Chronic Abdominal Pain

Posted by Melissa Callaghan on

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Chronic (long term) Abdominal Pain

Indigestion, upset stomach, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation,  lots of gas.  These are all very common signs among adults and are also becoming common among children.  It can be extremely difficult to get to the bottom of the problem.

These signs and symptoms can go on for months and often many tests have been conducted with no answers. 


1. Food intolerance

When the digestive system has been exposed for a long period of time to toxins from the food or environment, exposed to pharaceuticals such is antiobiotics, ibuprofen, panadol to name a few of the common ones. Or not eating enough vegetables, fruit and plant based proteins such as beans, lentils, or chickpeas to get the fibre that is needed to take care of your microbes in the gut that protect you (mostly in the large intestine).  This leads to inflammation of the intestines allowing food proteins to go through the intestinal wall and creating an immune response. Your immune system develops a defense system to fight the food that crossed over called antigens. When it sees that food again it attacks it creating a food sensitivity reaction.

This can show in many different ways such as stomach pains that have no other explanation. The hardest part is that it can be reacting to food that was eaten more than two days ago.

This reaction will develop to foods that are continuously eaten on a regular basis while the inflammation in the gut is there. (Leaky Gut)


I highly recommend a food intolerance test but not the standard IgG test as these are very inaccurate and only test the immediate response as IgG rises and falls with exposure. We need to test the delayed exposure this is alot more accurate.  I request this test for my patients then we can see what you can and can't eat.

Once testing is done we need to repair the gut lining first and foremost.I compound powders for my patients based on their individual signs and symptoms to improve this area. Then when the test results come back we remove the foods that are causing the immune response. Repair can take a few months so we continue with this making sure that the digestive system is improving as we go and making adjustments to treatment plans as needed. After treatment some of these foods can be reintroduced gradually.

2. Bad bacteria or parasites in the gut

An overgrowth of any of a number of bad bacteria can cause these signs and symptoms.

Same goes for parasites.

Tests can be conducted to assess the balance of good vs bad bacteria in the gut as well as the quantity.

Treatment can be developed to rid the gut of the bad bacteria or parasites and then to increase the quantities of the good bacteria to give you a healthy digestive system.

3. Enzyme deficiency

New research has developed which may give us an answer and a bit more insight into what could be going on.

According to a recent research paper published in March 2017 in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition these signs and symptoms may be a result of a deficiency in the enzyme Disaccharidase.  A study was conducted on a total of 203 paediatric patients who presented to the gastroenterology clinic at the Children’s Hospital in Wisconsin with chronic abdominal pain with an average age of 11.5 years. They studied the children with the aim to discover if carbohydrate intolerance or malabsorption was the cause of the chronic abdominal pain with the end result being that a large proportion of the patients had deficiencies in disaccharidases.

So what does this mean?

It means that double sugar molecules cannot be broken down due to a deficiency in the enzyme that breaks them down called disaccharidases.  The body likes to quickly convert double sugars into energy and if it can’t break them down and absorb them for us then we see the signs of fermentation such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, lots of gas, discomfort etc. 

Where do you find disaccharides?

Sucrose – is a table sugar made up of glucose & fructose. The main source being white sugar from either sugar beet or sugar cane. It is also found in every fruit and vegetable.

Trehalose – is a mushroom sugar made up of two glucose molecules. Found in yeast and in the form of starch in mushrooms.

Maltose – is a malt sugar made up of two glucose molecules. Found in cereal or grain, malt and corn syrup.

Lactose – is a milk sugar made up of glucose & galactose.  It is found in milk and this is a prime example of disaccharide intolerance as lactose intolerance is very common especially in children.  As we lack the disaccharide enzyme called lactase to break it down. Adult onset occurs after years of damage that needs to be repaired.

There are two possible reasons for disaccharidase deficiency one is an inherited deficiency that you are born with.  The other can be due to damage in the small intestinal lining also known as mucosa. Majority of the time this damage can be repaired through a treatment plan that I design for you based on your signs and symptoms.  Repair is always the first starting point as we go through the repair process if symptoms are slow to improve there are further tests available to see if any bad bacteria or parasites are involved (most of the time further testing is unnecessary).  I investigate each individual case and create a treatment plan to make improvements and assess if further investigations are required.  Majority of the time as we repair and provide digestive support the signs and symptoms disappear fairly quickly. 

In conjunction with repairing the gastrointestinal system, changes to food choices are also needed. When parasites or bad bacteria are involved this means that your body needs to improve its defenses. If you find that you are susceptible to changes in stool consistency then chances are that your defense needs improvement. As well as your body's ability to remove metabolic waste. 


Who am I?

I am a Bachelor qualified Naturopath who specialises in improving metabolic processes in the body. Major areas for improvement include gut, thyroid, kidney, skin and liver health. Conditions such as hypothyroidism, fatty liver, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, & irritable bowel conditions. I help my patients by giving them symptomatic relief while working on repairing the underlying causes of metabolic stress and waste accumulation. Patients experience amazing results which are seen in their blood tests with improved thyroid markers, cholesterol, and liver markers.  As well as lower blood pressure and see relief from improved gastrointestinal symptoms like the ones that mean you need to know where every single toilet is before you leave the house. 

Melissa Callaghan ND, BHSc, BTeach
Clinical Naturopath


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