We all know that tummy aches in children can often be a sign of emotional distress. The child may be feeling afraid or sad or angry and their tummy starts to hurt. Or they may be nervous about a test or a speech and they describe this as having ‘butterflies in my stomach.’
So if they are hurting emotionally why do their tummies hurt?
Here is a fascinating piece of information about which so much is currently being written. The brain and the gut work together. When one is hurting, the other is too. When one feels good, the other does too. This is because the neurotransmitters found in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, norepinephrine and others, that are responsible for everything we think and feel, are also found in the gut.
This means that as a parent it is important to ensure that the child has a healthy gut because this is directly linked to a healthy brain and a healthy spirit. We need to be sure that the child does not have any toxins in their gut because these toxins disturb the child’s ability to function normally, in every way. We are all exposed to many toxins, particularly from food, water and air; from preservatives, antibiotics, hormones, fertilizers and cleaning products, to mention just a few. Today, though, I want to speak about a different kind of toxin – emotional toxins.
Children with stomach aches often have toxic thoughts stemming from negative beliefs about themselves. I’m not smart enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m too fat, others don’t like being with me, I am going to flunk this test… Low self-esteem and low self-confidence cause a lot of, ‘I’m Not OK’ thinking, which causes high levels of anxiety, which then upsets the balance of chemicals in the stomach and the brain. The neurotransmitters that the child needs to learn feel good and relate well to others no longer function as they should because of the toxic thoughts and the anxiety. This imbalance in the neurochemicals can:
- Trigger learning disabilities
- Contribute to autism
- Contribute to depression, anxiety, behavioral, and memory problems
- Contribute to immune problems
- Cause allergies, asthma, fatigue, headache, irritability, ear infections, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, hives, eczema, and itching
Toxic relationships will have the same negative effects on a child as toxic thoughts. Last week, following a presentation I had just given to a group of parents, one mom approached me and shared how her child had started to have severe stomach pain several months ago. She wondered whether it could be because the child’s new teacher was particularly nasty to her, calling her names and saying hurtful things to her This kind of toxic relationship can be extremely damaging to the functioning of the child’s body, brain and spirit. I encouraged the mom to have her son moved into a class with a different teacher as soon as possible.
Even just watching toxic relationships being played out in the family or the school environment is a toxic experience for the child, with negative health and well-being consequences. What about our own relationships with our kids? It is always easy to see when a relationship that our child has with someone else is toxic to their health and well-being. Sometimes though we need to stop and ask ourselves, ‘Is there something I am doing, with all the best and loving intentions, that could actually be toxic for my child?’
It’s all about Chemistry
Relationships and thoughts can change a child’s chemistry for better or worse. If you hear these words quite often, ‘mommy my tummy hurts,’ please stop and think about this: ‘Is there something toxic going on in my child’s life?’ Find it and remove it. Because treating the stomach ache, without identifying and treating the emotional toxins, will cause continued harm to the child’s body, brain and spirit.
Dr. Sandy Gluckman teaches parents and educators about the 7 toxic behaviors to avoid with their children and the 7 healing behaviors that build healthy bodies, brains and spirits.