Holistic Treatment of GERD

My middle daughter, Bella, suffered from GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease). It was heart wrenching to see her suffer and be so uncomfortable. This is a subject that is close to my heart and I know effects so many families. You’ll be happy to know there are some holistic alternatives to the conventional medications on the market. Some can be used on their own, some can be used in unison with medications depending on your situation. If your baby experiences fussiness, sleep disturbances, excessive spitting up, gas with a tense abdomen, arching the back, a cough and/or inadequate weight gain they may be experiencing GERD.
During this post, I’ll be sharing with you notes from an online webinar with Dr. Randall Neustaedter on the topic of Holistic Treatment of GERD. He is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, and is certified in Classical Homeopathy. He practices in Redwood City, CA. You can find more about him, at his website.
In cases of newborns, it can be hard to decipher if it is colic or reflux your infant is experiencing. I found it very interesting to learn that 90% of babies experience some sort of infant reflux. Infants don’t have a developed esophageal sphincter, it can take up to 3-4 months to develop. So many times infants are labeled as having colic during this time and then they grow out of it, the most problematic age seems to be between 3 weeks to 3 months. So if you can get through this age in many cases the symptoms will subside.
There are many holistic options, we’ll briefly discuss some of them.There are many simple things to start with. If there are any breastfeeding issues, your first step would be to consult a La Leche League leader to resolve any  problems with latching, inadequate burping or inadequate milk supply. Studies show that staying in close contact with your baby, such as skin to skin contact with a lot of holding, is helpful for reflux. Baby’s who sleep with their parents and whose parents practice baby wearing are often found to be calmed more easily and tend to cry less.  Swaddling your infant in a fetal, upright position works with gravity to keep acid down. This hold is possible with many wraps and baby carriers.  Co-sleeping will normalize your infants biorhythms and help the babies hormones work along with the mother’s hormones. I found this fact very interesting, their body learns to function from the mother’s body, pretty amazing!
Addressing food sensitivities can be a big help in addressing colic and GERD. There are many foods that commonly cause colic issues for infants. If mom stops one of more of these foods, they’ll have less crying in many cases. These foods include dairy, wheat, eggs, broccoli, cabbage, onions, soy, peanuts, coffee, beans, and tomatoes. Dairy and wheat often cause the most problems in breastfed babies.
A healthy gut is of utmost importance in establishing a healthy immune system in your infant. Reuteris is a great probiotic.  Dr. Neustader stated that 95% of babies with allergic symptoms improved when given this probiotic.It is very helpful in treating reflux. It is an easy thing to try and can easily be bought at your local health food shops or online.
Chinese medicine is not something I’m very familiar with and was curious to learn more. It’s interesting to note in Chinese Medicine they also focus on the stomach for healing reflux. Chinese medicine says to strengthen the stomach and spleen. One Chinese tonic often prescribed for GERD is called Grow and Thrive.  A licensed health care practitioner can prescribe it. It works to promote assimilation of nutrients and the movement of food through the intestines to strengthen and support proper digestive function. Chinese medicine uses herbs that are adapted for babies and taste very good including Hyacinth bean, Chinese Yam,  and Lyceum.
Western herbs can also be helpful in treating GERD holistically. Chamomile, fennel, and licorice have all been found successful in a double-blind study. Products such as Organic Gripe Water have ingredients such as fennel, ginger, peppermint and chamomile, just be sure to pick a product without sugar and parabens.
Are you familiar with Acupuncture? This is something I’ve always been curious about, but have never tried it myself. Stomach 36 and Spleen 6 were points Dr. Neusteader stated to be helpful for treating GERD. Stomach 36 helps build stomach energy. In an infant this is approximately an inch below the knee, your finger will cover the point. Spleen 6 is approximately an inch above the ankle on the inside of the leg.  For a baby you would treat both sides, you can use this in a massage several times a day. Tui Na is a Chinese term for massage on acupressure points.
Chiropractic can also help infants to bring quick relief. Acupuncture and Chiropractic can often help in one treatment. The birthing process can cause tension and twisting of the upper spine and neck, taking this tension out of the neck will result in a relaxing of the spinal cord and a relief of nerve irritation. Our family has a great chiropractor, you can find a great pediatric chiropractor in your area by searching ICPA4kids.org
Homeopathy is something I’ve briefly discussed before in my blog posts. It’s a wonderful option because it doesn’t have side effects and can be safely used with any other medications or method of healing.  The dosage ( 6, 12, 30X or C) isn’t as important. Simply crush and dissolve the pellets in breast milk or water and give as needed for symptoms or routinely if the crying is continual. Visit a trained homeopath to help identify the correct medicine. They will be able to do this by observation of your baby, they’ll notice how the baby looks and acts and be able to give proper recommendations. Hyland’s makes a colic remedy that you can use from home and there are also many books on the subject to help you research your options. A great resource is http://www.abchomeopathy.com You can type in the remedy and learn more about them at their site.
Here are some Homeopathic remedies to consider:
Colocynth- This remedy is most commonly used for colic symptoms like crying and screaming. Typically the infant wants to double up with pain and pressing on the abdomen feels better (over the shoulder or over the lap). Gas and bloating with tension in the abdomen are also symptoms, they often feel better after having a bowel movement.
Dioscorea Villosa- This remedy is recommended when the pain is worse from bending forward, arching back and stretch, and they tend to show more symptoms in the morning.
Jalapa- This is for babies that cry all night and then are fine during  the day. May have watery, sour-smelling diarrhea.
Conventional doctors will prescribe treatment to address acid in the stomach. H2 blockers such as Zantac and Pepcid are used to block the action of releasing stomach acid. This includes side effects such as an increased risk of pneumonia and digestive system infections. These side effects happen because white blood cell function is inhibited. These drugs alter the bodies normal stomach flora. In reviews of many studies these drugs have been shown not to be effective for adults and children.
I thought this was a fantastic webinar with a lot of great information. Even though our family struggled in dealing with GERD in it’s severest cases I still was able to learn a lot. I wish I had this information a few years ago.
Does someone in your family struggle with GE
RD or colic? What have you found to be helpful?
Always remember to check with your own healthcare team before trying anything new. I am not prescribing a specific course of action I am sharing this information from an online webinar that I attended presented by Kiwi magazine.

photo by bbaunach