Silent Reflux

As a mom we do everything to make sure our children are happy, healthy, and properly cared for. So when our baby is distressed and crying, all we want to do is help cure them of whatever pain they are experiencing. With my baby it was, “Silent Reflux”. This evil condition is when stomach acid causes throat discomfort, especially behind the breastbone in the middle of the trunk. This would cause my baby to arch her back so far (future human contortionist in the making) to try to ease her pain of the heartburn she was experiencing. This would also consequently tear my nipple off or what I like to call “niplash”-nip•lash [noun]-when a nursing baby decides to twist her head or arch her back away while still latched to your breast! Luckily my baby both breastfeeds and takes the bottle (pumped breast milk), so I was able to give my torn off nipples a break! But unfortunately, my daughter didn’t get a break, and eventually the arching of back wasn’t the only symptom she had. She began to refuse to drink. She would squirm, gag, cough, and choke on the milk being fed to her. I couldn’t get any milk into her. She was upset, I was upset, the whole house was upset even our dog, Piper, was upset because this meant longgg restless nights of grunting pains… No one got any sleep! I ended up buying the book “Baby Wise” and also purchasing the “Taking Cara Babies” courses (both actually worked after we figured out the underlying cause of silent reflux; see my separate blog post about Baby Wise and Taking Cara Babies) to get more sleep in the house. Finally a trip to the pediatrician where he confirmed my daughter Alaia had silent reflux (skip over to the bold title: “How I Naturally Cured My Baby’s Silent Reflux” if you don’t want to read the jib jabberish scientific information I write about, cause trust me I know a lot of us moms do not have much time on our hands!). The pediatrician prescribed liquid Zantac for her stomach acid, which you can only get from a prescription from a doctor, it’s not the over the counter Zantac for adults (so don’t go giving your child this). I was about to go to my pharmacy and pick it up when it got me thinking. Is this really going to cure her silent reflux and tackle the underlying cause of the problem or is it just going to mask the symptoms? I ended up researching silent reflux and liquid Zantac. After tons of research I found liquid Zantac for babies could lead to other health complications. Liquid Zantac is a conventional medicine that suppresses the symptoms the baby is having. So if a baby is having reflux, the pediatrician will prescribe this drug without investigating into why the baby is having reflux in the first place. There are so many problems with this approach because:

  1. Drugs do not just have intended effects, they also have unintended effects.  For example, if the drug is suppressing acid production, then what else is it doing that may not be beneficial towards the body?  And it makes you think, the acid that it is suppressing, what is the benefits of that.  Our bodies do not just make stomach acid to make us suffer and just produce it for the heck of it.  There are reasons our bodies make stomach acid.
  2. The other issue with this approach is you have this drug that suppresses the symptom, but what is that underlying cause?  The symptom is just going to persist and eventually worsen over time, because the initial cause was never figured out.  This can eventually even lead to other symptoms to worry about.  This can cause you to have to now worry about other symptoms and you end up giving your poor baby more drugs for other reasons.  It’s just a huge snowball effect!  You’re just playing Whack-a-Mole with the drugs for all these symptoms!

I wanted to get to the bottom of this “symptom” my baby was having. So I went on to researching what was exactly “reflux/silent reflux”.

What I found was quite interesting!  Heartburn is rarely caused by excess stomach acid production?  Huh?  I seriously have been taught my WHOLE life that that is what heartburn was… When really heartburn is caused by a dysfunction of your lower esophageal sphincter (part of your body that separates the esophagus from the stomach).  In a healthy individual the esophageal sphincter is supposed to stay closed, but for our little babies their sphincters are immature and not always working properly.  In a perfect situation the sphincter opens up when food goes down into the stomach and then closes right after the food passes.  My poor little baby’s sphincter was opening at inappropriate times and not closing properly, allowing acid reflux up into the esophagus.

So, how could I fix this?  How could I make my baby feel more comfortable and not be in so much pain?  I knew the obvious of keeping her: 

  • Upright after a feeding for at least 30 minutes after a feeding (really who has time for that one though… especially at 3 am in the morning)
  • Burping her
  • Doing some bicycle kicks to get the gas out

But how could I really get rid of this problem and what causes the dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter?  SIBO. That’s the answer.  SIBO, which is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. These little bacteria swim around in the stomach and small intestines of our poor little ones and cause an overproduction of gas.   This can put pressure on the sphincter making it open when it’s not supposed to. We then have the parents, like me, who want our babies to be cured of this painful reflux, so we turn to the drugs that are prescribed.  But as I said before the stomach acid that our bodies make is there for a reason.  

The role that our stomach acid plays is actually really important and initiates the process of digestion, especially for foods that are high in protein.  Food gets mixed around with our stomach acid and becomes a sludge like substance called chyme, which then passes through our small intestine.  Nutrients are pulled out of our small intestines, but where nutrient absorption really happens is in our stomach.  There have been numerous studies that show acid-blocking drugs, impair the absorption of all kinds of different minerals and vitamins that are essential for our well-being.  So, it’s stomach acid that is required to absorb those nutrients!  These vitamins and minerals include iron, magnesium, vitamin C, folate, B12, and other B vitamins to name a few.  Of course these are all important nutrients for adults, but they are even more crucially important for the developing baby.  

