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.

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.
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

Causes of Reflux & GERD Include:

medicines a child is taking (including antibiotics)
being overweight or obese
having a food sensitivity or allergy
musculoskeletal abnormalities
lack of exercise
poor diet
poor gut health and infections such as H.pylori

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, we may test for food sensitivities, assess stomach acid production and evaluate the child’s diet and lifestyle habits. A naturopathic /holistic physician will also assess for imbalances in gut health and infections if any. To address underlying causes, we 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.

If your child is experiencing frequent tummy aches, do get in touch.


Mayo Clinic Online. GERD. Accessed 8 Aug 2019: Health Statistics: Digestive diseases statistics for the United States. (2014).

National Institutes of Health: “Symptoms & Causes of GER & GERD in Children & Teens.” Accessed 8 Aug 2019:

Patrick, L., “Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): A review of conventional and alternative treatments.” Alternative Medicine Review, 16(2), 116-133. (2011). Retrieved 8 Aug 2019:

Ginger. (2012, April). Retrieved 8 Aug 2019: from

Kandil T. S., Mousa, A. A., et al., “The potential therapeutic effect of melatonin in gastro-esophageal reflux disease [Abstract].” BMC Gastroenterology (2010 January 18):10(7). Retrieved 7 Aug 2019:

Lukic, M., Segec, A., et a.l., “The impact of vitamins A, C, and E in the prevention of gastroesophageal reflux disease, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal adenocarcinoma [Abstract].” Collegium Anthropologicum, (2012) 36(3), 867-872. Retrieved 7 Aug 2019:

Image Courtesy: MedicineTalkpro

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.