Everyone gets them from time to time. For some, stomach aches can feel as typical as paying bills. Both cause me to cringe, furrowing my brows and sighing with dread.

These have become fairly common among our three children over the years. One year after our son’s Autism diagnosis, we received confirmation that his stomach issues were due to Celiac Disease.

For about two years, our son’s stomach aches gradually increased in frequency. At first, I dismissed them as they seemingly cleared up with a dose of antacids. As they began to occur more often, I grew concerned, and after starting to miss a day of school here and there because of them, I decided to start tracking them. We tried eliminating dairy and using Lactaid and almond milk, but that didn’t help either.

Another bizarre symptom emerged; his poop was the color of concrete. That was NOT normal. They were not brown or dark as often as they were almost colorless. It scared me.

The final straw came when he missed school on a Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. He never had a temperature over 99 degrees, so when his stomach didn’t hurt, he went to school. In the weeks leading up to this, he was missing an average of one day a week.

On that Thursday, his symptoms took a turn for the worse. He began vomiting, but only watery spit would come up. That was it, I called his pediatrician, and she saw us immediately.

We were immediately sent to the lab for an X-ray and blood work, testing for anything and everything. I had a hunch that it was more than a food allergy, so I requested they check for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Celiac Disease, to which she agreed.

Standing next to the X-ray technician, the picture on the screen needed no explanation. I’m no doctor or technician, but I knew what I was looking at.

His large intestines were 2/3 full of poop. No blockages, but just full. Nothing was moving anywhere. His bloodwork revealed a preliminary diagnosis of Celiac Disease, confirmed by biopsy, the ONLY way to confirm the diagnosis.

*In a person with Celiac Disease, exposure to gluten (wheat, barley, rye) destroys the lining of their intestines.

Our son’s intestines were in severe distress. The intestines have finger-like cilia that move the food and waste along, which in my son’s case were nonexistent. The biopsy pictures looked as smooth as a baby’s bottom, red and raw. It was heartbreaking to see.

The treatment plan included going gluten-free immediately and a daily regimen of laxatives four times a day. After about a year, we were able to wean him off the laxatives; today, he is a different kid!

Changing his diet changed my son radically. His mood and behavior improved far beyond my expectations! We had become so familiar with his symptoms of autism we assumed that would never change, but we were wrong. His symptoms of autism have vastly improved. He talks about how he feels now! His outbursts and fits of anger have decreased in frequency, endurance, and intensity. He is better able to process situations and know what he needs better than ever before.

It is imperative to note when something doesn’t seem right with our kids. If you sense something is off, follow your gut, literally!

Is medical intervention necessary for you or your child?

Here are some things you can do to help you determine if you should seek medical help.

  1. Start a tracking journal – When you first wrinkle your eyebrows and think, “Gee, he/she just had a stomachache a few days ago, and last week,” start tracking. It doesn’t need to be fancy; mark the days each stomachache happens. This can alert you that something might be wrong. If you notice it is becoming a pattern, include what they’ve consumed within the last 24 hours of its onset.
  2. Does your child have irrational fears or experience anxiety? – If your child suffers from anxiety, this can lead to regular occurrences of stomach aches. They can be mild, like butterflies, or be more severe, which could include vomiting. Even if you think it’s just nerves, a call to your doctor is a good idea, as mental health is just as important as physical health.  
  3. Pay Attention to their poop! – Yes, it’s gross but necessary. I accidentally caught onto my son’s symptoms because one of his former irrational fears was the toilet flooding with every flush, so he never flushed. This allowed me to receive another clue and connection to his stomach aches. Making that connection prompted me to be alerted much sooner than if I hadn’t been flushing for him.
  4. Has your child been diagnosed with autism? – When we met with our Pediatric Gastroenterologist, we were stunned to learn that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are more likely to test positive for Celiac Disease. A clinical study done in 2013 by the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) shows no medical association between the two. Still, there is an increased chance that if you or your child has Autism or Celiac Disease, it is more likely to occur. I have included a link to the report if you want more information on this study.

If you sense that ANYTHING is wrong with your child, whether it’s stomach issues or not, PLEASE listen to your instincts. If you suspect something is off emotionally or physically, keep a journal or talk to a doctor. I don’t want to create a worrywart out of you; however, staying alert to different symptoms in our kids can lead to faster diagnosis and treatment if necessary. If nothing comes of it and they are okay, it still is not done in vain. I have included resources and references below for more information about Celiac Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and food allergies.

Here’s to keeping our kids and families healthy! Take Care!

*Affordable Holistic Testing for Food Intolerance – 5Strands.com

*Celiac Disease: Symptoms and Causes – Mayo Clinic

*Celiac Disease Foundationceliac.org

*Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptoms and Causes – Mayo Clinic

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