Your child's stomach problems may be warning of bigger problem

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You may think your kids are making excuses when they complain of a stomach aches, but it may not be all in their heads. Updated guidelines are out describing disorders that are common and increasing in frequency.

Any parent will tell you that kids complaining of stomach aches is fairly common. But doctors say parents shouldn't be so quick to dismiss those complaints. Experts say GI problems are a growing concern in children, and new and updated guidelines are out to help identify and treat them.

For Caroline Schueren, eating just a handful of anything like snack crackers, almost instantly causes her stomach muscles go into severe spasm, which leads to vomiting.

"There were times that every single meal, every single snack, every single drink I had, was a problem," she said.

For years, Caroline went to several different doctors, but always left untreated.

"She's been really, really sick," said her mom, Kathryn Schueren. "Which is heartbreaking as a parent to watch and not really have an easy answer."

But more patients are getting answers now, thanks to new and updated guidelines that identify 10 conditions of children known as Functional GI Disorders

That includes diagnoses like irritable bowel syndrome, functional constipation and rumination syndrome - the condition Caroline has, that causes vomiting.

"It makes these disorders a little bit more legitimate, makes people understand a little bit better, gives a name, allows us to devise treatment strategies and options," said Dr. Carlo Di Lorenzo.
Di Lorenzo of Nationwide Children's Hospital, oversaw the writing and updating of the Rome Criteria guidelines for children - called Rome 4.

Caroline was given electrical stimulation, counseling, recreational and massage therapy and even worked with a canine companion to help control her symptoms.

The approach which includes treating the entire body is helping Caroline. And with the new guidelines in place, it will provide answers to others who are desperately seeking them.

"For both Caroline and I we've just both felt like someone gets it," Kathryn said. "But it still didn't fix it. It just meant that we now were on the right path which was a huge relief."

"I wish it wasn't so taboo to talk about," said Caroline. "There's a lot of struggling going on in the world and a lot of people are having problems that you may not be able to see."

Parents should talk to their pediatrician if their child is experiencing stomach problems about the guidelines - which were compiled by a group of international experts who met in Rome, Italy, known as the Rome Criteria for Functional GI Disorders. These are the first guidelines which the group has released since 2009.