My daughter was diagnosed with Acid Reflux - Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) just before she turned two. As any parent would understand, this was devastating.....you want your children to be happy and healthy and you do your very best to make sure that happens. I didn't understand how such a healthy child who ate so well could possibly have this, what was I doing wrong? How did this happen? I had so many questions-when exactly did this start? Will she grow out of it? What are the side effects of the medication? What can I do to fix it? I needed to know more about acid reflux, I needed to know more about the medication and so I began to look for the answers. I want to share the information I found and how it was helpful. My daughter is now two and a half and currently on 1/3 of her initial dose. She is being weaned off very slowly and I will keep you all updated as to further progress.
When exactly did this start?
She was breastfed until she turned one. Instead of switching to cow’s milk, I started her on formula. There were some night waking, crying, screaming and picking at the ears on and off for a while-all apparently symptoms of "teething". Since she was a late teether and didn't get her first tooth until about 9 months, it all made perfect sense. I started switching slowly to cow’s milk a few months before she turned 2, she did not seem to handle the milk very well but I was told this was normal for any child. I still felt like there was something more. Then the screaming began. Waking at 4 or 5am screaming hysterically, wanting out of her room, afraid of her bed....night terrors? This is the age when it happens right?
But there was one thing that was not a symptom of night terrors and that was this very acidic smell on her breath. I came across several websites in my searches that related this smell to acid reflux. I made an appointment to see her Doctor; she prescribed Renitidine liquid twice a day. I convinced her that I was sure I could handle her reflux by diet. She agreed for me to take the prescription and if the diet didn’t work, go ahead and use the medication for 1 month, stop and then use as needed. She didn't eat much acidic foods like tomato sauce or oranges but what little bit she did I cut out completely. I was very careful about what I fed her but there wasn't any change. The pharmacy assured me that Zantac had very little side effects and so I filled the prescription and reluctantly began her medication therapy right before her second birthday.
Will she grow out of it?
I was told that a child who develops GERD later as apposed to being born with it is more likely to have a lifelong problem and that in most cases it is hereditary. Knowing that every time I tried to wean her off her medication her symptoms came back I started to believe that this would never go away. I don't want to believe that, I want to know there is something I can do.
What are the side effects of the medication?
Ranitidine (trade name Zantac) is a histamine H2-receptor antagonist that inhibits stomach acid production. While suppression of stomach acid does temporarily reduce esophageal inflammation it does little to address the underlying root cause of reflux. Low stomach acid levels have been linked to Candida overgrowth and bacterial infections (i.e. salmonella) which can lead to other health problems. It may increase the risk of developing food allergies. When stomach acid is removed, the body does not absorb nutrients as well, especially calcium which can lead to rickets (a softening of the bones). The body also has trouble absorbing iron, magnesium, zinc, folic acid, vitamins A, B1, B6 and E. Also, long-term use often leads the body to compensate more of the hormone “gastrin”. This hormone signals the stomach to increase acid production. Excessive levels of gastrin have been linked to the growth of esophageal, pancreatic, and gastric cancer cells. Most acid blockers say consumers should not use for longer than 14 days. There is obviously a reason for this.
What can I do to fix it?
The medication started making a difference within a week, I was so happy to see her smile when she woke from naps instead of the usual screaming. After the month was up and I stopped the medication, all symptoms plus more came marching back to play catch up. I quickly started her on the medication again and went back to the Doctor who agreed to keep her on the medication for a while longer. After a couple months I tried to wean her off slowly and yet again ended up back at the start. I was told that I would just have to accept the fact that she needs the medication and it is "good" for her. I did not agree. This was when I took a different approach; I started her on natural remedies and visited with a licensed Naturopath. We were told our daughter has dairy (lactose) intolerance and her little belly is inflamed. We immediately started her on lactose free milk (article t o come on lactose intolerance) and kept going with the natural remedies. I am happy to report that she is having no trouble weaning off the medication this time.
I already knew all the regular suggestions they give you like raising the bed, avoid tight clothing, no acidic or greasy foods, eating smaller meals, no eating 2 hours before sleeping and avoid bending over after eating etc. However, there are other suggestions that I would like to share with you that have been helping my daughter.
1. Probiotics. The use of probiotics helps restore the good bacteria in the digestive system and keep things moving smoothly. The longer it takes the stomach to empty, the higher the risk for reflux.
2. Aloe Vera Juice. Not only does this juice contain over 20 amino acids but it is also enriched with a host of vitamins including A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E. Drinking it also reduces inflammation, heals intestines, stops constipation and most importantly it alkalizes the body. (See pH balance)
3. Refined sugars. The amount of refined sugar in many products would likely shock you. A tablespoon of ketchup contains a full teaspoon of sugar. Avoid stuff like canned soups, processed cereals, cured meats, hot dogs, lunch meat, salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, mayonnaise, pickles, frozen pizza, canned fruits and vegetables, tomato juice, and any other products that list sucrose and fructose in their ingredients.
4. Processed foods. Most processed foods contain colors, preservatives (BHT), sweeteners, MSG and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (Tran’s fats). Avoid canned foods with large amounts of sodium or fat, breads and pastas made with refined white flour instead of whole grains, packaged high-calorie snack foods such as chips and candies, frozen fish sticks and frozen dinners that are high in sodium, packaged cakes and cookies, boxed meal mixes that are high in fat and sodium, sugary breakfast cereals and processed meats.
5. Lactose free milk. Not only is lactose a form of sugar found in milk but many children especially premature babies are lactose intolerant. Drinking lactose free m ilk will prevent symptoms such as
· Abdominal cramps
· Abdominal bloating
6. Food intolerances. Certain foods may be causing an upset of the internal flora. A food diary is a great way to help identify the cause or talk with your doctor to see if he might refer you to an allergist or pediatric gastroenterologist. A less invasive way would be to visit a registered naturopath especially for younger children and babies.
6. PH balance. Eating 70% alkaline foods and 30% acidic foods will balance out the body’s pH levels. This is easier said than done since dairy and grains are said to be acidic. For a detailed list of acidic/alkaline foods see http://www.rense.com/1.mpicons/acidalka.htm.
Today I feel good about where we are going. This is the first time my attempts to wean my daughter of her medication is working. No one wants their child to be taking medication if they don’t have to be. However please keep an open mind, I am in no way saying that children should not take any medications or that GERD has to be caused by one of the reasons I have listed. There are children who have Hiatus hernias, impaired stomach function and other issues such as abnormalities in the esophagus. If anything, these recommendations could help someone or someone they love live a healthier life and have a better start in the fight against GERD and other complications life throws our way.