Colic. That word strikes fear into the hearts of new moms and pediatricians everywhere. Although theories abound, very little is known about colic. It comes on as mysteriously as it disappears. Parents inundate pediatric offices and emergency rooms, sure that something is seriously wrong with their infant. Some pediatricians send the parents home with only assurances that their baby will grow out of it. But a disturbing trend is developing among many pediatricians to diagnose colic symptoms as acid reflux and to prescribe Zantac, Prevacid or other acid reflux medications without doing any diagnostic tests. Many pediatricians prescribe acid reflux medications as a test for reflux. Some mothers report their pediatricians prescribed acid reflux medications over the phone without even seeing the infant. The parents are happy because they have something to possibly alleviate the obvious pain their baby is suffering. The pediatricians are happy to be able to prescribe something that might help. The pharmaceutical companies are certainly happy. And the baby well the baby could still be suffering from colic as well as the added side effects (restlessness, constipation) of the acid reflux medications. The baby may now be prescribed other medications to help counteract the side effects.
Dr. Linda Palmer, author of Baby Matters, writes: “Since the development of new expensive drugs for gastric acid reflux, most crying babies are diagnosed with GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease and prescribed the new proton pump inhibitor drugs such as Prilosec and Prevacid. Parents usually find that these provide little help, if any. Current studies reveal that there is great randomness to the symptoms used to diagnose GERD, that while the drugs will reduce acid in the stomach and esophagus they do not reduce baby’s colic symptoms or other symptoms, and that GERD drugs increase intestinal infections and pneumonia. While the GERD diagnosis and prescription of these drugs is lucrative, it sadly steers parents away from finding real solutions for their baby.”
Certainly, acid reflux in various forms such as Ger (Gastro Esophageal Reflux), Gerd (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) and Silent reflux can be part of colic and acid reflux prescription medication can help. Some babies may even suffer from an underdeveloped esophageal sphincter and require surgery but there are tests to determine these problems which should be administered before prescription drugs. Even Celiac disease (sensitivity to gluten) can cause Gerd symptoms that, once diagnosed, can be helped by a gluten free diet. However, doctors are tracked by many insurance companies according to the number of tests they order and feel tremendous pressure to keep medical costs down. Diagnostics that may be seen as “unnecessary” may not be ordered.
Reflux isn’t always caused by over-production of acid. Gas bubbles in the stomach caused by formula, breast milk or improper feeding can cause reflux by forcing the stomach contents back into the esophagus. Parents who take the time to educate themselves and are wary to use prescription drugs without proper testing should know there are natural, safe, homeopathic treatments with minimal side effects to help an infant’s immature digestive system cope with gas and the intense intestinal discomfort it can cause.
For more information and support with acid reflux, a group called PAGER (Pediatric/Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association) may be helpful.