Why does constipation cause stomachaches after kids eat?

Why does constipation cause stomachaches after kids eatAlthough the human body isn’t perfect, there are lots of awesome ways that it functions. One of these is called the gastrocolic reflex. In this context, “gastro” refers to the stomach and “colic” refers to the colon or large intestine.

When we eat, the stomach stretches and begins digesting our meal. The stomach does this by releasing chemicals and contracting to break down the food we have eaten. At the same time, the “machinery” of the intestinal tract is turned on. The rhythmic contraction of the muscles in the stomach and intestine is called peristalsis. If a child is constipated, the onset of peristalsis within the large intestine (especially the rectum) can cause pain as the intestinal muscles contract against large or hard fecal material. If the pain was because of stool in the rectum, having a bowel movement will usually relieve the pain. If the pain was because of stool higher up in the large intestine, stooling won’t necessarily relieve the pain. Sometimes the pain is so severe that parents may worry their child has an appendicitis.

Constipation isn’t the only condition that can trigger pain after someone eats. Lactose intolerance, overeating and celiac disease can cause similar symptoms. However, 90% of the time pain after eating is due to constipation.

What to do if the doctor thinks your child has appendicitis

Evaluating children with abdominal pain is a common occurrence in pediatrics. Although most children with abdominal pain do not have anything serious, the occasional child will show up who may have appendicitis. When this occurs, patients are usually sent to the emergency room for further evaluation. In some cases, they might be referred directly to a surgeon.

Once the child is evaluated, four things may ensue.

  1. He may be examined and sent home—with or without lab tests.
  2. He may be admitted to the hospital for observation.
  3. He may get an abdominal ultrasound and/or CT scan to more definitively make or “rule-out” the diagnosis.
  4. He may be taken directly to the operating room.

Except for the first two scenarios, the child’s management will be delayed if he eats or drinks anything before being seen.

  • CT scans looking for appendicitis can’t be done unless a child hasn’t had anything to eat or drink for four hours before the procedure.
  • Surgeons don’t like to operate unless a person’s stomach is empty.

If the doctor sends your child to the emergency room for a possible appendicitis, do not let him eat or drink anything until he has been “cleared” by the hospital staff.