Reflux in Infants: 3 Ways to Stop it Now

While it’s been some time (and my memory is going with age) I still remember the first time I heard of a newborn being put on Prilosec for reflux.

Incredulous.  Stupefied.  Dazed.  All adequate descriptions for how I felt at that time.

After this time, I heard more often of cases where infants were given drugs to shut down stomach acid production.  To me, the idea borders on idiocy.  Stomach acid is critical to the digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Without good digestion we can’t thrive and grow.  It’s bad enough to use these drugs on an adult, but an infant?

An article some time back vindicated my position, finding that some 82% of prescriptions of drugs to control acid in infants were given inappropriately.

The symptoms that usually drive the prescriptions are babies that cry shortly after feeding and spit up frequently.  The answer lies not in medications, but in identifying foods allergies (this is the biggest factor in most cases) either through direct feeding to the infant or in what a breastfeeding mom is eating.  Imbalance in bacterial flora can play a role as well, leading to thrush and general irritation of the lining of the esophagus.

This particular article adds a new aspect for me that I would not have thought of.  Delayed neurological development.  Or maybe “delayed” is not the right word. “Not caught up” neurological development may be a better term.  Delayed sounds pathological, but not quite caught up sounds like just a slowing of a process that’s going to fix itself in a short time.

Researchers looked at 105 infants under 8 months of age who had feeding difficulties, delayed neurological development or delayed psychomotor development.  70 of these infants all had signs of B12 deficiency (low cobalamin levels, homocysteine levels or methylmalonic acid levels) and were given a single injection of 400 micrograms of B12.  Here’s what they found after a single month:

  1. In all the infants, the markers of B12 deficiency improved.
  2. Scoring systems for motor development as well as parent’s perceptions improved.
  3. Regurgitation alone improve 69%.

The nervous system develops at an incredible rate, both in the womb and in the first few years.  B12 is important in this process as we can see from this study.  That means that, during pregnancy you need to make sure that you’re prenatal vitamin has strong levels of B12, and NOT as the cyanocobalamin form.  While nursing a newborn this is equally as important. Incidentally–antibiotics will destroy the all-important bacteria in the gut that both show up in breast milk to balance the developing immune system, but also the bacteria that produces B12 in the gut as well.

In our office we recommend a supplement to go along with the prenatal that has B12 (as hydroxycobalamin), folic acid and B6 for all pregnant women.  Based on this study, it is possible that B12 during pregnancy may help prevent reflux and digestive problems in the first place.

In summary, three things to try if your baby is experiencing digestive problems.  1)  Identify common food allergies like dair, wheat, corn and soy and remove them from your diet.  2)  Make sure your baby is getting probiotics, whether through direct supplementation or taking them yourself if you’re still nursing.  3)  B12 supplementation.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.