Gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR) is the non-forceful regurgitation of milk and other gastric contents into the oesophagus. According to NICE (UK) nearly half (at least 4 out of 10) of all babies younger than 1 year have GOR. Usual onset is around 8 weeks, reflux generally subsides when a baby is roughly four months old, with around 90% of cases resolving before 1 year. If reflux persists past this age it may be an indication that your baby has a more serious, chronic form of reflux known as GORD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) which occurs when reflux is persistent, more frequent and gives rise to troublesome symptoms or complications e.g. feeding or sleeping problems, witnessed episode of choking, failure to thrive or weight loss, chronic respiratory disorders (cough, apnea, recurrent wheeze), esophagitis, etc.
If your baby has been diagnosed with reflux and all more serious causes have been eliminated, it is essential to consider lactose intolerance or Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) as a causation as both are very common. If you suspect lactose intolerance and are breastfeeding remove all dairy products from your diet for 3 weeks and see if your baby improves. If you are bottle feeding place your baby on a lactose-free formula for 3 weeks, or if diagnosed with CMPA introduce amino acid based formula (AAF) or extensively hydrolysed formula (EHF).
It can be extremely upsetting for parents to realise their baby is suffering from reflux, and often they can be left feeling helpless. Sometimes simple solutions such as changing how you burp your baby, keeping baby upright after a feed or eliminating a certain food from your diet if you are breastfeeding, switching formulas, feeding smaller amounts on a more frequent basis or using a wedge for sleeping can help enormously. Swaddling and carrying baby in a sling is also recommended. If such measures have been tried but don’t bring lasting relief, homeopathic treatment can help with symptoms that persist.
A homeopathic approach to treating reflux
With ever increasing numbers of infants suffering from reflux (GOR) more and more parents are seeking natural, gentle reflux treatments. Homeopathy is often their first choice as it is effective, gentle and free from any side-effects which is perfect for sensitive babies and infants. Many parents turn to homeopathy after they’ve already been through the conventional route, and are dissatisfied because the medications prescribed did not bring relief, or they are concerned about the long term consequences and side-effects of giving these drugs to their babies.
There has been some concern that infants with reflux are being over-prescribed medications such as Antacids, Proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) e.g. omeprazole (Losec), H2 antagonists e.g. ranitidine (Zantac). Prescription medicines reduce stomach acid, thereby suppressing the symptoms of esophageal inflammation and pain associated with reflux. However, since acid-blocking drugs interfere with the body’s natural digestive process, important nutrients such as Calcium, Vitamin B12, Phosphorus, Vitamin D, Folic acid, Iron, Zinc, Vitamin B1 are not absorbed well. Given the formative stage of baby’s development, this could be one of several undesirable side effects. Because stomach acid also forms part of the body’s immune system by killing undesirable bacteria in the gut, these drugs make baby more susceptible to stomach infections.
Homeopathy is one of the most popular holistic systems of medicine, and the 2nd most used medicine in the world according to the WHO (2004). The aim of homeopathy is not only to treat ‘reflux’ symptoms but to address the underlying cause and individual’s susceptibility. Homeopathic medicines are often mistaken for herbal medicine, gripe waters, nursing tea or essential oils but homeopathy is a distinct system of medicine that uses diluted microdoses of substances found in nature to stimulate a healing response. This makes them very gentle and safe for use in pregnancy, breastfeeding and for babies.
A homeopathic remedy is precisely individualized to ‘match’ your baby’s unique symptoms, and this can bring relief from symptoms surprisingly quickly. Even if there’s no typical reflux symptoms as is often the case with ‘Silent Reflux’, because a homeopathic remedy matches the whole person there’s always enough additional information to accurately find one’s overall constitutional remedy.
A natural protocol to try at home
Homeopathy can be used if your baby or infant suffers from GOR or GORD. The following protocol is recommended as a first course of action.
1. Give Homeopathic tissue salts Natrum Phos 6x and Magnesium Phos 6x tissue salts.
Natrum Phos 3X tissue salt helps neutralise acids and aids digestion. Give this 3 times a day to your baby for 4-6 weeks and if results are encouraging, continue until all symptoms are resolved.
Magnesium Phos 3X is another tissue salt that helps with cramps, spasm and pain. It works best when administered in warm water and can be given at the same time as the Natrum Phos 3X.
2. Give Colic calm during acute bouts of discomfort and distress to give relief. Colic calm is a homeopathic gripe water. It is fast-acting, safe and pediatrician approved.
When symptoms occur, fill provided measured oral dispenser up to 1/2 teaspoon and dispense slowly into mouth between cheek and gums.
Each dose may be repeated once every 30 minutes for up to 3 doses, or as directed by a physician. Do not exceed 6 doses per day. See www.coliccalm.co.uk for further info and testimonials.
3. Give a high quality probiotic e.g. Biokult infantis or Optibac. Especially if baby or mother has been given antibiotics, and if baby is born via c-section
Homeopathic reflux remedies
If the above protocol does not fully resolve symptoms you can try giving an additional individualized homeopathic remedy. Examine the descriptions of the homeopathic medicines below and choose the remedy that closely matches your baby's symptoms. You can give remedy alongside the tissue salts for 2-3 days and if you observe an improvement continue. If there is no improvement select the next closest medicine and try again.
To administer homeopathic pills to babies crush one pill and add to a small about of sterile water and mix. Give a spoonful/ pipette of mixture 3-4 times daily, or as and when required.
