What it is: GERD is a condition where stomach acids come back up into the esophagus (the long muscular tube connecting the back of the throat with the stomach). Symptoms: Heartburn – that burning sensation that you feel from the stomach up into your chest area. Acid Regurgitation – you spit up stomach acid, pepsin (an enzyme) and possibly some bile (yuck – bitter and sour tasting) GERD Info: Men, women and children can all experience GERD. It is usually chronic (long lasting – lifetime). Can cause esophagitis (injury to the lining of the esophagus). Esophagitis can be treated with medications but will likely return as long as the patient continues to experience the backing up of stomach acid, pepsin and bile into the esophagus. Although normal people who do not have GERD experience acid reflux from time to time when they overeat or are upset. The difference is that those with GERD have more acid in the liquid that regurgitates and they experience the reflux more often Personal Experience: My second daughter had Pediatric GERD as a baby and young child. She eventually outgrew the symptoms around age 7. This is possible in pediatric cases due to the fact that their bodies are still growing and maturing. Her pediatrician prescribed a red liquid to give her. She experienced the heartburn most often, after meals and during times of stress, like when I gave her a bath (she hated bath time). She would often throw up bile into her bathwater. We spent many a night walking the floor with her held securely against my chest in an upright position.
Often, I would sit in my bed against propped up pillows with her on my chest as she fell asleep on my chest. We raised the top portion of her bassinet and then later her crib so that her head was elevated slightly while she slept and this seemed to help. Liquids seem to increase the reflux, so we would add a little bit of rice cereal to thicken her formula when we had to switch her from breast milk to formula at 11 months of age.
Natural Protection: All of our bodies have natural protections built in. In regards to GERD, when we are in the upright position, our bodies will naturally use gravity, the swallowing reflex, and our saliva to help coat the esophagus and protect it from acid reflux. At night while we are asleep, we are in the prone position and gravity is no longer at work. At night while we sleep we do not swallow or produce as much saliva as when we are awake. Therefore, at night symptoms of GERD are aggravated because the natural protection of the body is less effective. Causes of GERD: There are many contributing factors to the presence of GERD in most people. Some of the more common factors are: Abnormalities of the lower Esophogeal Sphincter (ring of muscle surrounding lower end of esophagus) Hiatal Hernia Esophageal contractions (not swallowing correctly, or difficulty in swallowing) Emptying of the stomach is abnormally slow Complications of GERD: GERD can cause serious feeding problems in young babies or even breathing difficulties. Thankfully for us, our daughter did not experience any complications. Ulcers (break in the lining of the esophagus) Strictures – healed ulcers form scar tissue which can narrow the inner cavity (lumen) and swallowed food can get stuck in the esophagus. GERD causes cells in the esophagus to be damaged and changed, these changes can lead to cancer of the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus) Cough & Asthma – caused by nerves being stimulated by reflux that promote coughing. Esophageal nerves are connected to the nerves leading to the lungs which can then be stimulated to constrict the smaller air passages (asthma) Inflammation of throat and larynx Inflammation and infection of lungs Fluid in sinus and middle ear because the throat and nasal passages are connected. As you can tell by the information, GERD especially when experienced by very young babies and children can be serious. Your pediatrician can help alleviate some of these symptoms with medication. Your pediatrician may also suggest some foods/drinks that can help reduce the chance of acid reflux. Doing your best to limit stressful situations, and helping to keep the child in an upright position as much as possible so that gravity can help keep the acid and other liquid contents where they belong. There is hope that your child can grow out of the GERD as my daughter did. In the meantime there are things you can do to help ease the symptoms.