The dairy experiment has been less than conclusive, and we are all pretty much stumped at this point.

If you’re just catching up, my youngest daughter (she’s 7) has been having occasional stomach aches several times a month for . . . months, I guess. Maybe over a year. We ignored them for a long time but finally decided the situation warranted a trip to the doctor, who advised us to take her off of dairy for a week or two to see if it helped. I took her off both gluten AND dairy, figuring we might as well kill two birds with one stone. That was four weeks ago.

After about 12 days living 100% (as far as I know) dairy and gluten free and having no complaints, one Sunday morning we let her have a bowl of yogurt with her breakfast and then she shared my crème brûlée at lunchtime. That evening she started with a stomach ache, and she came home from school the next day still complaining of tummy troubles.

So naturally we thought, BINGO! It’s dairy!

Since that time, she has had no more gluten or dairy. She was fine until the next Sunday, when we ate out at another restaurant. They accommodated her needs with a plain grilled chicken and fries and mixed fruit, and she had a “Shirley Temple”. That afternoon she came home with a stomach ache again.

We were perplexed.

She was fine for another whole week. Then this past Monday, we ate at Chick-Fil-A for lunch. She had their grilled nuggets with fries and a lemonade. A while afterwards, she started complaining of a belly ache. She complained of a stomach ache all afternoon, and woke up Tuesday morning still complaining and said she had it all night.

I kept her home from school and called the doctor. She complained right up till about 2pm, when we walked into the doctor’s office (naturally). It’s like taking a car to the mechanic.

The doctor basically said, “didn’t work, huh?” After questioning and examining her, he ordered bloodwork and a stool sample (which I get to collect. The good times keep on coming!)

Then he said he was going to write a script for Prevacid. “Can’t hurt,” he said with a shrug.

THIS RIGHT HERE is where I’m starting to twitch. If you have any inkling of my medical history, you know how hard I worked to get myself off of Nexium. I’m sure it has its place, but it is way overprescribed and can cause more problems than it helps. I would need to be pretty convinced of its medical necessity to give it to my child. And even then, I would try just about anything else first. I’m not about to fill that prescription based on the information we have at the moment.

I’m fine with blood tests and stool samples, so we’ll start there. Since he is testing for Celiac, we started her back eating gluten last night (for the Celiac panel to be accurate, the person must be eating gluten, and she’s been off it for four weeks). She hasn’t had any tummy aches since eating two sandwiches on whole wheat bread and a bowl of pasta so I’m guessing gluten is not the culprit, but of course I’m anxious to see what the blood test results reveal.

I realize that I’ve been 100% focused on her diet as a cause, and perhaps it is. Isn’t it odd that the past few stomach aches occurred after eating at a restaurant? I can’t be sure that we haven’t eaten out at other times, but I don’t think we have. So is there something in commercial cooking that is bothering her? An oil, perhaps?

But then as I was looking back through my calendar with all my notes, I realized that her last 3 or 4 belly aches have also occurred the day before going back to school after the weekend. Which made me wonder if it could be stress related. I have had several people suggest that, but this child loves school and looks forward to going every day. It seems unlikely, but then again, she’s also a perfectionist. Could the tummy aches be due to some underlying anxiety related to that?

Of course we don’t know. We are baffled, quite frankly.

And so we wait . . .


  1. says

    It’s so difficult when your kids aren’t feeling well. I’m sure you must be at your wit’s end. I’ll say a pray they can make a conclusive diagnosis soon and that she can start to feel better again.

  2. Jennifer Young says

    That is just awful. Poor girl and poor mama. Nothing worse than not being able to fix your child’s pain. Have you considered giving her a kid’s probiotic? Not sure if that would help but it has made a world of difference for me. That and apple cider vinegar once a day but I don’t see a child drinking that! Hope you get it sorted out soon.

      • Andrea Chase says

        I would think that cross contamination could be the culprit. The other thought is MSG. Unfortunately, Chick fil A’s second ingredient in their natural chicken is MSG and that can wreak havoc on the GI system if your daughter is sensitive to it. So many restaurants have MSG as a flavor enhancer in their food. It really messes with my GI tract when I have anything with MSG in it. I know it’s frustrating trying to find out what is the culprit. Both my kids are GFCF and soy free. I am recently GF as well. Good luck and it’s great that you are keeping a diary of sorts to pinpoint problems. That’s very helpful!

  3. Becky says

    My youngest follows a GFDF diet. Could there be cross – contamination? I always worry about that when we eat out. I don’t ever let her have fries because I worry about it especially there. Could it be soy? Also, when I was a child I couldn’t eat at Pizza Hut without stomach cramps and diarrhea. As an adult, I can’t eat at Burger King. I wonder if it is some kind of preservative

    • says

      I wondered about cross contamination with the fries but I would be surprised if she is THAT sensitive, since her tummy aches have been so intermittent for so long, ya know? But I dont know how that works.

