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Reflux and Chiropractic

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux happens when the contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. At the base of the stomach exists a ring of muscle that normally opens when you swallow. This ring of muscle is known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When the LES fails to close properly, the stomach contents of the digestive tract can come back up into the esophagus.

Acid Reflux and Its Effects on Infants

Infants are more prone to acid reflux because their LES may be weak or underdeveloped. In fact, it’s estimated that more than half of all infants experience acid reflux to some degree. The condition usually peaks at age 6 months and goes away on its own between 12 and 24 months. It’s rare for an infant’s symptoms to continue past 24 months. If they persist, it may be a sign of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a more severe condition. While they may vary, the 10 most common signs of acid reflux or GERD in infants include:

  • Spitting up and vomiting
  • Refusal to eat and difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Irritability during feeding
  • Wet burps or hiccups
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Abnormal arching of the back during or post feeding
  • Frequent coughing
  • Gagging or choking
  • Chest pain or heartburn
  • Disturbed sleep

Spitting up/Acid Reflux

Mild Spitting up is normal for most infants. However, forceful spit-up may be a symptom of GERD. This is especially true if your infant is older than 12 months and still spitting up forcefully after meals.
Spitting up can be painful for some infants as this causes burning or pain in the back of the throat. Some infants will cry or show signs of discomfort after bouts of acid reflux. There are 2 types of reflux: silent and projectile. Silent reflux is more like regurgitation. An infant will often choke on spit up/acid reflux as it attempts to enter back up the esophagus. Projectile reflux/spitting up will shoot out of an infant’s mouth in an uncontrollable manner. Both types of reflux can cause pain in the neck, back, and stomach for an infant.

Treatments For Acid Reflux

There are several effective techniques, which can help alleviate acid reflux symptoms in an infant:

  • Keep infant propped up after feeding for at least 20 min
  • Try smaller amounts and more frequent feedings
  • Proper burping techniques post each feeding
  • Secure latch or mouth during feeding so less air is trapped in the stomach during feeding, this also helps reduce gas
  • Eliminate dairy from formula or breastfeeding moms diets to decrease acid in stomach
  • Probiotic to neutralize stomach acids in gut
  • Some people turn to reflux medication however this only effective in a very small percentage of the population
  • Check for food sensitivies
  • Chiropractic Care:
    • Gentle chiropractic care can help alleviate pain in the back and neck that infants experience with acid reflux.
    • Adjusting the thoracic and cervical spine can allow the nervous system to function more properly thereby helping improve the control of the upper valve of the stomach.
    • Disruptions in an infant’s nervous system can affect digestion, sleep, feeding, colic, and reflux, just to name a few things.
    • A pediatric chiropractor can help alleviate discomfort that infants experience by restoring optimal nervous system function to the digestive tract resulting in less pain, gas, and potentially discomfort related to acid reflux.

Dr. Jennifer Rousseau has worked extensively in pediatric chiropractic to help alleviate common infant and pediatric disorders in children.