Another main role that stomach acid plays a part of is the prevention of infection. Every day our babies are exposed to fungi, bacteria, and viruses.  These icky things are all around us in our environment and when we are exposed to them through drinking or eating our stomach acid kills them off.  Our acidic environment in our stomach is our defense in killing off many of these organisms.  So taking acid reducing medicine may actually cause more issues than it does to help!

So, back to SIBO and what it causes.  SIBO is one of the underlying causes of reflux, but not only that, it’s also associated with things like skin issues like eczema, and even behavioral and cognitive issues.  Most kids have eczema and when we treat their gut issues, then the eczema miraculously disappears…  It’s true what they say how the “gut is your second brain”.  It can seriously take over your body depending on how you treat it. This brings us to the main question and answer to the question of how to cure my baby’s reflux?

How I Naturally Cured My Baby’s Silent Reflux

Before I begin, I have to say my disclaimer: I am not your baby’s pediatrician!  ALWAYS check with your baby’s doctor before adding any supplements to your infant’s diet. However, you can easily share this article with your doctor before trying it out for yourself for your baby’s health.

The first step I took in curing my baby’s reflux (or if your baby has colic or GERD this may also ease your baby’s pain) was I went on a SIBO diet. Studies have been conducted and proven to what a mom eats can affect a baby’s gut flora if you’re breastfeeding.  I am currently breastfeeding so I did the most I could to optimizing my gut health to help my baby’s with hers.  Obviously, if your formula feeding your baby you can skip this step (but it may be nice to help your gut flora for your own personal health;).

I ended up ordering this book called Ultra-Prevention by Mark Hyman and Mark Liponis I really like this book because for the longest time I have had stomach issues. I always thought I had IBS or some type of allergy to food like dairy or gluten.  I never really knew the problem and I guessed I just eventually ignored my problem altogether and “kept calm and moving on”.  This book and the vitamins I took with it literally cured me?!?!?  I now have no stomach pain whatsoever. 

If you’re looking for recipes this book, The SIBO Solution: Your Comprehensive Guide to Eliminating Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth by Sylvie McCracken has some pretty tasty recipes for SIBO!  I really like making the breakfast bowl!  It’s delicious.

Next is treatment for my little one.  Numerous studies have proven that probiotics can ease reflux, colic, and GERD. One of the studies shows that babies who consumed probiotics in their formula or breast milk during their first three months of life were significantly less likely to have colic, reflux or GERD.  Babies who already had colic, reflux or GERD and began consuming probiotics actually showed results of reduced symptoms and eventually no symptoms if the probiotics were continuously used in their diet.

I started my baby on Seeking Health ProBiota Infant Powder.  It’s dairy free and it tastes really good and my baby loves the taste of it!  My baby is currently 3 months so I give her ¼ a scoop a day.  Once she reaches 4 months I will increase it to ½ scoop a day, 5 months ¾ scoop, and 6 months 1 scoop a day.  The bottle has directions after 6 months on the appropriate incrementsto fed to your little one.  I reviewed 10 other great probiotics here (link to another blog) if you choose to purchase another type of probiotics for your little one, I just personally like the Seeking Health ProBiota Infant Powder the best!

At the moment I pump my breast milk so I add the probiotics into my baby Alai’s bottle.  But if your baby breast-feeds from the boob, you can dust the probiotics onto your breast before they start feeding.  Or you can add it to your baby’s formula if they’re formula fed.

The next thing to consider in helping your baby is galactooligosaccharides. Galactooligosaccharides is in breast milk and is helpful in increasing the beneficial bacteria in a baby’s gut. A good product is called Galactomune, from Klaire Laboratories and it has both galactooligosaccharides and betaglucans, which I love.  I just sprinkle a little in her bottle and she’s good to go:) You can also just lightly dust your nipple, if your baby is breastfeeding or even just put a little in your baby’s mouth.  It tastes neutral and fairly pleasant, almost like a mildly sweet taste that babies actually like.

So recap of freeing your baby from the icky symptoms of reflux, colic or GERD:

Mom’s Diet (if your breastfeeding)

Probiotics

Galactooligosaccharides

That’s it!

This is what has helped my baby and me.  Again, I am not your baby’s pediatrician! ALWAYS check with your baby’s doctor before adding any supplements to your infant’s diet.  I hope this will help your baby on the road to recovery from any digestive issue he/she may be having.  Let me know in the comments area of any other tips you may have in helping with issues such as reflux and colic.

I would love to hear if this has helped your baby with reflux or colic! Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to follow along on Instagram and Youtube for recipes and inspirations to create for your little loved one(s)<3

xoxo – Sage

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