Tummy Trouble


My 6-year-old is having some big feelings about school.

Today he came home from 1st grade complaining of a stomach ache.  He said his pain was a 1,110 out of 10.

“Wow, that’s pretty high,” I said.

“You don’t sound very worried!” he said.

I wrapped him up in a hug.  “Tell me what’s wrong, baby.”

We talked, he debriefed about his day.  Some diarrhea this morning, but he ate all of his lunch and snack.  No desire for dinner tonight, and lots of dramatic statements about the quality of pain.  I checked his tongue and pulse.  No fever, sweat or rapid heartbeat.  His eyes were bright and complexion normal.  This was not a stomach virus brewing, but a clear case of Liver Overacting on the Spleen.  In other words, Anxious Tummy Syndrome.

After a nice hot bath (sans little sister) and some chamomile tea, he got an acupuncture treatment from me in his top bunk.  I needle him the way I needle all kids: “1, 2, 3…you say go.”  Once he says “go,” I insert the needle.

“That one didn’t hurt!”  (He says this about each needle, as if surprised.)



Fifteen minutes later, he reported that his tummy ache was only a 5, instead of 1,110.

Not bad, with some room for improvement.

Does your child suffer from Anxious Tummy Syndrome?  Here are some things you can try at home (obviously, please don’t needle your child unless you are a Licensed Acupuncturist!):

  • Weak ginger, chamomile or barley tea with honey
  • Rest and limited stimulation (no screens, early bedtime if possible)
  • Don’t push food – aversion to food may mean your child is not digesting well, and may need rest more than food
  • Avoid cold foods and ice
  • Gentle parent-massage to the tummy: place one hand gently under your child’s back at the level of the navel, and the other hand over the navel.  Hold, without applying any pressure, for a minute or two.  Repeat as needed.
  • Acupuncture, Moxibustion and/or Tui-Na from a Licensed Acupuncturist
  • Talk it out: often the Tummy Trouble symptoms indicate your child is working something out, and may need extra parent support and empathetic listening
  • When your child is ready to eat again, offer naturally fermented foods such as pickles or saurkraut.  (Once they get used to the unusual taste, kids often love fermented foods.)
  • Soak 1 c. of organic hulled barley in a glass bowl, cover with plenty of water, stir in 1 T apple cider vinegar; cover; soak 8-12 hours (overnight); drain and rinse well; cook barley in fresh water, like rice, about 45 minutes or until tender.  Eat like rice or oatmeal.  Barley is a Spleen tonic, and helps us recover from digestive upset.

If your child continues to have trouble, call your pediatrician.  If you would like to find a Licensed Acupuncturist in your area, check acufinder.com by zip code and look for a L.Ac. with lots of experience treating children.  (Or if you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can bring your child to see me.)

Photos by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., all rights reserved. 

Family Meditation


Photo by Dave Clark, all rights reserved.

I am always telling my patients, “Really, you can meditate anywhere.”

This picture is proof!  (Messy house, jammies and all.)

The back story…

Earlier tonight, I had a fierce headache.  I don’t get headaches very often, but this one was bad.  It sent me into a dark room with a tall glass of water and earplugs, determined to take a power nap and needle myself before launching into the bedtime routine with my 4- and 6-year olds.  It gave me new empathy for all the migraine sufferers I treat.  (Acupuncture is awesome for headaches, but it is more than challenging to needle oneself while in pain, and there aren’t any other Licensed Acupuncturists in my immediate family.)

Ah, a cool pillow, dark room, soft bed…but after seventeen interruptions by my kids within a ten minute period, I ditched the earplugs and emerged into the bright light of the living room.

My first grader was doing homework, and my preschooler was battling Daddy over how to de-knot-ify her wet, post-bath hair.

The bright light of the living room pierced my temples.  This headache wasn’t going anywhere.

I moved the coffee table aside, providing me with enough space to do a little bit of yoga.

My 4-year-old threw her comb aside and joined me in a few sun salutations.  Before I knew it, she was showing me yoga postures I didn’t know she could do.  If you want to be humbled, watch the effortless movement of a Gumby-like preschooler on a hard wood floor.

My 6-year-old ran up to us, shoved his assignment in my face and said, “Look, Mama, I’m done!”

The three of us moved around, scooped up the moon, poured it onto our heads, and rolled on the floor like snakes and cobras.

The headache was gone before I got to savasana.

I kept going, because I like to end each day with a brief seated meditation.  Usually do this after the kids are asleep; they usually only see me meditating in the early mornings, if they’re up before they’re supposed to be.

We sat in a semi-circle in perfect quiet for about a minute.

My husband grabbed his camera.

4-year-old moved into my lap because everything good is even better in Mama’s lap.

Husband snapped the photo above before 6-year-old climbed into HIS lap.

Then the four of us sat in perfect silence for at least three minutes.

Which as you know if you’re a parent, never happens.

So, yeah, I think I’ll stop saving meditation for myself and continue sharing it with my family.

What do you do for stress relief? What helps your family unwind after a long day?

Copyright Abigail Morgan, 2015.