasta and pizza are all made from wheat. Technically, they are separate foods but for purposes of identifying irritants, they belong in the same group. The same is true with dairy-based foods, though some children can handle cheese but not fluid milk because the fermentation process used to make cheese gets rid of most of the lactose. If there is no clear pattern or you feel overwhelmed, get professional help.
Eliminate the Suspects
Get rid of the possible problem-causing food for a month. Yes, a month. There are so many variables in life that the elimination trial has to last long enough to clear the system, heal the irritation and see a difference. The results may be obvious in a few days, but there are often complications like an illness, cheating at school, a meal out with suspicious ingredients, etc. In the worst scenarios, more than one food can be involved so further medical tests or professional input may be needed.
To find more hidden connections between food and childhood ailments like anxiety, chronic ear infections, picky eating and more, check out Kelly Dorfman's book, What's Eating Your Child?