How to Tell if Your Child’s Tummy Complaints are a Sign of Something More Serious
“Mommy, my tummy hurts.” Hearing this from your child could mean a variety of different things. She’s had too much candy. He ate something that didn’t agree with him. However, if stomach complaints are common and coupled with other specific symptoms, your child could have leaky gut syndrome.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
In a child with leaky gut syndrome, the lining of the stomach and or intestines is more porous than it should be, allowing protein molecules to enter the bloodstream, causing allergic reaction and chronic inflammation.
What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Several different factors may contribute to the development of this syndrome. Some examples are:
- Prolonged Antibiotic Use – Erodes the digestive tract.
- Use of NSAID Pain Relievers – Erodes the digestive tract.
- Insufficient Digestive Enzymes – The body is unable to properly digest and absorb nutrients.
- Chronic Stress – If a child’s body is in constant “fight or flight” mode, blood flow to the digestive system is greatly reduced and the stomach and intestines cannot repair themselves.
- Processed Food – A diet consisting of mostly or all processed food can contribute to serious digestive maladies including leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because of the wide variety of symptoms associated with it. However, there are a few specific signs to watch out for:
- Chronic Stomach Complaints
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Brain Fog/Learning Disabilities
- Chronic Illness
- Food Intolerance(s)
A child with this syndrome is much more prone to infection because the immune system is always running high, trying to combat the protein molecules that leak into the bloodstream. The result may be a very irritable, agitated, anxious, confused child who seems to be in constant pain and has trouble with learning, behavior and coordination. The symptoms vary with each child as each body will respond differently to the onslaught of protein molecules entering the body.
Treating leaky gut syndrome can be a challenge but it’s not impossible. It is very important for the parent to understand that this is a real illness not commonly diagnosed by conventional physicians. Here are some suggestions for helping a child with this syndrome heal and thrive:
A visit with a local naturopath with experience treating food allergies and intolerance is a great place to start. The naturopath can do a full workup of your child, including family history, medical history, environment and diet. He may also prescribe an elimination diet to see what foods your child may have a particular intolerance to.
If you prefer, an elimination diet can be done at home to discover what foods are most bothersome. Wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, corn, shellfish and nuts are the most common food intolerances. Remove these from the diet for a period of two to three weeks then slowly reintroduce these foods one at a time to test for reaction. Keep a food diary and note all foods eaten (including gum) and any reaction or lack thereof.
Probiotics are the friendly bacteria found in yogurt, kefir and fermented foods. Introducing a probiotic supplement to the child’s diet may help balance intestinal flora and aid in food digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Supplementing the diet with a digestive enzyme may help the digestive system to better break down food and assimilate nutrients from food.
Turmeric is a yellow spice used in traditional Indian curry dishes. Used medicinally, it eases inflammation and helps tighten intestinal walls, reducing gut permeability.
Using a bulk fiber such as psyllium may help properly eliminate waste products that chronic constipation or diarrhea have prevented from leaving the system.
Healthy, Whole Foods
If leaky gut syndrome is suspected in your child, eliminate all processed foods from the diet until symptoms are under control. Serve meals of organic meats, wild-caught fish, brown rice, organic fruits and vegetables and gluten free pasta to allow the gut time to heal. Refined carbohydrates and processed sugars are especially difficult to digest if there is any type of intestinal illness.
Leaky gut syndrome can sometimes be debilitating. These tips should help get your child’s digestive system back on track and your son or daughter can experience a whole new world of good health!
Important Note: It is advisable to seek professional treatment from a qualified naturopathic physician or dietician before using the suggested treatments on children.
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