Acid Reflux

Parent Q&A

  • My (18yo high school senior) son has suffered from chronic heartburn for years. I had thought it was a recent thing, but I was alarmed when he mentioned he'd been feeling this way since he was about 7 or so. He's had food issues like gagging on certain foods for years, and can't handle things like tomato sauce, acidic foods, that sort of thing. Lately his diet has been atrocious (really heavy on sugar, carbs, very few fruits/veggies/fiber) and he's gaining weight. He has a history of mild anxiety and saw a therapist for a while when he was younger, but has never been on medication (other than prilosec).

    He likes his pediatrician, but he's pretty much aged out, even though his ped has offered to keep him on for continuity, vaccine boosters, etc. He can make an appointment there but I'm thinking he needs someone a little more holistic. I'm not sure what I'm looking for: a nutritionist/MD/ND? Or even which questions we to ask someone who can help diagnose whatever seems to be going on. I'd like to help him start good habits now before he leaves for college in a few months. He's got a pretty "closed mind-set," so it can be difficult to get him to stop and consider new things. I know I can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink, etc. but I'd like some suggestions on which water holes to show him, at least.

    Wow -- he's awfully young for heartburn. Has he been fully tested for allergies? There may be a major irritant he doesn't know about.

    Here is what I do that makes me asymptomatic. I take a Prevacid, or other proton pump inhibitor, in the morning (this is not a long term solution -- only for flare-ups). Then when consuming any beverage with acid in it -- coffee, orange juice, soda, alcohol -- I put three drops of a product I carry around called Alkazone, which neutralizes the acid in the things I drink. (You can get it on Amazon.) I was a little skeptical about whether it was working until I left my drops at home one day and drank a glass of wine. Yikes!

    It is a good stomach-protector, and I'm sure there are other products on the market just like it.

    I would strongly recommend you seek homeopathic treatment for your son. Homeopathy is holistic so it will help balance him physically, emotionally and mentally. Chronic conditions like this respond very positively to homeopathy, and many homeopaths are also skilled in complementary nutritional programs. I think you will be thrilled with the results. If you are in the Oakland-Berkeley area, I'd recommend Edi Pfeiffer Classical Homeopathy: 510-516-1334; 431 30th St, Suite 115C, Oakland CA 94609; Otherwise, check the Bay Area Homeopathy Association (BAHA) to find a practitioner near you: 


    I have a family member who had severe heartburn for years. His primary care doctor recommended that he see a gastroenterologist. This specialist did a minor procedure called Endoscopy. It involves putting a camera scope through your mouth and mapping out your entire throat to stomach. Done under anesthesia it is uncomfortable but not painful. My family member had an ulcer that was promptly treated. He feels that his heartburn is now under control. That may not be what your son has, but just thought I would share with you. Best wishes!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Acid reflux causing 9-y-o's teeth to deteriorate?

May 2007

My 9 year old son has developed a problem with his teeth, where they are beginning to deteriorate. His dentist suspects acid reflux and we have begun the process of evaluating whether or not this could be the cause. He is asyptomatic, but gastroenterologist wants to test him. I am very hesitant to start him on Prilosec as his course of healing. The long term effects are inconclusive, but indicate bone loss in older people. I would like to investigate alternative medical solutions, change in diet, supplements, etc. Any ideas where to start? Does anyone have experience with this in their own children? Karen

You are SO smart to investigate other things before putting your child on a medication like Prilosec. I'd like to recommend a fabulous nutritionist to you, I think she could help you much more than a medical doctor for this problem your child is having: Laura Knoff, N.C., phone 510-658-9067. Her office is in Berkeley, near Whole Foods. She is incredibly knowledgeable. Good luck! Ellen
Dental enamel defects and acid reflux are both symptoms of celiac disease: Ruth
Hi Karen, I would get a second opinion from a pediatric or family dentist about his teeth before submitting my asymptomatic child to a battery of invasive tests. My husband is a dentist, and gets asked for second opinions all the time on different treatment plans. Very standard in the field. Especially if it involves a child! Chanel
One thing about acid reflux that you should know as you search for answers is that it is really bad for the esophagus. Some in the medical community think its like smoking to the lungs. it may take decades, but can contribute to esophageal cancer. just a thought
I have had great success with different things working with a homeopath for my children. Her name is Christine Ciavarella and she is at the Hahnemann Clinic in El Cerrito Plaza 524 3117. She has a sliding scale. The first appointment is expensive, but she is not someone you will need to see very often over a long period of time. Christine's specialty is children. Children are very receptive to this particular medicine and it is good for systemic problems that allopathic medicine doesn't really know what to do with. She will also be honest with you as to whether she has had success with this sort of thing. I, like you, would be really concerned to put my child on anything without a definite diagnosis.

