Treating tummy troubles

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Young girl eating sliced apples.

Help your baby, child or teenager start feeling better with care for their digestive system from Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Find a Pediatric Gastroenterologist

Our experienced pediatric doctors and specialists are ready to serve you and your family.

Symptoms & Diseases We Treat

Expect the best care for a wide range of gastrointestinal (GI) problems, including: 

    Gastronomy Tube Care

    If your child has a gastronomy tube (G-tube), we’ll help you take care of it to keep it working well and safely.

    How To Get Care

    Ask your primary care doctor if your child needs specialized digestive health care. After your doctor sends us a referral form, we’ll call you to schedule an appointment with a pediatric gastroenterologist. 

    If your child’s condition is urgent, we’ll try to see you within 24 to 48 hours. Otherwise, your first appointment may happen within two or three weeks.

    Prepare for Your Visit

    Contact your insurance company to make sure it has the referral on file and will cover the appointment. Plan to make any copays when you arrive. 

    Come 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment to register and complete a health history form. 

    You must stay with your child who’s younger than 18 during the appointment.

    What To Bring
    • Your insurance card 
    • Your photo ID 
    • Legal guardianship documentation (if applicable) 
    • List of your child’s medications and doses 
    • Results of any relevant imaging or lab tests done outside Spectrum Health (or you may have the results sent to us ahead of time)
    What To Expect

    The first appointment will last about an hour. Your pediatric gastroenterologist will ask about your child’s symptoms and perform a full physical exam, which may include a rectal exam. Your child may need to get blood tests after the visit so the doctor can learn more about his or her health.

    Follow-Up Visits

    If necessary, we’ll schedule follow-up visits to provide treatment or see how well your child is doing. Call us any time with questions. We’re your family’s partner in long-term care.

    Family-Centered Care Plans

    Our experts work with your whole family to determine the best approach—whether that’s dietary changes, medicine, surgery or a combination of treatments.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Constipation

    It’s common for kids to be constipated. This happens if they have:

    • Fewer than three bowel movements a week
    • Hard, dry, painful or unusually large stool

    Ask one of our pediatric dietitians to recommend dietary changes that can help. Often, children see relief after drinking plenty of water and eating more high-fiber foods.

    Sometimes, a pediatric gastroenterologist will order tests to learn more about the reason for your child’s constipation. We’ll help make sure your child gets all the care he or she needs.

    Diarrhea (Chronic)

    If your child's diarrhea lasts longer than 24 hours or keeps coming back, talk to your doctor. A pediatric gastroenterologist may perform simple tests to find the reason for the symptoms, so your child gets the right treatments.

    We can help relieve diarrhea with:

    • Antibiotics, which treat harmful bacteria
    • Antiparasitic medicine, which cures infections due to parasites, such as Giardia or Cryptosporidium
    • Dietary changes
    • Intravenous (IV) fluids to treat dehydration (not enough water in the body)
    Gallstones

    Gallstones are small, hard lumps in the gallbladder. If they block a bile duct, they may cause sudden, intense pain in the upper right part of the belly.

    At Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, treatment usually starts with medicine to dissolve gallstones. Your child may also receive medicine to ease pain and antibiotics to fight infection.

    In some cases, children need surgery to remove gallstones or the gallbladder itself. For either type of surgery, the surgeon will take a minimally invasive approach. That means using small incisions to reduce pain, scarring and recovery time.

    Your child will likely be able to return to a healthy, active life after surgery, with no long-term side effects.

    Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

    GERD happens when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus (food pipe) after eating. Ask a Spectrum Health pediatric gastroenterologist about GERD care if:

    • Your baby spits up a lot or acts fussy after eating
    • Your child complains of heartburn, stomach pain or chest pain after eating

    Your pediatrician will review your child’s diet or your current approach to breastfeeding to learn more and make personalized treatment recommendations.

    Depending on your child’s age, treatments may include:

    • Dietary and lifestyle changes
    • Adjustments to your breastfeeding schedule or position
    • Medicine
      • H2 blockers to stop the stomach from making acid
      • Prokinetic agents to strengthen esophageal muscles so acid is less likely to back up into the food pipe
      • Proton pump inhibitors to reduce stomach acid
    • Fundoplication surgery, which wraps the stomach around the esophagus to prevent acid reflux
    Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

    We’re here to help your child feel more comfortable after a diagnosis of IBD. This disease can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, anemia (lack of iron) and weight loss. Our pediatric gastroenterologists are specialists in reducing symptoms of either type of IBD: ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

    Your family has access to the latest and best approaches for managing IBD, including:

    • Dietary changes, such as nutritional supplements or a liquid diet
    • Medicine
      • Anti-inflammatory drugs
      • Drugs that weaken the immune system so it stops attacking the intestines
    • Surgery to removed damaged areas of the bowels

    Our Care Team

    Expect well-rounded care from a team of specialists in children’s digestive health. All our professionals work closely with each other and your primary care doctor to offer complete, coordinated services.

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    Pediatric Gastroenterologist

    Diagnoses and treats digestive disorders in children

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    Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

    Diagnoses and treats children’s gastrointestinal illnesses

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    Dietitian

    Recommends how to feed a child to relieve health problems

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    Medical Social Worker

    Helps your family access resources for better health

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    Radiologist

    Uses imaging to diagnose diseases

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    Pediatric Psychologist

    Helps your family cope with a disease

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    Pediatric Surgeon

    Uses surgery to treat digestive disorders

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    Child Life Specialist

    Helps your child understand treatment and feel less anxious

    Manage Your Child’s Health

    Use MyChart to schedule appointments, access test results and communicate with your child’s care team.