More than Belly Aches: Acid Reflux in Children

Acid reflux is often experienced differently in children and teens than it is in adults. Along with a wide range of symptoms, kids typically tell parents they have “fire in the belly and throat,” a sign of acid reflux and not simply a stomach ache. Always take it seriously. Persistent reflux can erode tooth enamel, damage the lining of the esophagus, cause sore throat/laryngitis, interfere with swallowing, and increase the risk for diseases of the esophagus.

Acid reflux is triggered by too little stomach acid, which is needed to signal the lower esophagus to close tightly. When it fails to close, stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, creating a burning sensation. When persistent reflux affects a child’s ability to enjoy eating, absorb nutrients, and manifests other health problems, it’s labeled as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Occasional reflux is common in kids, but GERD is more serious, afflicting up to 84% of children age 2-17 and about 40% of infants. 

Causes and treatment approaches vary widely, depending on the age of the child, their diet, and other health factors. Let’s take a holistic look at acid reflux in kids including symptoms, causes, and ways to resolve the underlying causes and prevent serious damage to the digestive tract. 

Symptoms of Reflux & GERD in Kids:

A variety of symptoms accompany reflux – not every child will have all or even most of them. 

• intense irritation to burning pain in the lower mid-chest or behind the breastbone
• stomach ache
• bad breath
• nausea / vomiting
• problems swallowing or painful swallowing

Causes of Reflux & GERD Include:

• medicines a child is taking (including antibiotics)
• being overweight or obese
• having a food sensitivity or allergy
• stress
• use of nicotine, caffeine and alcohol
• musculoskeletal abnormalities
• lack of exercise
• poor diet
• poor gut health

You may be familiar with prescription and over-the-counter medications for adults with reflux disease, such as proton-pump inhibitors and antacids. At best, these drugs mask symptoms and give only short-term relief. Given to children and teens, these drugs set kids up for a lifetime of digestive and intestinal issues because the root cause of the reflux is not addressed. 

Addressing the Root Cause of Reflux & GERD:

To get to the root cause of GERD, a holistic physician may test for food sensitivities, assess stomach acid production, and evaluate the child’s diet and lifestyle habits. They may also assess for imbalances in gut health. To address underlying causes, holistic physicians may prescribe nutritional supplements / herbal remedies, guide you in making dietary changes, recommend exercise and stress management, and use physical medicine modalities such as abdominal massage. Each approach works in conjunction with the others based on individual needs with the aim to restore balance and health to your child’s gut.

References

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

The information offered by this newsletter is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this newsletter.