Abdominal migraine (a form of migraine seen most commonly in children aged 5-9 years old) is, unfortunately, not a well-researched field.
However, with some key information and intelligent research, we can learn better how to understand, treat and live with this condition. Let’s take a look!
First, The Facts
Children are the key sufferers of this condition – experiencing severe centralized abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting (in most cases). After links were made to other family members having migraines, it was found that children with Abdominal Migraine were more likely to suffer from traditional migraines as a teenager / adult – both with AND without aura – as a direct result. The resulting pain can be severe enough to interfere with normal daily activities – and a visible physical toll (pale skin, dark circles, weakened appearance) can be seen.
As with any form of migraine, there is unfortunately no definitive diagnostic test to completely confirm Abdominal Migraine. However, a diagnosis can be achieved by reviewing both family and patient medical history, evaluating the symptoms and performing an examination to rule out any other causes of the symptoms. Other conditions that should be ruled out before diagnosing Abdominal Migraine include: urogenital disorders, peptic ulcer, cholecystitis (gall bladder), duodenal obstruction, gastro-esophageal reflux, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. If there is any alteration in consciousness, seizure disorders should also be ruled out.
Understanding Your Doctor’s Thought Process
It’s thought, in the medical community, abdominal migraine carries a fairly “positive” prognosis. Most children DO eventually stop having attacks of abdominal pain – however, suffering children shouldn’t be fed an endless supply of NSAIDs, SSRIs, Triptans or other pharmaceutical medications. This does not “fix” the problem! It’s more likely to be these children are deficient in amino acids, fatty acids, neurotransmitters, hormones and other necessary vitamins.
Serotonin and Abdominal Migraine
Even further, abdominal migraine appears to be associated with decreased serotonin levels in the body. This is a key bullet point to understand – also a reason why prescribing migraine drugs to kids with abdominal migraine seems to be so prevalent. Serotonin is a major neurotransmitter that, in the gut, is responsible for the amount of mucus secreted into our intestines. Our perception of abdominal pain or fullness is a direct result of such. Serotonin plays a key role in our bowel motility; if there is not enough, we get constipation – too much causes diarrhea. Even further saturation of the gut with serotonin causes it to go into the bloodstream (where it often causes vomiting). Systemically; serotonin is for preventing depression and chronic pain conditions, regulating sleep, body temperature, repairing damaged cells in the liver and lungs, normal heart development, and regulating bone density by inhibiting bone formation. Sleep plays a majorly integral role in the regulation of serotonin, but seems to get lost in the advice of doctors in favor of medications. We need to understand the roots of these problems.
How To Sleep When You Can’t Sleep
If your child is still not getting the sleep they need, you can increase their serotonin levels by adding 5-HTP to their diet in the form of a vitamin or supplement. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, becomes 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5HTP), which then turns into serotonin and eventually melatonin in the body. These are absolutely crucial to a healthy night’s sleep! Taking 5-HTP first will not only help you sleep because it converts into melatonin, it will also increase your overall serotonin levels and can help improve other low serotonin related conditions such as anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.
Your gut has a brain, called the enteric nervous system or ENS for short. Serotonin is important for the proper development of the ENS. Abdominal migraines appear to be the precursor to migraine in later years because of this serotonin/gut connection.
Eat Your Serotonin
By now, you may be asking, “How ELSE do I get more serotonin!?”. An easy way is through food! However, its imperative to identify and remove food allergens and food sensitivities, eliminate artificial ingredients, sweeteners, additives, enhancers and sugars from your child’s diet (ESPECIALLY if they’re suffering!).
Foods with the highest concentration of natural serotonin include: walnuts, plantains, pineapples, bananas, kiwis, plums and tomatoes – all rich and high in carbohydrates. This is why, when we are under stress or feeling emotional, we crave high carbohydrate meals for the more immediate effect of the serotonin release. While this is great for an immediate local gastrointestinal effect, there is much more to serotonin levels than this.
How Is Serotonin Made?
Serotonin can also be made in the body from a protein building block, an amino acid or a tryptophan. Foods that have high levels of tryptophan tend to have higher protein levels that allow for better balancing of blood sugar and slower, more even production of serotonin. High tryptophan foods include: turkey, bananas, milk, yogurt, eggs, meat, nuts, beans, fish and swiss/cheddar cheese.
It is absolutely advantageous to control our impulses when we’re feeling the need for serotonin via carbohydrates. Too much serotonin at once can lower the sensitivity of the receptors to the serotonin over time requiring more and more carbohydrates for that same “good feeling”. The sudden rush of carbs also leads to a crash afterwards – not only of serotonin, but also of blood sugar levels. Choosing meals or snacks high in protein with high levels of tryptophan are your best bet for an uplifted, good mood – and stable energy level.
Although, as mentioned, there is no definitive answer for abdominal migraine – we can be diligent in our actions toward suffering children to help alleviate and correct the problems at the root level. A healthy diet, sleep and careful consideration of your child’s unique factors can go much further than a handful of pills!