Alternatively you can order the remedy in a form more suitable for young children i.e. coarse granules or soft tablets.
Aethusa 30c Inability to digest milk - milk intolerance/ allergy. Regurgitation as soon as swallowed or within half hour of. Vomiting of large curds. Distressed. Worse at 3-4am, evening. Colic, followed my posseting. Vomiting can be sudden and violent. Vomiting of frothy matter white or yellow fluid. This is an ideal homeopathic medicine for those babies who cannot tolerate breast milk and have vomiting, regurgitation and/or silent reflux.
Bryonia 30 suits babies who vomit immediately after feeding. Aversion to milk but relishes it when taken. Worse for warm drinks. Stomach sensitive to touch. Acute attacks of pain worse for the slightest motion accompanied by great thirst especially for cool water. Drinks eagerly and hastily. Baby will draw legs up and burp. Lips dry, cracked, dryness of mouth. The tongue may be coated heavily white, yellowish, with gastric disorders.
Chamomilla 30c is for the baby who is angry, irritable, restless and very sensitive to pain. Wants to be held. Cramps with vomiting. Flatulent colic worse at night. Acid rising, regurgitation of milk/ food. They don’t know what they want, capricious. Wants things but then refuses. Child cries and must be carried to be consoled. Worse when teething.
Colocynthis 30c suits babies who writhe, twist and pull their knees up with the intense pain. Screams with pain. Angry cry. Pains (violent, cutting, gripping, grasping, colicky) come in waves and are better for doubling up, firm pressure (e.g. being carried over shoulder or lying on tummy over parents knees), and warmth. Vomiting of bitter water. Worse evening and night.
Ignatia 30c should be considered if there has been a disappointment,
loss or grief for either the mum or baby. This can be during pregnancy or since birth. In some cases it can be better if mum takes the remedy. Physical symptoms include regurgitation of milk/ food or bitter water. Vomiting of mucus. Periodical cramps worse for slightest contact.
Lycopodium 30c for colicky babies with gas & bloating, worse evening. Belchings rising into pharynx. Vomits food, bile after eating or drinking. Suits babies who are worse from tight clothes and around 4-8pm, have gurgling, bloating and wind. Worse for milk. Worse if mother breastfeeding and eating farinaceous foods e.g. Cabbage, beans. Often have a worried frown. Feels better after belching and for motion.
Mag phos 30c suitable for babies with spasmodic colic which is relieved with
gentle pressure, bending double/ bringing knees up to chest, rubbing or warmth applied to the belly. Worse for milk. Belching of gas which gives no relief. Bloated. Burning pain, vomiting. Bilious vomiting. Intense cutting, shooting cramping pains in the region of stomach.
Nux vomica 30 is one of the main remedies for reflux with severe bloating, arching and a tight belly. Vomiting. Sour belchings.They seem angry and the pain appears to be in spasms; there may be constipation. Colic in nursing infants from stimulating food taken by mother. This remedy can help detox the effects of medications used during or after the birth and improve digestive function.
Phosphorus 30c is known for its burning digestive symptoms as found with reflux. This is a sociable baby, the milk is often regurgitated a while after the feed and burns the oesophagus causing pain and distress. Waterbrash. Belching after feeds. Throws up food by mouthfuls. Vomiting, water or milk is thrown up as soon as it warms in stomach. Burning in stomach worse for feeding. These babies prefer colder drinks and food.
Pulsatilla 30c babies suffer changeable symptoms. They need cuddles and gentle rocking. Colic or reflux if mom eats fruit, pastry, fats and ice-cream.
Silica 30c for babies who reject breast milk or vomit up curds after feeding because they can’t digest the milk. Vomits after drinking. Sour vomiting. Milk aggravates and causes diarrhea. Distended abdomen. Failure to thrive, arrested development. Temperature cold, feels better in warm environments. Sweats on head.
Kali Carb 30 Symptoms worse, and wakes between 2-4am. Milk and warm food aggravates. Burning acidity. Bloating. Sour belchings. Vomiting of sour mucus. Chronic pain which is better for motion, hot drinks and bending forward. Easy choking when eating. Flatulence.
This is not an exhaustive list of remedies. If you have tried some of the above remedies and your baby had little or no relief it is advisable to seek a consultation with a trained homeopath. Especially if your baby suffers with GORD. Constitutional treatment with a qualified homeopath is highly recommended, and early intervention is ideal. Generic homeopathy and combination remedies may help, but sometimes these improvements are only temporary. Best results are obtained when the remedy matches your babies full range of symptoms and not reflux symptoms alone.
Professional homeopathic treatment is effective in achieving full recovery and preventing recurrence. How long this will take is difficult to say as each child is individual with his/ her own unique responses. Committing to 3 consultations and prescriptions over a 3 month period is usually recommended. Sometimes symptoms resolve after one remedy, sometimes complete reversal of symptoms happens within a 3 month period, and in more complex cases children may need to continue treatment for longer. Initial improvements are usually seen within the first few weeks for all reflux sufferers.
If your baby or infant is suffering from reflux and you would like to discuss how homeopathy can help please get in touch or make an appointment. I work internationally via Skype/Facetime and face-to-face at clinics in Sligo and Manorhamilton, Ireland.
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Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of your physician or health care provider. First aid situations may require medical or hospital care. Do not use this article as a means to diagnose a health condition. Speak to your doctor if you think that your condition may be serious, before discontinuing any medication that has been prescribed for you, or before starting any new treatment.