      And yeah, the additives or oils in restaurant foods is something to consider. How does one figure out if it’s soy? That’s in EVERYTHING. It’s so bizarre.

      • Andrea says


        I was tested for soy and found to be highly allergic to it. We’ve gotten all the soy out of our house and I literally do not eat in restaurants at all. There is a company out of the Dallas, TX area called “Entero Labs”. The have a website. They’re not the cheapest and are rarely covered by insurance, unless you’ve got great insurance. (maybe about $650.00) The test they did for me included checking for yeast, soy, dairy, egg, nut, gluten/wheat, There might have been one or two other items on it, too. It was the most accurate allergy testing out there! They nailed it! Lucky for me! Other allergy tests I have had done seem to come back with several false negatives and the results are typically only used as a “guide”. You mentioned she had a belly ache after eating something with lemon in it (…I think?). I have heard of citrus allergies. I always find praying about this stuff helps, too, as God is faithful to give me wisdom.

        Best regards

  4. Denise Zuniga says

    To try to rule out restaurant ingredients (vs. school stress), maybe try eating out on a Friday?
    Good luck!

  5. Barb @ A Life in Balance says

    Ugh, this sounds like it’s going to be a tough one to suss out. And not to show off my story, though I’ll do it anyway, I am finding mainstream medicine to be annoying at times. My dd6 complained of stomach pains off and on for several weeks. I couldn’t discern a pattern. So, finally I take her to the doctor’s and we see a doctor who we don’t normally see. He basically tells me I’m an idiot for not recognizing my daughter is constipated. Really? My kids don’t get constipated. Though dd6 does now. I’ve taken her off dairy which helps and I’m trying to get her to eat a multivitamin and probiotic to make up the difference in her diet.

    • says

      I am looking for a new ped. I wasn’t amused when he tossed out a script for Prevacid. Can’t hurt, my arse. It most certainly CAN. Blergh.

      (and I hope he doesn’t find my blog! LOL)

      • Barb @ A Life in Balance says

        I was talking to a neighbor about my daughter’s constipation and she tells me that she’s taking Metamucil and her kids are taking stuff, and I’m thinking, “Why?” Why not change the diet to fix the issue?

        Good luck!

    • Jenn says

      Most kids are pretty independent in their pottying when they’re 6 so it’s reasonable for you to be unaware of any constipation issues. And what 6-year-old even knows what constipation is or the need to report it? Anyway, we’ve found that a supplement called In Gear works well for my daughter’s constipation. It has Magnesium Glycinate and Vitamin B-6. It works much better for us than MiraLax, mixes well into a drink and it only took a couple of weeks to help. You can buy it on Amazon.

  6. Lee Ann says

    How frustrating! I have to watch when eating out since eating at certain places or eating certain things can trigger an upset stomach. (I can’t eat at Burger King, either). My husband’s cousin suffered from stomachaches when she was in grade school. After many tests, they finally found out she was constipated.

  7. April says

    I didn’t think of it till now, but my daughter (when she was 7 years old) had constant stomach aches. As it turns out, she was stressed about school. That year we sent her to the Christian school that I had attended as a child, and it wasn’t a good fit for her. Her struggles, which he didn’t really talk about, came out in tummy aches. The next year, she went back to our local public schools, and she was magically better!

  8. Susan says

    Belly aches in kids with no other GI symptoms (i.e. diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or temp) are very tricky. I would be skeptical of the Prevacid too and share your concerns as a parent. My DD loves school and loved it at that age too but was a perfectionist also and when she worries about something she tends to put it all of her worries in her stomach. Kids can also have abdominal migraines..have you heard of those ?

    Hang in there! Oh, and did I mention it’s harder with girls??

    • says

      Yeah, and my husband says he used to have tummy aches as a kid and “they went away” – he’s not sure we need to pursue this too far.

      Of course, my IBS started as a child, and little did I know, I was in for a lifetime of GI issues. So. Yeah. Who really knows . . .

      And I STILL can’t figure out what causes my gastritis attacks. It is not consistent, whatever it is. Or it is something so obscure that I’ve never considered it.

  9. Jen Knox says

    Reading your description of the situation and the fact that restaurants seem to be an issue, the first thing that came to mind was monosodium glutamate (MSG) which is used in restaurants and in pre-prepared foods that restaurants use to make their food more cheaply and more quickly.

