Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
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Monroe Carell Jr.
Children's Hospital
at Vanderbilt
2200 Children's Way
Nashville, TN 37232

(615) 936-1000

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Home / A–Z Services / Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition / Clinics and Programs / Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Program
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Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Program


Our clinic provides outpatient care to children with recurrent abdominal pain and functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) such as irritable bowel syndrome, functional abdominal pain, functional dyspepsia, and functional encopresis.

Our mission is to improve the lives of children with FGIDs by:

  • Educating families about functional gastrointestinal disorders
  • Providing a team approach to care for school-aged children with functional gastrointestinal disorders
  • Providing easily accessible individualized care while also serving as a center for leading-edge research
  • Helping children overcome or cope with their symptoms so they can begin to feel better

Our services include pain management, nutritional consultation, relaxation training, stress management, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, and acupuncture.

FGID overview

What are FGIDs?
Functional gastrointestinal disorders cause real abdominal pain and discomfort. They are diagnosed based on symptoms rather than with a specific medical test, x-ray, or endoscopy. In functional gastrointesinal disorders, there is a problem with the way the body perceives pain or the way it functions rather than having an underlying inflammatory, structural, or biochemical cause. Intestinal nerve endings may be oversensitive, leading to a lower threshold for pain perception or to other symptoms such as nausea.

Often, the way the GI tract moves becomes disorderly, either moving too fast (leading to diarrhea) or too slow (leading to constipation). Sometimes the disordered movement and lowered pain threshold may lead to nausea, vomiting, heartburn, or other symptoms. While not life threatening, functional gastrointestinal disorders can interfere with a child’s quality of life.

While the pain in the gut is real and not imaginary, we often use the brain to help the gut handle this heightened perception of pain and other related  symptoms. This is based on the positive (or sometimes negative) influence the brain has on the gut via the many nerve connections they share.

What are the common symptoms of FGIDs?
The most common symptoms include abdominal pain or belly aches, nausea, bloating, vomiting, regurgitation, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of these symptoms.

Examples of types of functional gastrointestinal disorders

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Functional dyspepsia
  • Abdominal migraine
  • Functional dyspepsia
  • Functional constipation
  • Rumination syndrome
  • Cyclic vomiting syndrome
  • Aeorophagia

What makes our approach to caring for children with FGIDs unique?
We offer a unique pediatric service that offers a comprehensive approach to caring for children with functional disorders by addressing each problem and formulating a multidisciplinary treatment approach.

At Children's Hospital, we are one of the only pediatric centers to offer a comprehensive approach to treating functional gastrointestinal disorders. With the help of several specialists, we are able to provide a comprehensive individualized treatment plan for your child so he or she can begin to feel better.

What to expect

During your child’s visit, you will meet with a pediatric gastroenterologist and a pediatric psychologist with a special interest in treating chronic pain and functional disorders. In addition, your visit may include meeting with a dietitian, a social worker, or a psychiatrist. 

During your clinic visit you will meet with members of our team who will perform a thorough physical exam, review prior records and studies, and provide recommendations for further evaluation and treatment. 

Members of our team include

Pediatric gastroenterologist – Discuss our current understanding of the cause of functional gastrointestinal disorders

Pediatric psychologist – Discuss behavioral strategies to manage functional GI disorders

Nutritionist – Review the importance of diet in the treatment of functional GI disorders

Social worker – Helps locate resources for families

Meet our FGID Team

Julia L. Anderson, M.D., M.S.C.I.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition
Patient Care Emphasis: Functional bowel disorders, Nutritional disorders

Lynn S. Walker, Ph.D.
Professor of Pediatrics
Director, Division of Adolescent Medicine
Patient Care Emphasis: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Pain

Erin Gaines, L.M.S.W.
Social Worker II

FGID clinical research

  • Parenting strategies and beliefs that can affect the course of a child’s functional abdominal pain
  • The impact of stress on physiological and psychological responses to pain
  • Autonomic reactivity to laboratory stress in children with chronic pain
  • Childhood risk and protective factors for the development of chronic pain
  • Health outcomes in adults with a childhood history of chronic pain
  • Visceral sensitivity in functional gastrointestinal disorders and chronic pain
  • Use of cognitive and behavioral techniques in pain management

FGID research at Children's Hospital has been funded by The National Institute of Child Health and Development since 1987.

Resources for Families
You may find these resources helpful in learning about your child's condition.

Recommended Books:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome & the MindBodySpirit Connection: 7 Steps for Living a Healthy Life with a Functional Bowel Disorder, Crohn's Disease, or Colitis (Mind-Body-Spirit Connection Series), by William B. Salt II M.D. and Neil F. Neimark M.D.
  • The First Year: IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) - An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed, by Heather Van Vorous
  • IBS - Take Control: Insights into Irritable Bowel Syndrome, by Christine Dancey
  • IBS: A Complete Guide to Relief from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, by Christine Dancey and Susan Backhouse

Website: International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

To schedule an appointment, call (615) 322-7449.

Last Edited: May 19, 2016
Valued Participant of Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network