My daughter was gassy practically from birth. I spent many nights on a mattress on the floor of her room with her lying on my stomach because it was one of the only things that seemed to help. We went through countless bottles of baby gas relief drops. I did all the body manipulations to help with that too. I tried changing my diet and reducing foods known to cause irritability to see if the problem was in my breast milk. Nothing seemed to help.
She didn’t vomit. No diarrhea. Not constipated. Just gassy. We jokingly called her things like Princess Tootsalot. The pediatrician didn’t think it was anything like gerd or reflux since her symptoms didn’t fit. She was also in the top 95% for height and was a healthy proportional weight, so it seemed that she was getting enough nutrition, so let’s just keep an eye on it.
Then, when she was 18 months, we moved. Had to find new doctors and start over, so to speak. Took three tries until we found a pediatrician that I even liked.
As a toddler, I knew something was definitely a problem when she would stop playing and want to just sit because her tummy hurt. I mentioned it to the new pediatrician during a visit. He ordered an x-ray and talked about constipation. That wasn’t the problem, I told him. He ordered a basic blood panel and everything looked fine. That was good news, but it didn’t help determine what was wrong. We continued to talk about it at each appointment, but he was reluctant to give her medications for any conditions like reflux because the symptoms didn’t fit and he wasn’t a fan of medicating as an experiment. I agreed. He suggested keeping a journal to track her symptoms for a while.
When Maya was four, we moved again. Had to find new doctors, again. We went to one doctor that suggested she was making it up. That she was faking for attention. I told him that I realize some kids do that but I was sure that she wasn’t. This was real. It had been going on before she would even know how to fake an illness for attention. He told me that it was likely mind over matter. I told him that our appointment was over and I walked out.
Maya would wake up with a stomach ache. She would go to bed with a stomach ache. Sometimes she couldn’t eat her favorite dinners because her stomach hurt so much. She would even turn down dessert … I knew it was for real.
In kindergarten, Maya would tell her teacher that her tummy hurt almost every day after lunch. As I discussed this with her teacher, she told me she knew it was real, but felt helpless because she couldn’t do anything. I knew that feeling all too well.
The new pediatrician suggested laxatives. I didn’t think that was the answer, but wanted to try something. It didn’t help. Then we tried acid reducers, then acid inhibitors. No change. More blood work. No answers. Maybe it’s a food allergy, the doctor suggested. Each week I eliminated common irritants–dairy, acidic foods, eggs, etc. Nothing changed. I finally said I had had enough of the guessing. I appreciated that she wanted to take the least invasive path for my little girl, but at this point I wanted answers. She had been dealing with this for eight years.
Eight years of stomach aches.
I made an appointment at the recommended pediatric gastroenterologist’s office. We talked about her history. All the things we tried. He said he wanted to put her on massive doses of laxative to be absolutely certain that wasn’t it. (Seriously? Again??) He said that he didn’t think that was it, but it was an important first step. If after a week that didn’t change her symptoms, he wanted to schedule her for blood work and a procedure.
At eight years old, Maya had a colonoscopy and an upper GI scope. They did a biopsy of her intestine. The doctor came down and told me everything went well. He said that we’d have a definitive answer with the blood work and more extensive review of the biopsy, but he felt pretty sure she had Celiac disease.
Her bloodwork came back. Definitely Celiac. The biopsy results said the same. Definitely Celiac.
She would have to eat gluten free. Forever. That sounded so hard. I was glad to have an answer, but I didn’t like it.
What I did like, though, was that within one week–less than seven days–of removing gluten from her diet, she was tummy ache free. She felt good. Every day. All day long. I was so happy.
As it turns out, eating gluten free is not so bad. There are lots of options out there now in grocery stores and some restaurants have GF menus. We always plan ahead for her and usually take food when we go to someone’s house to eat. It is more work and it’s definitely more expensive. However, it’s easy in the big picture … she’s healthy, she’s happy. And that makes it all worth it.