My son had a lot of decay and xylitol was very useful. Apparently the bacteria that causes decay comes from the caregivers. After I had my son, I had a lot of unusual decay, due to hormone changes, and so he got this from me, and the information about xylitol is fairly new. Now that he is seven, he doesn't ahve any new decay. But he had 8 cavaties at the age of five! It sounds like something more is going on with your child, but just thought I'd mention this too... susan

Friend's surgery for Gastroeophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

July 2004

A friend has Gastroeophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Prescription medications are not helping and he is considering fundoplication surgery but is looking for other alternatives that might help. If you have had the surgery, could you please let me know if it has been successful and if not, why? Would you recommend having it done? Do you know of alternatives he could try (someone recommended accupuncture and a Chinese herbal medicine) and how well it works? Thanks so much!

The term is actually reflux and not relux; this was probably a typographical error on your part. Surgery is an option that is typically used only after many other options are exhausted. Is this person sleeping while sitting up? Is the last meal of the day eaten at least 4 hours prior to going to sleep? Are there issues of poor digestion, food incompatibilities, hypochlorhydria, or yeast overgrowth that are complicating the situation? These are some of the issues that should be explored along with or prior to any decision regarding surgery. You may feel free to contact me at my office, 510-849-1176, should you like to discuss these things in more detail. I am a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist/homeopath in practice more than 20 years. I also speak Japanese if that is of help. Jay Sordean, L.Ac., OMD

I've done everything to get rid of reflux

July 2004

Does anyone have any success stories (or failures, for that matter) treating acid reflux beyond the standard medications (Prilosec, Gaviscon, etc). I've been on the drugs, changed my diet, raised my bed... and I still have reflux, albeit much milder. I'm schedule to see a gastroenterologist in a week or so, but wanted to have as much info as possible. Anyone have experience with alternative therapies, or other ideas? I'm hoping to not take drugs indefinitely, and would some day like to be able to enjoy a glass of red wine again... Carrie

Although I am not as familiar with treatment of GERD in adults (my toddler son is being treated for GERD), we have a wonderful homeopathic/chinese medicine doctor we see as complementary to some of the traditional approaches (GI specialist, traditional pediatrician) that we're doing. Her name is Dr. Sally Savitz (located at 158 Santa Clara Ave. in Oakland 655-9644). Dr. Savitz has over 20 years of experience and is amazing, thoughtful and careful. I know others who have seen her for a wide range of illnesses and conditions and everyone has had a positive experience. Good luck. hh

Suffering horribly from heartburn

May 2003

I first got heartburn during pregnancy, and suffered through it, thinking when I delivered, things would go back to normal -- and I would have my stomach of steel/teflon back. A year and half later, I am not pregnant any more, but I am suffering HORRIBLY from heartburn. I have eaten bottles of Tums, and quite a few PepcidAC's. Pepcid has a warning not to take more than 2 in 24 hours, and that has not been even close to enough. Then what? Can I mix medications? What i want to find out is both additional alternative solutions, and how to make it go away forever. I have read the archives, and have or will try many of the recommendations (Papaya, ginger, mylanta, baking soda (?), almonds, and cheerios). I can't figure out what gives it to me - - some things are obvious such a fried chicken. But last night I had spaghetti and redsauce and suffered all night. The night before I had a cesar salad. I am willing to make some modifications to my diet, but right now I feel like eating ANYTHING is a risk. I can't imagine life if I get pregnant again. So, advice about what to take, what to do to make it go away, recommendations for Pepcid or Tagamet or presciption medication, and recommendations about what food to avoid would be really great. I will also be calling my doctor, but your advice is always so thoughtful and offers so many perspectives, I'd like to hear some alternatives before I meet him. sleepless and suffering