    Have you considered putting her on an elimination diet that takes out MSG (it’s hidden in so many things) and maybe artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives? We’ve tried this and it’s daunting but we’re also trying to find the cause of mysterious stomachaches. I’ve done some reading about the Feingold Diet, which is more for behavior issues (my son has ASD) which eliminates quite a bit that we aren’t ready for, personally, but the colors and MSG are a top priority for us right now. Doctors always seem to shrug things off and write a prescription don’t they? I think you’re doing the right thing eliminating things and keeping track of the outcome, but I’d look into MSG and see if that’s an issue. Good luck!!

    • says

      I had wondered about that. We eat so clean at home (even our boxed foods are usually organic – although perhaps those still can have MSG?) that maybe when eating out there is something that gets to her? I will look at the stuff in our house that I’m feeding her and see about the MSG.

      Even when we eat out, it’s usually at pretty good places. I suppose they could still use it tho…

  10. says

    My first thought was the restaurant food. But then, I thought maybe school. She could love school and still be stressed. Happy can = stress. Imagine the happiness of a wedding or vacation and the accompanying stress!

  11. Emily G says

    Poor girl =(
    I don’t have any food allergies or sensitivities, but I always get tummy troubles after eating at almost any restaurant, from fast-food to Applebee’s to a couple of local places. So strange. I hope you hear something soon, I know its agonizing to wonder. Oh, and good luck with the stool sample endeavour!

  12. says

    Did the doctor say anything about her gall bladder? I’ve been having trouble with mine recently and notice problems most when I eat too much, which is when I eat out. The fat doesn’t bother me as much or change my BMs (TMI, I know). My gall bladder is under my left rib and radiates to the my back in the same spot. When it’s really bad, it goes to the center. Just a thought! Good luck!

  13. Dawn says

    Sorry you are having so much trouble! I agree with Becky, you may want to check out soy. My daughter also had issues with diary and even after eliminating all dairy she was still showing signs of an allergy. I suspected soy was an issue, but didn’t want to keep eliminating food groups from her diet so I took her to an allergist. Sure enough, after some tests she was also allergic to soy – even on a higher scale than dairy! Once we eliminated both dairy and soy she improved immensely. To be honest, dairy is relatively easy to eliminate but soy is a real challenge because it is used as a filler in so many things. If something is dairy free, soy is often the alternative that is used. Ugh! Good luck on your journey!

  14. Laura says

    My niece would get stomach aches from high fructose corn syrup. Since your daughter had a sweetened drink at the restaurants, it most likely had HFCS, and probably GMO also which can cause issues.

  15. katie schmidt says

    We had similar troubles with Maura over the years, so feel your pain. Our pediatrician figured out that Maura has struggles with constipation, so watching her eating and drinking really helps. Last year her tummy troubles really peaked, but after months we figured this episode was due to school stress…although she loves school, bad behavior in school was starting to wear on her. She is a good kid and was getting stuck by the bad kids to model good behavior. Well at 9-10 years old, how much can she take? I had to go in and tell the teachers, she needed a break and sit by good kids. TOO much pressure and distracting. Plus alot of prayer and conversations about Who is ulitmately in control. Good luck with your detective work!!

  16. says

    Looks like you’re getting plenty of advice here, so I’m not going to add too much to the conversation. But as someone who has had my issues of digestive problems, I cannot stress the importance of probiotics. (I think we’ve talked about that before.) Just make sure to take one that has the highest parts per billion (or however they measure it) that you can.

    Also, as someone who has a kid with occasional stomach aches, I’d consider the stress factor. My daughter swears her stomach aches aren’t due to stress, but she will inevitably have one just before a big event or if school seems overwhelming. Even though our kids love school, they can still be feeling stress that they can’t even identify.

    Hope you find a solution soon.

  17. Jenn says

    I’m sorry you aren’t getting any easy answers. I know the feeling of not finding the key and wondering what to try next. And I also share your hesitation to turn to something as strong and potentially damaging as Prevacid when there isn’t a clear and compelling reason to do so.

    Peppermint can help sooth the tummy. You could try giving her a peppermint when she has a tummy ache and see if that helps. Won’t fix the cause but it may help her and will give you some more data. You could also try some simple meditation and anxiety exercises. Even if anxiety isn’t the cause, it’s never too soon to give your child tools for dealing with stress and anxiety. Some good books are: “What to Do When You Worry Too Much,” “Each Breath a Smile,” and “Peaceful Piggy Meditation.” I used to have the occasional stress tummy ache and lying down with my knees up worked for me.

    Also, just to muddy the waters as you’re considering MSG, I’ve noticed there is another salt/flavor enhancer that sounds an awful lot like MSG but isn’t. I wish I had a label to see what it is but of course I avoid that stuff because it sounds like MSG. I’m pretty sure it has glutimate in the name. Anyway, it could be that a restaurant is using a MSG substitute because it provides the flavor enhancement without the bad reputation.

