Infants and Children:  Reflux, Constipation, and Colic 

Easy to Swallow

Osteopathy and Children’s Digestion

by Tamara McReynolds, D.O.

(Original article appeared in Austin All Natural, June 2007)

 Kids and Digestion

Infants and children commonly have digestive problems just like adults.  Symptoms can range from mild burping with spit-up, to reflux, constipation, or hours of crying due to colic.  As the digestive system matures, many of these problems may lessen or resolve, but waiting for relief can be hard not only on the infant but also on mom and dad.

What does birth have to do with digestion?

Birth is one of the most stressful events of our lives. In order to fit through the birth canal, the soft bones of the skull overlap to reduce the size of the head and the body tissues are compressed, twisted, and stretched.   The back of the head (occiput) takes a lot of pressure during delivery.  This is where the tongue nerve (hypoglossal) and vagus nerve (for digestion) pass through the skull and may become irritated.  This irritation may cause impaired suckling or reflux.  After going through the canal, many babies are born with odd shaped heads.  In the first few days of life as the baby feeds, yawns, and cries, the head will gradually lose the extreme mould shape.  Sometimes however, this “unmoulding” process is incomplete and abnormal head strains remain.  Babies that are crying, screaming and colicky may be uncomfortable due to a constant feeling of pressure in the head.  When body tissues (fascia) are compressed, this puts pressure on nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic fluids preventing normal function of digestion.  In children this may result in vague, non-specific digestive complaints such as tummy aches, nausea and constipation. 

Common digestive problems in infants and children:

· Impaired suckling

· Impaired swallowing

· Taking a long time to feed

· Crying after eating (Irritability of the stomach and colon)

· Frequent spitting up or vomiting (Reflux)

· Colic

· Sleeplessness

·  Nausea

·  Tummy Aches

·  Constipation

How can Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) help?

Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment, OMT, involves precise hands-on support of the neuromusculoskeletal system. Gentle osteopathic cranial techniques are used to ease head tensions and help the cerebrospinal fluid circulate more efficiently.   When bony misalignment and tissue tensions affecting the digestive nerves are removed a baby can better handle his feedings and gas.  Corrective osteopathic treatment of abdominal fascia using visceral techniques helps to facilitate normal stomach motion and digestion. 

 Making Healthy Food Choices:

Making healthy dietary choices during infancy and childhood when the body is developing is a critical step in fostering optimal growth and establishing good eating habits.  Breast feeding is the ideal way to feed infants the first 6 months of life.  As the digestive tract matures, the spaces between the cells that allow the mother’s immunologlobins to be absorbed get tighter, reducing potential for food allergies.  When introducing foods at 6 months, it is best to introduce one new food at a time. This allows time to watch for allergic responses, often seen in the form of digestive upset or skin rashes.  It can take up to 5 days of eating a new food before a reaction is seen.  Wheat, dairy, eggs, citrus, strawberries, peanuts, tree nuts, fish/seafood, meat, and honey should be avoided until after 12 months.  It is important to eat organic to avoid toxic effects of pesticides, insecticides, and artificial ripening agents. Always avoid processed foods and additives, especially high fructose corn syrup.  As your child matures, a diet focused on fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains will help maintain a healthy digestive system and promote overall health.

© Tamara McReynolds 2012