November 2019 Edition
Research shows that about 75 percent of the world’s population loses the ability to break down lactose at some point, meaning that many naturally become lactose intolerance over time. In the U.S., the condition affects around 30 million adults to some degree by age 20, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
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.
Causes of Reflux & GERD Include:
- 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
- medicines a child is taking (including antibiotics)
- being overweight or obese
- having a food sensitivity or allergy
- 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.
Food for Thought. . .
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
Helping Kids Eat Dairy-Free
If you've been told by a holistic health physician that your child needs to follow a dairy-free diet - don't panic! Today, there are numerous healthy and delicious dairy-free options. The first thing you will want to be clear about is if the dairy-free recommendation is due to lactose intolerance or to a dairy sensitivity. The two share similar symptoms but are very different conditions. Some children will have one, but many have both, and the approach to each is different. If you are unsure which condition your child has, double check with your doctor.
Lactose intolerance means that your child cannot digest milk sugar (lactose). It is a very common condition and you will see many dairy products, including milk, yogurt, butter and others, labeled "lactose free" or "safe for lactose intolerance." A dairy sensitivity or allergy means that your child has difficulty digesting milk protein (whey, casein).
In either condition, symptoms can include, among other things, abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea, constipation or diarrhea, vomiting, rash, sinus infection, and respiratory distress. In some cases, the child is at risk for a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction that can shut down the child's airways - immediate medical attention is necessary.
Once your physician has diagnosed the type of allergy/intolerance, together you can create a plan for finding dairy-free substitutions in order to keep your child deliciously nourished. Here are a few suggestions:
Choose Vegan Foods. Vegan foods are dairy-free, as well as meat-free. Selecting vegan foods is a great way to enjoy a variety of flavors that are free from all sources of dairy.
Try Alternatives to Milk. These days the dairy aisle has a new neighbor: a dairy-free section with a variety of alternative products made from rice, soy, almond, cashew, walnut, hemp, and coconut. The selection of products includes cheese, "milks", ice cream, cream cheese, and yogurt to name a few. Also, Kosher products labeled Pareve do not contain dairy. Different brands of these alternative dairy options will vary in consistency, flavor, and nutrition profiles. Experiment with several to find those that best suit your family's needs. As with other dairy products, keep an eye on the sugar content by reading labels.
Choose More Fresh, Whole Foods. Get your kids in the habit of eating in-season, organic, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Your physician will have other tips specific to your child's needs. It's important to follow your doctor's advice for making these changes easy and enjoyable for your child. Eventually, they won't miss dairy at all.
Kid-friendly, SO Yummy! Homemade Dairy Free Ice Cream
There are many ways to make delicious dairy-free ice cream at home, but one simple and proven approach to creating a healthy version of this cool, sweet treat begins with the following essential ingredients:
- 3 cups dairy-free milk (coconut, almond, cashew, sesame, etc.)
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup natural sweetener (maple syrup, coconut sugar, honey, etc.)*
- Flavoring to taste (vanilla, cinnamon, cacao powder, maca, mint extract, etc.)
- Add-ins of choice (berries, peaches, banana, cacao nibs, nuts or seeds, chocolate chunks, etc.)*
The type of *sweetener, flavoring and add-ins that you choose will affect the sugar content of the ice cream. Keep nutrition in balance by choosing wisely. The Academy of Culinary Nutrition has a variety of recipes for you to choose from. Below is one of our favorites. Be sure to include your kids in the ice-cream making fun!
Dairy Free Chocolate Mint Ice Cream
- 1 cup raw cashews (150g), soaked overnight, washed & drained
- 1 cup coconut cream (250ml)
- 1/3 cup coconut nectar
- 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 tsp Spirulina
- Few drops peppermint extract
- 1/2 cup cacao nibs (or raw chocolate grated)
You don't necessarily need an ice cream maker. While these machines do whip air into your frozen desserts, producing a fluffier result, you could easily put your ice cream mixture directly into the freezer instead.
- Blend cashews, coconut cream and coconut nectar in a blender until smooth and creamy.
- Add coconut oil and blend until combined
- Add peppermint oil (add more or less to liking) and spirulina and blend until combined.
- Pour into metal loaf tin. Stir through cacao nibs.
- Cover tin with foil and freeze overnight until set.
- Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving to soften.
Papaya Power for Digestive Health
Many foods naturally contain enzymes, which are molecules that speed up chemical reactions. Digestive enzymes, as you may have guessed, support various digestive processes. One food that contains important digestive enzymes is papaya.