Gastrosoothe (available at Whole Foods) worked for me for heartburn. Susan
I've been a long time sufferer of heartburn, before, during, and after pregnancey. It did, however seem to get worse about a year after my daughter was born. It was so bad that I had to seek medical advice. I now suffer from acid reflux desease. For the more occasional heartburn I found a few home remedies that work great. Here is a list of of tips
Foods that you should avoid or reduce coffee black tea chocolate high fat foods tomatoes and tomato sauce spicey foods alcoholic beverages soda pop sweets refined carbohydrates (too much bread) citrus fruit
Try proper food combining for better digestion. I found this combination to work great for me Meats combined with vegitables and/or fruit. or carbohydrates combined with vegitables and/or fruit Avoid meats in combination with carbohydrates. It is harder to digest. Do not eat late in the evening. It is best to eat early so that your stomach has at least a couple of hours to digest the food before going to bed. Elevate the upper portion of your body while in bed so that your esophagus and throat is angled above your stomach. Drink plenty of water through out the day Get lots of excersise. Increased physical activity speeds up your metabolism which improves digestion. Lowering weight can also eleviate pressure on the stomach. Reduce stress and tension and increase relaxation. Stress and muscle tension can cause digestive problems. Don't eat too much at one sitting and chew your food well. If none of these work, then try Extra strength Malanta (without aluminum). I found that Tums never worked. Or talk to your docter about some of the stronger over the counter meds. My problem is much more sever, so I have to take a prescription drug. The one I take is called Aciphex which has been the best thing so far for me. Good Luck Laurey
I had terrible heartburn during my pregnancy too, so I know what a bummer it is. I slept sitting up for almost my entire third trimester, like the Elephant Man. Two things that I tried helped more than TUMS, ginger, raw almonds and the myriad of other things I tried Odwalla's Future Shake Vanilla Al'mondo and warm milk with a generous helping of honey. I found these to be most helpful when I took them at the first sign of heartburn. It also helped me to stay away from acidic foods, such as tomatoes, citrus fruit, etc. I hope you find something that works for you. Best of Luck! Amy
I've had two bouts of unbearable severe heartburn both of which lasted a while several years ago; both came about, I finally discovered, because of trying natural remedies. One was caused by St. John's Wort, the other was caused by ground flaxseed which I was adding to cereal. During those bouts the acid was aggrevated further by cooked tomatoes, oil/butter in any form, coffee, tea, alcohol. Eating late also made trying to sleep even more difficult. I also tried all the over-the-counter remedies. When I eliminated the two main causes, the heartburn quickly resolved. Now, when I very infrequently experience mild heartburn, I'll pop a Pepcid AC. I ingest all of the above once again except cooked tomatoes and alcohol. Good luck with this; I know how absolutely miserable it is! Joan
All the foods you spoke of are acidic, which will definitely cause digestive problems if you are so inclined. Try to stay away from Tums and the like--I found they prolonged the problem. It could be something as simple as needing to rest your stomach and build up your own supply of digestive juices (this is not a medical statement in away way--just the way I describe how my stomach feels if I've been eating badly.) Try to take a digestive enzyme (papaya is good but you probably need something stronger). Stress can make it worse (including stress about your digestive system) as can overeating. Definitely see your doctor because you may have a hiatal hernia or another condition causing your food to leak up into your esophogus. Jodi
My heartburn began with my pregnancy also. That was 8 years ago. This past year, during vacation, I experienced heartburn so acute that I thought I might be having a heart attack. After running the treadmill and an upper GI, the Drs. told me I had GERD (gastro-esophogeal reflux disease). They gave me drugs for it (Ranitidine, which is like Tagamet, and Acifex, which is a proton-pump inhibitor). These seemed to work for awhile, but I became leary of taking them and started searching the web. I found several sites that were of great help. Most of these sites had a lot more advice on using diet to control symptoms of GERD. There's actually in institute's homepage that you can pick up by searching under ''gastro''. These are things you need to avoid eating
tomato in any form highly spiced foods (salsa, hot pepper) black pepper chocolate caffeine high-fat foods gum citrus fruits and juices No food or drink after 7PM
Also, I raised the head of my bed up 6 inches by having my dear husband cut 6-inch blocks of wood and putting them under the legs of the head of the bed. This probably helped the most. I was able to stop the medications. Please email me if you have any questions. Elaine
I had heartburn for many years, kept a big bottle of Tums on my desk, ate them all day. I tried it all - staying away from coffee, wine, and acid foods but never could figure out what was causing it. Recently I went on a low-carbohydrate diet to lose a few pounds. My heartburn went away. I now believe that it may have been a wheat allergy causeing all the problems, or at least let's say, as long as I don't eat toast, bagels, pasta, beer, bread I DO NOT GET HEARTBURN. I CAN eat tomatoes and all spicy foods and drink coffee and wine with no problems. Try that.
From what you describe, it sounds likely that you may have a hiatal hernia, which is basically when a bit of the stomach gets on the wrong side of the diaphragm, causing improper digestion. This can be tested for with a barium swallow and x-ray, but is often just diagnosed and treated symptomatically. I've seen this treated VERY effectively with chiropractic manipulation, and if you have a chiropractor who you've worked with before I would let him or her know about these symptoms and see if he or she is comfortable evaluating and treating this (not all chiropractors do it), or find a name from this list. Another really common cause of heartburn is too little stomach acid, rather than too much. Stomach acid production can be aided by having something bitter before your meal, like bitter greens in a salad (arugula, etc) or a swig of Swedish bitters. If this helps, even a little, then you may be aided by actually taking some hydrochloric acid with your meals. If you're interested in further consultation on natural althernatives for this, I'd be happy to talk with you. This is a problem that I see a lot! Good luck -- I hope you sleep well again soon! Tara
I don't know if this folk remedy for heartburn is strong enough for your particular situation but I would like to let you know that eating almonds is a great way to get rid of heartburn. During my second pregnancy my craving was cranberry juice... unfortunately by the third trimester I was miserable with heartburn. Someone suggested I try eating 10-12 raw almonds every so often to combat the heartburn. Well it worked so well I was able to eat Mexican food for lunch, spaghetti with garlic bread for dinner and wash both meals down with my cranberry juice and then go to bed and sleep with absolutely no heartburn or reflux.

