“Mommy, my tummy hurts”: A Sign of Anxiety?

stomachache and anxiety in children

I hailed a cab and the moment Ezra saw that we’re taking the taxi home, he started to cry, “My tummy hurts!!!” And so every time we are in a cab, he bawls and then lets me “hold his tummy” all throughout the ride. That’s the only way to make him feel better. FYI, holding his tummy means putting my hand over his tummy like a security blanket. This is not the first time he did this. This actually started when he was close to 3 years old. I always thought he just suddenly became aware that he gets carsick. The weird thing about it is, if we are on our own car or family’s car, he’s cool with it. So my next assumption is, maybe he just doesn’t like the smell of the taxi (Most of them use strong car scents).

A few months back, Ezra started having an upset stomach when it’s bedtime. He usually says he’s hungry, which is quite impossible because bedtime is just about an hour after dinner. One time during the first few nights of his bedtime stomachache saga, I gave in and got him some porridge. He ate and after about 40 minutes when I said it’s time to sleep, he said his stomach hurts again. Being a toddler mom, I figured this is just one of those toddler dramas to get what they want. In this case, he doesn’t want to sleep yet. So I was like, HA! YOU CAN’T WIN THIS, CHAMP. MOMMY KNOWS WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

This went on for about 2 weeks (FYI, his stomachache doesn’t happen every night. It also goes away when I hug him tight. I also auscultated, etc his abdomen to check) before I finally said, “Okay, we’ll go to the doctor tomorrow.” Surprisingly, he said OK! So in my mind I was like, OHMYGOD! HE REALLY DOES HAVE A STOMACHACHE! I’M SUCH A BAD PARENT!

Morning came and we went to the pediatrician right after breakfast (and shower, of course). The doctor did tests and thorough assessment and thankfully, nothing abnormal or alarming was found. The doctor said everything’s fine so it’s either my assumption on toddler drama is right or Ezra is anxious about something.

Anxious about something? I kept on thinking about this when we left the doctor’s office.

Millenial as I am, I googled the relation between anxiety and stomachache. — Yes, my nursing degree suddenly became a bygone and everything I learned just petered out. And yes, motherhood does this so give me a break. Hahaha!!! (Reasons, reasons 🤪)


So here’s what I found:

Researchers have identified a powerful connection between the gut and the brain. Like the brain, the gut is full of nerves. It contains the largest area of nerves outside the brain with the digestive tract and the brain sharing many of the same nerve connections. ~Goodman (https://adaa.org/)

The stomach and intestine have their own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system. These nerves respond to the same stress hormones and neurotransmitters that our brains do. ~Dr.Cherry (https://www.rchsd.org/)

It suddenly makes a lot of sense. Notice when you are anxious or stressed about something — say, an exam, an oral recitation, a wait on medical results, or even on talking to your crush — you feel something weird on your gut? It’s either you’re sick to your stomach, you’re having “butterflies in your tummy”, or you’re simply having a “weird stomach”. That’s what Ezra has been feeling. That’s the “anxious or stressed stomach”. Unfamiliar cars make him uncomfortable, and bedtime became stressful to him when we changed our routine.

So what do we do when our children has an anxious stomach? We calm it down. Look for ways to alleviate this feeling while you try to eliminate the stressor. But in cases wherein the stressor is impossible to eliminate, for example taking a cab (Sometimes we really have to take a cab because not all of Manila has jeepneys or trains, plus we have coding here), make sure you do something to pacify your child’s anxious state. Just like adults, they need something to calm them during stressful situations. The big difference is, they are not so composed like us yet and oftentimes, they can’t even tell where those strange sensations come from. They’re children. They need us to be there.

I know a lot of toddler moms or “veteran moms” can relate to “children’s dramas”. We experience it a lot that we actually know or easily suspect that they’re playing us. So non-moms, don’t judge us, okay? However, anxiety is real, and this is something we, moms, often forget because of all the “drama” they make. I tell you, guys, motherhood and/or parenting is the real rollercoaster — not boyfriend-girlfriend love. LOL! Seriously though, despite the toddler dramas, I know better now. So fellow mommas, always listen to your children and do not easily dismiss it as “drama”. As what our nursing professors used to reiterate, pain is real — drama or non-drama, medical professionals need to treat every pain that patients say they have as real. After all, it is not us who are having that experience, right? So who are we to judge?

I hope you learned from my experience. More power, more energy, more patience, and more love to all momshies out there! We can do this!

 

Xoxo,

aileen flores-zamesa

 


PS. Please don’t self-diagnose that your child’s stomachache is just a state of anxiety. Never forget that you have a doctor. Talk to him/her. It’s always better to have a professional check what’s up. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

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