Indigestion in Children

Indigestion in children

As a parent, you have most likely been in control of your young one’s diet. However, on growing older and starting school, it’s much harder to keep track of what he eats and what he is exposed to. Very often, children don’t pay attention to eating and tend to gulp their food or eat something that does not agree with them. This tends to cause indigestion.

What Is Indigestion in Kids?

Indigestion, also called dyspepsia, occurs in the upper part of the child’s abdomen when he eats something that does not agree with him or eats it too fast. It can be accompanied by bloating, nausea, heartburn, and burping in most cases. Dyspepsia in children is often seen after a meal and is not a cause for serious concern. It will resolve itself within a few hours.

Causes of Indigestion in Children

Indigestion is usually caused when the acid from the stomach breaks down the protective lining of the digestive system, leading to inflammation and irritation of the upper abdomen. Most children don’t have inflammation, but the sensitivity of the protective lining called mucosa increases.

Understanding the cause of indigestion in children can be a key to offering the right remedy or treatment. Some of the common causes are:

1. Medications

Certain medications are known to cause heartburn in children. This is common if your child has a prescription for medicines that contain nitrate elements. These can cause the ring of muscle between the stomach and the oesophagus, called oesophageal sphincter, to relax. This, in turn, allows the stomach acid to leak and cause irritation to the protective lining of the digestive system.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen can also alter the functioning of the digestive system and cause the acids in the stomach to flare up causing indigestion.

2. Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

This condition occurs due to repeated instances of indigestion in children, causing inflammation and irritation of the oesophagus. This condition needs medical help.

3. Obesity

Obesity creates additional pressure on the abdomen, which can cause acid reflux in the oesophagus each time your child eats.

Obesity: Causes of Indigestion in Children 

4. Hiatus Hernia

Hiatus hernia is a condition where the stomach pushes up against the diaphragm, blocking the oesophagus. This can cause inefficient digestion and subsequent acid reflux.

5. Stomach Ulcer or Stomach Cancer

In the event of stomach ulcers, the wall of your child’s stomach has open sores which contribute to the problem of indigestion. It is also possible for frequent instances of indigestion to give rise to a very serious health condition like stomach cancer. These conditions require medical intervention at the right time. Left untreated, they can lead to a lot of health problems in your child.

6. Helicobacter Pylori Infection

This is a form of stomach infection which has regular indigestion as a singular symptom. This infection can even lead to stomach ulcers and cancers in the child. It is of paramount importance that you consult a doctor to check for infections in case your child has severe indigestion on a regular basis.

7. Stress

Stress and anxiety can cause irregular eating and sleeping habits. This can lead to indigestion in your kid.

Signs and Symptoms

The first sign of indigestion is pain in the upper abdomen area that occurs immediately after eating. However, in some cases, there can be a delay before the symptoms surface. Indigestion is commonly accompanied by heartburn. In cases of severe indigestion, your child may complain of unbearable pain.

Some of the common signs of indigestion are:

  • Bloating
  • Regular burping and passing wind or flatulence.
  • Acid reflux that causes food or fluid to shoot back up from the stomach to the mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Poor eating patterns

Signs and Symptoms of Indigestion

Treatment

While most cases of indigestion in children do not require treatment from a medical practitioner, in case the symptoms persist for more than a few hours, you may need to make a visit to your child’s doctor.

The doctor will conduct a diagnosis by pressing the area around the stomach to understand the location of the pain. You will need to tell the doctor all the details about the symptoms, your child’s eating habits, and give them information about any medication that your child is on.

Based on the diagnosis, they may prescribe a course of medicines or recommend further tests like an X-ray or scan of the abdomen. If your doctor suspects infection, a urine and stool test may also be asked for. In very rare cases, your child may need an endoscopy to enable the doctor to get a better look at the digestive tract.

Mild antacids are given to cure indigestion in children at the outset. If the indigestion is occasional and does not have an underlying cause, you will be asked to change your child’s diet and avoid certain foods. If your child has regular indigestion at night, then you will be asked to give him dinner two to three hours prior to bedtime.

Indigestion caused by stress and anxiety can be prevented by dealing with the root cause and ensuring that you provide a stress-free environment for your child.