My mom has had recurring heartburn since her heart attack & bypass surgury several years ago and has a standing prescription for Tagamet. After my success with almonds she began eating almonds or cookies with almonds in them for her morning snack and no longer suffers from heartburn. Give it a try it works wonders. Rose

THANK YOU... To the person/people who recommended eating almonds for heartburn, I want to give a big THANK YOU!!! I have been suffering with heartburn since I was pregnant with my first child. Lately it had become so bad that I started to consider that I might be having angina. When I read the post about almonds I didn't take it seriously. However, one day I noticed that I hadn't had heartburn for a few days and realized I had been nibbling on some roasted almonds that my husband bought. I have been eating a few every morning and have been heartburn free for over 2 weeks. I'm amazed and very grateful. Thank you for you advice. Karen

21-month-old gagging and throwing up while eating

May 2003

Our otherwise normal and healthy 21-month-old has been having some trouble chewing and swallowing his food properly. About once a week, on average, he gags on some food and throws up. Usually the offending food is something soft and innocuous that he's eaten successfully other times, such as pasta. (For example, twice it was on Annie's shells, which are tiny, the size of your pinky.)

I have talked to his peditrician several times about this. Basically, because our son is happy and healthy, she's not really interested in seeing him. She said some kids just gag easily, and they tend to get better as they get older. She offered the hypothesis that he has reflux, and said we could have a test done where he swallows barium and they Xray him, but it seems like a lot to put him through when the results would not be that helpful. If we seriously thought he had reflux, we could put him on (relatively innocuous) anti-reflux drugs without the test, but given the relative infrequency of the problem and the circumstances in which it occurs (almost always when he's eating, although he has thrown up a few times when he wasn't eating anything (and he wasn't sick)) we don't think it's reflux.

There are several mysteries about the situation. One is that he was pretty good at eating food from about 12-18 months; this problem started around 18 months. Another is that, as far as we can determine, he has never gagged on food while he's with his nanny. I've quizzed her about what she feeds him, and it's pretty much identical to what we offer him; she doesn't cut his food in smaller pieces or anything. He shares his nanny with another toddler who's a voracious eater; if anything, you'd think that would make our son more likely to gulp down his food without chewing it well. But although DH and I have considered, many times, the possibility that our son is gagging for attention, it really doesn't seem that way.

Someone I talked to knew a kid with a similar problem who was helped by speech therapy. This seemed like a weird idea to me, especially since my son is quite a good talker, but apparently the speech therapist enabled him to use his mouth more effectively.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a Chewing Therapist, or other advice on helping our son get over this yucky problem? Barfy in Berkeley

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