What causes reflux and GERD in children and how to resolve it.

Reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can affect adults, children and babies. The causes of reflux in children are similar to those in adults, but there may be some additional factors to consider. Naturopathic treatment for paediatric reflux focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying causes of the reflux symptoms and promoting a healthy digestive system. 

Nutritional resolution of GERD and reflux is preferable in children as medications are not designed to be used long term and can have a number of side effects including diarrhea, constipation.  Also, PPIs have been associated with an increased risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies impacting vitamin B12, vitamin C, calcium, iron and magnesium metabolism.

Here are some common causes of reflux in children:

Digestion and gut health: 

In babies and young children, the muscles that control the opening between the oesophagus and stomach (lower oesophageal sphincter) may be take a little longer to developed, leading to reflux.  Also poor microbiota diversity can impact reflux and digestive health.  

Food Sensitivities or Allergies: 

Certain foods, such as cow’s milk, soy, gluten, and specific fruits or vegetables, can trigger reflux symptoms in children who have sensitivities or allergies to these foods.

Nutritional deficiencies: 

A number of nutritional deficiencies can contribute to GERD including vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin B12, magnesium, calcium and zinc.   GERD can then result in further nutritional deficiencies including iron as GERD results in reduced absorption of some vitamins and minerals. 

Overfeeding:  

Overfeeding can put pressure on the stomach and contribute to reflux.  Smaller feeds or meals can assist if this is the cause of your child’s reflux. 

Hiatal Hernia:

Although rare in children, a hiatal hernia can cause reflux symptoms.

Holistic Treatment Strategies for Paediatric Reflux:

Breastfeeding and Formula: If breastfeeding, ensure your baby is latching properly to minimize swallowing of air. If using formula, consider using a hypoallergenic formula or alternative to cow’s milk.

Dietary Modifications: For older children, identify and eliminate trigger foods that may be causing reflux symptoms and check their nutritional status.    Encourage smaller, more frequent meals to prevent overeating and reduce pressure on the stomach and make sure your child is chewing their food thoroughly and eating slowly.   

Probiotics and Digestive Support:  Poor microbiota diversity can be improved with probiotic supplementation and probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir.  Some herbal medicines can also support digestion and reduce reflux symptoms such as dandelion, ginger, chamomile and licorice.   Please consult a practitioner who is qualified in herbal medicine to ensure you get the correct products and dosage for your child.

If your child is suffering with reflux or GERD symptoms and you would prefer to treat the underlying cause we can help.  Contact us at Healthy Kids Naturally to discuss or book at appointment online or in person