Medicines for Indigestion

In case the symptoms of indigestion do not subside on their own, or home remedies have no effect on them, you can give your child some gastric contracting medicine. Domperidone maleate can help prevent acid reflux when given to your child before every meal for over four weeks. You will need to give it to your child 15 to 30 minutes before each meal.

Antacids like Trums, Maalox or Gaviscon are also beneficial. It is suggested that you consult with a doctor before giving over the counter medicines to children.

How to Prevent Indigestion

If your child has a sensitive digestive system, it is important that you establish some dietary restrictions. Keep your child from eating anything irregular that doesn’t suit his stomach. You can follow the following tips to prevent indigestion in children.

  • Avoid food items that are too oily and fatty
  • Limit the number of chocolates
  • Teach your child to eat slowly and chew his food properly
  • Don’t allow your child to pile on unnecessary stress that could affect his health
  • Teach him to allow time for his food to digest well after a meal. Don’t let him start a physical activity immediately after a meal. Ask him to wait for at least an hour before running or playing.

How to Prevent Indigestion

Home Remedies

Mild cases of indigestion common in children can be alleviated with a good home remedy. Some of the best home remedies for indigestion in children are:

1. Pineapples

Pineapples are rich with strong acids and are known to neutralise and regulate the bowel system while aiding digestion.

2. Lemon

A glass of lemon juice is one of the best home remedies to cure indigestion. It is safe and can provide relief in under 48 hours.

3. Coriander

Take the juice out of two twigs of coriander leaves and mix it with warm milk and make your child drink it on an empty stomach in the morning. This herb is an effective and quick cure for indigestion.

4. Mint leaves

Chewing on mint leaves is a great remedy for most stomach related issues. Mint leaves contain peppermint which aids the contraction of the gastrointestinal tract. It is also known to be an effective cure for stomach infections and heartburn.

5. Ginger, Lemon, and Honey

A combination of these three natural ingredients can calm an irritated stomach and digestive system.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a wonderful remedy for most ailments, and indigestion makes the list too. Add one spoon of apple cider vinegar and honey in a cup of water and mix well. Give this drink to your child to soothe the digestive tract.

7. Cumin

Cumin can increase the secretion of enzymes from the pancreas and aid digestion. You will need to roast cumin and powder it. Mix this powder in a glass of water and give it to your child to drink.

8. Fruits

Fruits like apples, chikoos, pears, bananas, etc are rich in fibre and are effective remedies to both soothe and stimulate the digestive system and also prevent indigestion. It is best to make fruits a part of your child’s daily diet.

9. Herbal Tea

There are many herbal tea variants like peppermint and chamomile tea that offer great relief in the case of indigestion. If your child feels any discomfort or experiences indigestion after a heavy meal, herbal tea can provide effective relief.

10. Amla

Amla or Indian gooseberry juice can also help soothe an irritated stomach and aid digestion as it is rich in fibre and stimulates digestive juices.

Amla: Home Remedies to prevent indigestion

How to Take Care of Your Child at Home

If your child is prone to indigestion or is suffering from indigestion, here are a few steps you could follow to take care of your child.

  • Do not dress your child in tight or restrictive clothing, especially near the belly.
  • Avoid giving your child anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen. You can try acetaminophen for pain instead.
  • Follow a good diet to prevent indigestion. Add a good amount of high-fibre foods and fruits.
  • Give your child plenty of water and fluids every day.
  • Create an environment that is stress-free to prevent undue stress to your child.

When to Consult a Doctor

If your child is showing the following signs, it is advised that you take him to a paediatrician immediately:

  • If your child has no appetite for over a day
  • You notice weight loss
  • If your child has difficulty swallowing food
  • If you notice your child is vomiting frequently
  • If you see blood in the child’s stool or vomit
  • If your child is sweating without reason
  • If your child has anaemia or iron deficiency
  • If your child has a history of stomach problems like ulcers and infections

Indigestion is a condition common in many children and adults as well. However, care should be taken to track and monitor the condition closely and seek medical help if you suspect anything out of the ordinary.

Resources and references: WebMD, Kids Health

Also Read: Stomach Pain in Kids