When you have little kids at home, one of the roles you play is that of nurse/doctor – kids have so many complaints! The most common of these are probably related to tummy woes, caused by an upset stomach. Of these constipation and diarrhea get a lot of attention and advice, but there’s another tummy problem that causes just as much discomfort to kids (and their Moms) – indigestion!
What is indigestion?
Broadly speaking, indigestion refers to an uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen, usually following a meal. The clinical term for indigestion is dyspepsia. Indigestion is in itself not a disease, but rather an effect of the wrong diet or in some cases, a symptom on an underlying condition.
Indigestion may or may not be accompanied by a burning sensation, referred to as heartburn. This is due to stomach acids that make their way upwards. When the muscle that is meant to hold down the acids relaxes, the acids can lead to a burning sensation in the chest area. Anyone can have indigestion, even infants, with nearly 50% of babies under 4 months showing symptoms of heartburn. Most of these resolve themselves by 12 months, although a small percentage of kids continue to have indigestion into their school years.
What causes indigestion in kids?
Indigestion can be caused by a variety of reasons. While some of them are due to serious diseases, most of them are due to common reasons.
- Immature digestive system (in babies)
- Too much spicy food, especially if the child is not used to it
- Insufficient sleep, with regards to quality or quantity
- Exposure to second hand smoke
- Stress, particularly in older kids
- Being overweight
- Eating and drinking too fast, especially among toddlers who tend to run around while eating
- Too much intake of carbonated drinks
Symptoms of Indigestion in Kids
Symptoms of indigestion in babies:
- Arching of the back, particularly during feeding
- Fussiness, especially during feeding
- Inability to feed properly
- General congestion
- Difficulty in breathing
Symptoms of indigestion in toddlers and older kids:
- Pain in the upper or middle abdomen
- Burning sensation in the upper abdomen or chest area
- Feeling too full and unable to eat
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Continuous hiccups and burps
The symptoms of indigestion in babies can be similar to those of colic, so if you’re confused about which one it is, it may be better to see a pediatrician. If indigestion is left untreated in babies, it can worsen, casuing dehydration and low weight. It can also lead to poor nutrition in older kids.
Home Remedies for Indigestion in Kids
1. One of the best ways to help a little baby’s indigestion is to burp him correctly. Burping is recommended after every couple of minutes of feeding, to help the milk ‘settle’ and to relieve any excess air. It is normal for newborns to spit up as they burp, and you can let the baby decide if he wants to continue feeding or not.
2. If your baby’s particularly fussy and refusing to settle down, holding her upright for a while will help. Holding babies in an upright position for 30 minutes after feeding is recommended by many experts, and some even suggest letting baby sleep in this position.
3. Another way of correcting heartburn in older kids, is by raising the head of the bed by 6-8 inches. Do this by placing bricks or wooden blocks under the bed legs, rather than adding extra pillows, which will only worsen the condition.
4. In many cases, a glass of milk does the trick, especially for milder indigestion. If your child is above the age of 1, give him a glass of chilled cow’s milk, as long as you’re sure he’s not lactose intolerant.
5. Many parents resort to gripe water for any tummy trouble in their babies, but store-bought gripe water may not be safe for infants. You can make your own, however, with this recipe from Merry Messy Life that uses fennel, ginger and chamomile. Cool, strain and feed to your baby – also works on older kids.
6. Ginger candy is a great way to treat nausea and indigestion, and most kids will readily eat it up! Get the full recipe from Instructables here.
7. Mix cinnamon powder with a couple of tablespoons of honey and feed it to kids. This cures many stomach ailments, but only for kids above the age of 1 since honey is not suitable for infants.
8. While you can feed kids plain milk for indigestion, a combination of cinnamon, warm milk and honey is a great way to ease any stomach cramps as well. Get the full recipe from Herb Mentor.
9.Peppermint oil helps to ease nausea and promotes better digestion and can be used even for infants. Rub some oil on cotton wool and apply on the edges of baby’s crib on the sides. The smell will help to soothe a fussy baby’s tummy.
10. Fennel essential oil is among the milder essential oils and can be applied to baby’s tummy. Mix a drop of essential oil with some carrier oil like coconut oil and rub around baby’s tummy.
Tips to Prevent Indigestion in Kids
- Let kids have small, frequent meals instead of big ones
- Make sure the last meal is at least 2-3 hours before bed
- Let your child rest or do only mild activity right after a meal
- Avoid junk food, oily food, carbonated drinks and excessive chocolate
- Train kids to eat slowly, at a table and not in front of a TV
- Encourage toddlers to chew their food properly, and to sit down and eat
When should you see a doctor?
As mentioned earlier, indigestion can be due to a variety of reasons, some of which are appendicitis, bowel disease or food allergies like celiac or lactose intolerance. A breastfeeding baby is sensitive to the mother’s diet, so it’s a good idea for the mother to check her diet for any foods that may be causing her baby’s indigestion. It is recommended to see a doctor right away if any of the following symptoms are observed:
- Vomiting, especially projectile vomiting (throwing up to a distance) in babies
- Any sign of blood in vomit or stools
- Poor appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Black stools
Indigestion is a common ailment that most of us face at some point in our life or the other, but kids can have a harder time dealing with it! Try out these home remedies when your child has indigestion, and it’s quite likely that they’ll be happy and smiling in no time!