    Whatever it is, I hope you find it soon!

  18. says

    I hate this for you. When I was in college, I would often get stomach pains, and it was pinpointed to stress. (I only get them on occasion during stressful situations now.) You noted that she’s happy in school, so I can’t imagine that school would be the cause.

    That said, my husband started feeling sick several weeks ago and he narrowed it down to french fries from restaurants. Sounds crazy (doesn’t all of this sound crazy?) but he just doesn’t eat them now, and has felt significantly better since. I think it’s the grease for him.

    I really hope you’re able to figure out the cause and can treat it without medicine.

  19. Denise says

    Jo-Lynne, we have friends who are severely allergic to dairy. They can’t eat the chicken at Chick Fil-A and a few other places, because it is injected with butter…and why it tastes soooo delicious! She always has to ask for the number for the company that provides the chicken to be certain. All that to say…still could be a dairy reaction…it gets hidden in a lot of weird things. Hope you figure it all out soon!

  20. says

    Anxiety was my first response too, but that’s because it’s what’s on my own radar. Sometimes kids aren’t aware they’re anxious — they say they love school, and they think they do, but they really aren’t registering the anxiety they’re feeling about some issue they can’t process. I felt that way when I was young. If you’d asked me if I liked school and had friends, I’d say SURE! But looking back now, I know I had a lot of anxiety I was trying to cope with, and I would never have told my parents.

  21. Rochelle says

    “THIS RIGHT HERE is where I’m starting to twitch.” That cracks me up because I am the same way. I can be very nice but when the doctor starts mentioning prescriptions or vaccinations I’m looking for the nearest exit. I hate feeling like I have to defend my positions on these things… I’m naturally leery of Drs. anyway. But it is especially irritating when they are so casual about prescribing medications.

  22. syd says

    I hope your little girl gets better soon! It’s so hard to see our little ones in pain.

    My 10 yr. old daughter just went through a week of stomachache pains (worse at night, she woke up crying), and an x-ray showed she was severely constipated. A $1 bottle of magnesium citrate did the trick.

  23. says

    I thought of the same two things you thought of: restaurant oils and/or school anxiety. Some friends of ours had a daughter with a lot of tummy aches . . . that completely disappeared when her mom started homeschooling her.

    :) :) :)

  24. Tiffany says

    One thing to think about in regards to gluten and eating fries in a restaurant is what else do they fry in the same oil. Are they frying breaded chicken breasts in the same oil as the french fries? So maybe she was getting gluten and you were not aware of it. Sometime the little things count. Good luck.

    • says

      Hey Tiffany, yeah, I thought of that but she has been eating pasta and bread for 48 hours with no complaints, so I doubt it was that. I’m really starting to think it is stress.

  25. says

    My middle son who is 8 has had similar problems for two years. Terrible tummy aches, but his actually include vomiting. He will go at it for four hours or so, throwing up numerous times, and then be perfectly fine. He even has barfed 8 times and then gone to swim in a swim meet. We’ve had blood tests, we did gluten free, he’s already a vegetarian who doesn’t eat diary (his own choice). The doctor recently discovered that, despite his vegetarianism, he is insanely constipated. He also diagnosed him with cyclical vomiting which has to do with migraines in children. Migraines which could be caused by his intense constipation. So far he is just using a standard laxative which seems to be helping, but we’re still not 100% sure it’s the cause of the migraines (which actually don’t involve any head pain) or if migraines are actually what’s causing the tummy issues. It’s such a puzzle. Hopefully yours is solved soon because these two years of discomfort and not knowing have been terrible.

    • says

      I have had several people tell me about abdominal migraines! That is bizarre. Hers aren’t that bad. I’m really leaning towards the anxiety theory. I don’t know how to be sure, though. I guess I”ll go ahead with the blood and stool tests just to be sure. They did x-ray her for constipation, but I’m not ruling that out, as I struggle with that myself. I guess I should write down how often she is going. Fun, right?

  26. Alaina says

    I have similar issues with intermittent stomach problems. In my experience, any unexpected dietary change can have consequences–trying a new food, eating at a restaurant, etc. I’m especially sensitive to fatty processed foods. Perhaps your daughter just has a picky digestive system, in which case you’re best off continuing to feed her nourishing food and not “rocking the boat” any more than necessary.

  27. says

    Growing up I had stomach aches alot and my parents could never figure it out. They finally decided it was stress and anxiety. I like school, but I was very shy as a kid and I naturally stress about everything. So I’m pretty sure my stomach aches were anxiety and stress, I just couldn’t explain my feelings at that age (grade school) well enough for my parents or me to realize what it was.

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