When “My tummy hurts” could mean something else

As a parent, hearing the words “my tummy hurts”, hearing your child is in physical pain sends us into high alert mode. We naturally start questioning what caused it and assess how to remove it.
Whilst it is normal to hear the phrase “my tummy hurts” on the odd occasion (maybe once or twice a year due to an illness) frequent tummy hurt can be more concerning. It can cause a parent to start researching why this could be happening and what they can do.

How you can help your child:

Here we explore two trains of thought which cause pain:
1, Mental/Emotional imbalance
2, Physical imbalance

Both are intertwined and connected. This means communicate with each other, sending feedback and instruction to protect the body and restore balance. It is important to consider both when exploring pain in the body. It is especially important if a doctor diagnoses “nothing wrong”.


Often when we feel uneasy, nervous, scared we think of these as purely emotional responses. They also trigger physical reactions like increased heartrate, faster breathing, rise in temperature and suppression of digestion aka “tummyache”.

Has your child ever complained of tummy ache just before school? Is it a really a learnt technique to avoid school or could it be very real pain caused by anxiety? It’s worth us exploring this as a possible cause of regular tummyache.

3 physical action steps:
  • Notice WHEN the tummyache is triggered, speak to your child about what is happening in other areas of their body (i.e not just the tummy – they need to take focus away from the tummy). Place your hand on their heart and feel how the heart is behaving. Note and openly voice these findings even if you don’t know what they mean yet, so that they also notice them. The next time you anticipate the same trigger coming, have an open discussion to ask your child how they feel about going to do/doing the thing (before they do it). You can then discuss introducing useful breathing and mindfulness techniques to help calm the physical and emotional body. Notice if the reaction still occurs and to what extent. Has it changed?
  • DURING the “tummyache” time, remind your child of the breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises to see if they can help ease the pain in the tummy for them.
  • Use positive/re-affirming touch, such as a hug, which releases serotonin to help relax the body.

Anxiety has the ability to override logical thinking/reasoning. In order to overcome a reaction that has become normal, we need to practice calming techniques that can become complimentary habits.

It’s important to note that children’s anxiety can be amplified if they feel their behavior is abnormal or displeasing. They don’t know how to deal with the feeling or overcome it. Therefore they can feel helpless and upset on top of experiencing emotional and physical pain.

Emotional action steps:

It would be very useful if you as a parent can relate to feelings of nervousness and tell them a story of how you felt once when **** happened AND how you overcame this. This will reassure them that:

  • you also experience these feelings (like all humans)
  • overcoming the feeling is absolutely possible.
    Children love stories so the more stories you share of people feeling like this and overcoming it the more hope and normality you bring to it.

This refers to physical contributors to tummy pain such as digestive issues.

If your child is experiencing regular tummy aches and their doesn’t appear to be any obvious anxiety present it could be due to:

  • Sugar or artificial sweeteners (causing inflammation of bowels)
  • Processed foods (can cause a host of digestive issues)
  • Lack of sleep (not enough rest to properly digest food)
  • Not stopping to eat food (to much eating on-the-go, not allowing food to digest)
Final Action Steps

All of these can be addressed by removing these conditions along with the following to aid digestion as much as possible:

Increasing exercise (to increase metabolism) such as Yoga poses to stimulate blood flow around the body.

Restoration poses like forward folds to calm and improve digestion.
Standing forward fold
Seated forward fold
Legs up the wall

If you have any experience of regular tummy aches with your child and stories of what has helped we’d love to hear them, feel free to comment below:

What do you think?