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How to Help Teens With Nervous Stomachs

by Amber Keefer, studioD

Nervous stomach is a gastrointestinal disorder often triggered by diet or stress. A common symptom of anxiety, it can cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Even if your teen’s stomach doesn’t hurt because of an abnormality of the digestive system, recurrent abdominal pain with no known medical cause can still make her miserable. Dr. Michael F. Picco, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, points out that certain nervous system functions can affect digestion, causing uncomfortable symptoms.

Identify what triggers your teen’s nervous stomach. Ask him to keep a journal of what he eats and drinks as well as jot down how he’s feeling emotionally when a nervous stomach attack occurs.

Suggest that your teen try relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety and stress. Although anxiety is a natural reaction to life’s worries, sometimes teens experience physical symptoms of anxiety that can be severe, notes TeensHealth. Besides making a person less tense, yoga and deep breathing stimulate the production of endorphins -- the body’s natural painkillers. Meditation is also a technique your teen can use to manage stress.

Encourage your teen to eat healthy foods. Spicy foods, acidic foods, carbonated and caffeinated beverages, and foods high in fat can make the symptoms of nervous stomach worse. Cabbage, cauliflower, beans and broccoli are other foods that can irritate the stomach by causing a buildup of gas.

Urge your teen to exercise. Physical activity reduces stress and aids in digesting food, says Mayo Clinic. Food that doesn’t digest properly can lead to heartburn, constipation, too much acid in the stomach or other gastrointestinal problems.

Give your teen an over-the-counter antacid to calm her upset stomach. The calcium or magnesium in antacids neutralizes acid the stomach secretes, helping to soothe pain. If pain and discomfort persist or occur more than occasionally, a medical workup may be necessary.

Take your teen to see a doctor. A doctor can perform tests to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms. If necessary, he will refer your teen to a specialist for further testing.

Discuss the benefits of undergoing cognitive-behavioral therapy for treating symptoms. When nervous stomach leads to irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, psychologists often use cognitive behavioral therapy to treat the physical and psychological symptoms of IBS, notes the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy. If medication doesn’t work, cognitive therapy can help your teen change negative thought patterns that increase his anxiety.

About the Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.

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