A deep yellow, sweet tropical fruit, papaya is rich in papain, which contains the digestive enzyme called protease that helps breakdown protein. If the body is deficient in this enzyme (due to genetics, illness, or food allergy), then protein-rich foods cannot be properly digested; consequently, you may experience indigestion or heartburn. The protease enzymes in papaya (among other tropical fruits), have been shown to help ease symptoms associated with an upset stomach and heartburn.
To reap the benefits of the enzymes in these foods, eat them raw at their peak freshness and chew mindfully as saliva activates many enzymes. If you are taking papaya as a digestive enzyme supplement, check with your holistic health practitioner about taking it individually or in combination with other enzymes as this can make a significant difference in effectiveness for your health concerns.
An Asian spice, well-known for its sweet and zesty zing, ginger has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and support digestion. As a digestive aid, this knobby, horn-shaped root is used to nourish and warm the digestive organs, including the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and liver. Ginger stimulates production of enzymes in all digestive pathways.
Research indicates that biologically active compounds in ginger bind to receptors in the digestive tract. This process seems instrumental for minimizing the sensations that create nausea and indigestion. Researchers also note that ginger plays a role in the breakdown of starches and fatty food - all good things when your tummy has gone sour.
There are many preparations of ginger that kids, as well as adults, can enjoy and use when experiencing an upset stomach. This includes ginger chews, lozenges, and fresh or dried tea infusions. Tinctures, capsules, and extracts can be prepared in varying strengths based upon individual medicinal needs, determined through consultation with a holistic physician.
Gentle Massage for Tummy Troubles
Giving your infant a gentle abdominal massage is a wonderful approach for taming tummy troubles. It's also ideal for older children and you can teach them techniques for self-care when they're ready. Abdominal massage can improve digestion, lessen gastric discomfort, and help release tension created by stress, thus improving digestion.
The digestive process can become interrupted by health issues such as food intolerance, allergic reaction, or illness, as well as emotional stress and tension. These issues can result in abdominal ache, gas, indigestion, and difficulty with bowel movements. Massaging the abdomen helps soothe the muscles and nerves and can stimulate muscle contractions in the GI tract (called peristalsis), which helps move waste through the bowel.
The following method is wonderful to use with babies and very young children. Always perform abdominal massage when the child is quiet but alert, not when they are fussy or asleep. Use the flat pads of the fingers; never use fingertips and be mindful of your fingernails. You also want to use gentle but firm pressure. Always pay attention to the child's reaction (e.g., facial expression) to make sure they are comfortable.
- Undress the child (baby in a diaper; a child can be in light and loose-fitting pajamas). The child should lie face up on a blanket or other soft surface.
- Starting at the base of the rib cage, massage the abdomen in a circular, clockwise motion. Make smaller and smaller circles, gradually making your way to the navel.
- Hold baby's knees and feet together and gently press knees up toward abdomen.
- Gently rotate baby's hips a few times to one side, then to the other side. This can be helpful in releasing excess gas.
- Place your hand on baby's tummy horizontally, rocking hand from side to side. Make gentle but firm motions, to avoid tickling the child. Cover area below navel, stopping short of pelvic region. (Note for infants: Do not massage stomach if umbilical cord hasn't healed completely.)
For an older child, the parent can perform the "upside down U" massage and can teach the child how to follow this pattern to perform the massage on their own.
- Have child lie on their back. Use a massage oil, such as olive or coconut, which are generally safe for children. (Always do a patch test on the inside of the arm to be sure.) Pour a small amount of oil on your palm and rub both palms together, to make sure your hands are warm.
- Massage up the right side of the stomach, then across the top of the stomach below the rib cage, then down the left side. This can help move gas bubbles along the intestines.
- A circle should be completed no less than twice, but can be done a few more times. Pelvic area does not need to be massaged.
If this approach does not provide relief, use the "I Love U" massage pattern:
I: Using the pads of the fingers, stroke down from the bottom of the left ribs to the top of the left hip. Do this stroke at least 10 times.
L: Stroke from the bottom of the right ribs, over to the bottom of the left ribs and then down to the top of the left hip. You have made an L shape with your stroke. Do this stroke at least 10 times.
U: stroke from the top of the right hip up to the bottom of the right ribs, over to the bottom of the left ribs and then down to the top of the left hip. You have made a U shape with your stroke. Do this stroke at least 10 times.
Tummy massage on a baby or young child should take 5-10 minutes and can be performed periodically throughout the day or as recommended by your physician. An older child performing massage on their own might need 15-20 minutes, depending upon the method being used and until they have mastered the technique. You might feel gas bubbles or lumpiness under your fingertips – this is to be expected. However, you should not feel hard lumps nor should the child experience pain with gentle but firm pressure. If there is pain with touch, make an appointment with your holistic health practitioner.
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.