Symptoms and Treatments: Gerd in Children
(Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
Written by Julie James, CNC
Herbalist, Nutrition Consultant
An annoyance at best, and a cancer risk if left untreated, GERD is literally a pain in the neck to over 10% of the American population, and can be heartbreaking to see in our children. Usual therapies include H-2 blockers (Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid), which block the cellular signals that trigger acid production, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs: Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, Protonix), which block the acid producing mechanism in stomach cells. Neither of these classes of medication have been adequately studied for their effects on children, and usage should be only under the supervision for your doctor-don’t buy these as OTC medications for your child.
Better yet, before resorting to the use of possibly harmful medications, try to control the problem naturally. Dietary changes, lifestyle adjustments, and nutritional and herbal supplements may all be used with confidence of effectiveness and safety in your children-and yourself, if you’re another of the 10% who suffer.
When we lie down at night, backflow of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, or HCl) into the esophagus increases, and symptoms tend to worsen. This is why we want to avoid heavy meals too close to bedtime, so that there’s less food and digestive activity at that time. Use gravity to your advantage by raising the head of the bed by about 4 inches-this is just enough to reduce backflow, but not so much that your child will slide to the bottom of the bed by morning. A piece of 4 x 4 lumber works beautifully for this purpose-just be sure to affix a ledge or attach the feet of the bed to the lumber to avoid any middle-of-the-night (or jumping-on-the-bed) crashes.
Modify the diet by eating small meals. Chew the food very well, as digestive enzymes in the saliva begin breaking down the food, easing the load on the stomach. Avoid carbonated beverages, mints, and acidic, spicy and fried and high fat foods. As proteins require HCl for digestion, eat those mainly in the earlier part of the day and stick to easily digested complex carbohydrates and vegetables in the evening-these require much less HCl to be produced for digestion. High fat foods slow digestion, so they, too should be avoided, especially at night.
GERD is closely related to gastroparesis, or slowed stomach emptying-both can be due to decreased muscle function, particularly with the gastrointestinal fibrosis that can accompany scleroderma. This can be more of an issue than simple overproduction of stomach acid, especially as some studies show that inadequate HCl production is more often a cause of GERD than excessive acid production. Slowed stomach emptying because the stomach isn’t producing enough enzymes can be simply remedied by use of a digestive enzyme combination. There are some very good chewable papaya based enzymes that are appropriate for children, but be sure to buy one that is of high quality. Many are just papaya flavored candies-yummy, but ineffective. For older children, a mild digestive enzyme in a capsule is a good alternative, but buy one that has no HCl in it, to avoid exacerbating symptoms; look for a “plant enzyme” formula. A wonderful bit of info: if enzymes are what your child needs, then symptoms abate very quickly-usually within a day or two. If no relief is found within a week, then enzymes may not be helpful for this situation. So buy the smallest bottle available, or ask for samples, before investing in the lifetime supply, economy sized bucket o’enzymes.
A chewable licorice tablet, DGL has been studied exhaustively for use in treatment of ulcers, GERD, hiatal hernia and other forms of gastric irritation. This is a very safe and highly effective way of soothing inflamed tissues quickly. In addition, it has been shown to reduce levels of H. pylori bacteria, which may contribute to ulcers. This is particularly good because many of the medications which block acid can actually increase levels of harmful yeasts and bacteria in the body, including Candida albicans and H. pylori. The reason for this is obvious when you think about it: one of the reasons your body produces HCl is to kill off bacteria that enter the body in your food. E. coli in your hamburger is destroyed if there is a pool of acid waiting in your stomach for it, and the H. pylori bacteria can also be inhibited with proper levels of HCl. But with no welcoming acid bath for them, bacteria entering the body find a moist, warm environment to proliferate in. A new study shows that people who use acid blocking medicines have a higher incidence of bacterial pneumonia, for just this reason.
In addition, decreased levels of HCl reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, especially minerals like calcium, potassium, zinc, iron and magnesium, and to digest and absorb protein. This can result in malnutrition, even if your child is eating a healthy diet and taking a multivitamin. You can’t use it if you can’t digest and absorb it. And you can’t digest and absorb it if you don’t have the necessary enzymes that your body requires to do just that.
DGL, and aloe vera juice, another soothing, healing therapy, relieve symptoms without reducing enzyme potential and nutrient availability, and without increasing your risk of bacterial overgrowth. Safe and effective, as promised.
Always do your own research before using ANY medications or supplements on your child, and be cautious and skeptical of all claims. The best remedy is often none at all, other than dietary changes and lifestyle modifications. But to leave a condition like GERD untreated is to ask for serious trouble later in life, and it is illogical and irresponsible to avoid treatment because you don’t like “taking pills”. We do what we need to, in order to provide the best life for our children and ourselves.
Please keep in mind, this webpage is for your information only.
Please check with your child's physician for any treatments.
For more information on Juvenile Scleroderma, contact:
Juvenile Scleroderma Network, Inc.
1204 W. 13th Street, San Pedro, CA 90731
Tel: (310)519-9511 (Pacific Time)
24 Hour Support Line: 1-866-338-5892 (toll-free)
Speak to another JSD parent for emotional and logistical support
provided by home-based JSD volunteers. For medical advice, please
contact your child's physician.
Non-Medical Questions or Comments? Click Here
Medical Questions? The Doctor's In: Q & A