Changes in Diet for Children’s Functional Abdominal Pain

Functional Abdominal Pain

After a complete physical examination and any necessary additional tests, functional abdominal pain is defined as abdominal pain that cannot be attributed to any obvious or detectable abnormalities. Recurrent abdominal pain (RAP), which is another name for functional abdominal discomfort, can be ongoing or intermittent.

Despite the fact that the precise origin is unknown, nerve impulses or chemicals generated by the stomach or brain may make the gut more sensitive to stimuli. This ordinarily does not result in severe pain (such as stretching or gas bloating). The term “functional abdominal pain” describes this form of abdominal discomfort because of the alteration in bowel function.

Functional Abdominal Pain

One of the most frequent complaints that gastroenterologists who treat young patients hear from children and adolescents is functional abdominal pain. In fact, it occurs in approximately a quarter of all children who are visited for stomach or intestinal symptoms.

Functional dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, and recurrent abdominal pain are all examples of persistent abdominal discomfort that is functional in nature. Three or more occurrences of abdominal pain (belly ache) over a three-month period in children aged 4 to 16 were originally defined as recurrent abdominal pain (RAP). These were severe enough to limit their activities. This definition dates back to roughly 50 years ago.

Signs & Symptoms

Beyond the primary symptom of stomach ache, children may experience:

  • Nausea (feeling sick to the stomach)
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness

Causes Functional Abdominal Pain

The actual origin of this type of pain is unknown to medical professionals. It might be connected to nerve signals coming from the brain or the stomach that increase a person’s sensitivity to pain. Also, stretching the stomach or rectum may trigger nerve signals. Kids between the ages of 4 and 16 frequently experience functional stomach pain. It occasionally occurs following a digestive infection.

How is Functional Abdominal Pain Diagnosis Performed?

Doctors can identify functional abdominal discomfort by:

  • Inquire about the child’s symptoms to rule out conditions like arthritis, poor growth, weight loss, fever, rash, or vomiting.
  • Run a test.
  • Examine for blood in the stool (poop) and perform blood tests.
  • Inquire about any pressures, such as recent changes at home or academic difficulties.
  • Children without serious symptoms who have normal blood and stool test results typically do not require additional testing.


Doctors may use some or all of the following to treat functional abdominal pain:

  • Dietary adjustments like avoiding fried foods, carbonated drinks like soda, gas-causing foods like broccoli and cauliflower, and spicy foods
  • Medications that relieve stomach cramps or reduce stomach acid
  • Using painkillers
  • Counseling or calming methods

When Should I Contact a Physician?

If your child experiences functional abdominal pain and begins to:

  • Feces with blood
  • More than two days’ worth of diarrhea
  • Longer than two days’ worth of vomiting
  • Blood in the vomit
  • Stomach ache that persists for more than an hour or worsens
  • Fever
  • Reduced appetite
  • Urinal discomfort
  • Constipation

The Bottom Line

Low doses of medication may be helpful if the child does not respond to any of these treatments. These drugs can be effective painkillers for certain kids when used in low dosages. However, a psychiatrist or psychologist should do a thorough evaluation of a depressed, anxious, or terrified child. Psychological interventions for kids include hypnosis, behavioral therapy, and relaxation techniques. These assist them to deal with stress and functional abdominal pain.

It is crucial that the child’s doctor, parents, and school support his or her return to a regular schedule. Overall, the prognosis of functional abdominal discomfort is fortunately positive, with over half of these kids improving on their own or with treatment in a matter of weeks to months. To maintain the child’s physical and mental health, a supportive and understanding environment is crucial at both home and school.