5 Digestive Disorders To Look Out For in Black Children

You know what it’s like. 

The kids come home from school and they’re under the weather. Runny nose, cough, fever, feeling yucky, and spreading all those lovely germs your way. 

But what if your child’s upset tummy and nausea are something more? More common in Black kids, issues like stomach inflammation, indigestion, and ulcers are never fun. But what if they’re not just temporary conditions? What if these symptoms are the sign of actual chronic digestive disorders?

Although digestive disorders like Crohn’s Disease were once thought to affect white people exclusively, research now shows that they are quite prevalent among the Black community. 

If your child is experiencing recurrent gastrointestinal issues, here are five conditions to look out for.

1. Aerophagia

The medical term for excessive air swallowing, aerophagia literally means ‘air eating.’ If your child is complaining of tummy aches and pains, check to see if their belly is bloated. Does their stomach look puffy or feel hard? Does it make gurgling sounds? Are they burping or passing gas frequently?

It could be aerophagia. Sometimes, when kids get nervous they gulp air unnecessarily. Chewing gum, drinking soda or carbonated beverages, and even sucking on some candies can lead to too much air.

While medications can work, the best course of action is to reduce stress, cut back on carbonated drinks, and learn how to breathe deeply and properly. In some cases, speech therapy can help significantly.

2. Abdominal Migraine

The first episode of an abdominal migraine usually occurs before the age of ten. While it’s called a ‘migraine,’ it actually doesn’t affect the head. Rather, it leads to nausea, stomach pains, and even vomiting. That said, abdominal migraines often occur in children who also suffer migraine headaches or have family members who suffer migraine headaches. 

In fact, these abdominal pains even respond to the same type of triggers as migraine headaches, everything from stress to nutrition, lighting, sleepiness, and chemicals like caffeine and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Medicines like ibuprofen, triptans, and some anti-nausea drugs usually help right away. 

If your child is having an episode that lasts more than 72 hours (three days) – even if mild – consult a doctor immediately. On average, Black children are less susceptible to migraines in general than other races.

3. Functional Dyspepsia

The medical term for indigestion, dyspepsia is something we all face from time to time. In many cases, it’s just a matter of what you ate or drank. However, if your child is constantly complaining of aches and pains while eating or after eating, it could be functional dyspepsia.

Functional dyspepsia is named as such because it doesn’t have any clear physical cause. In other words, there are no ulcers or structural issues with the digestive tract that explain the symptoms. This is why understanding the symptoms is important for a proper diagnosis. 

Blood tests, imaging tests, and breath tests can all be used to determine if your child has the disorder. If diet changes and relaxation therapies don’t help, medications for stomach acid, low-dose antidepressants, and even herbs like peppermint can help.

4. Functional Constipation

Constipation can be difficult for children, especially when they don’t know what’s going on and are trying to force the issue without success. If your child has functional constipation, this may stem from holding it in at school, significant diet changes, or poor bathroom habits. 

Is your child going #2 only twice per week? Is he or she having accidents frequently, despite being potty-trained? Are their stools very large or painful to pass? Are they increasingly tired or unable to eat? If these issues persist, let your child’s pediatrician know. They’ll be able to conduct the proper tests and offer possible medications as well as new routines for going #2 more regularly.

5. Functional Fecal Retention

Similar to functional constipation, functional fecal retention refers to the conscious holding in of, well, poop. While this condition typically affects smaller children, it’s been known to impact kids from infancy to 16 years of age. If your child is passing very large stools only a couple of times per week, this may be an issue. 

Some kids will clench their muscles to avoid passing stools as well. Soiling, cramping, mood swings, and feelings of fullness all coincide with functional fecal retention. Like with the other conditions, a behavioral plan may be the best way to treat this issue.

Remember, even if no obvious physical problem exists, these digestive issues do stem from a disorder in normal routines, beliefs, and behaviors. From nervously swallowing too much air to suffering abdominal ‘migraines,’ each problem requires a personalized treatment. Talk to a doctor and find the commonsense approach that works best for your child.