One of the lesser known (and obviously less frequent) consequences of severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is the need to tube feed some children. Babies can learn very quickly that the act of feeding hurts and as a result will refuse to feed. Despite the notion that feeding should be instinctual, there are some instincts that take precedence, like preserving oxygen flow or avoiding pain.
So my son cannot have dairy, soy, gluten, egg … what on earth do I feed him!? This is a question faced by many parents who have infant and toddler ‘refluxers’, as food can often be the culprit for a reflux flare and cutting out gluten, dairy, soy, and/or egg from their diet can sometimes help (AND there may be other foods that need to be avoided too!). Food allergies show on allergy tests but there are no skin or blood tests for food intolerance and both can cause symptoms of reflux in susceptible children
Adverse reactions to food can be categorised into IgE mediated reactions and non-IgE mediated reactions. Understanding the difference between the two is important as the approach to treatment is quite different. An IgE-mediated food reaction involves the immune system. The onset is sudden and includes vomiting, abdominal pain, urticaria and angio-edema. An IgE-mediated reaction to food can be diagnosed through a range of validated tests including skin prick testing.
What is food intolerance, and what does it have to do with reflux?
Managing a feed refuser can be a tough assignment and quite exhausting work. And everyone has their bit of advice to give. Its made that bit more tricky with kids who are also allergic or intolerant to a variety of foods so please take all of these hints and tips with a grain of salt and consult your doctors / dieticians and other medical professionals with regard to new foods that might be an issue for your child. Please also take into consideration the developmental milestones of your child.
For some reason there seems to be a tendency toward salty foods for some reflux kids. Salty foods also have the added bonus of making them thirstier for liquids (preferably with some calories in them). This could be because of an electrolyte imbalance because of a loss of bile, but for some reason, some of the following salty foods seem to work when others don’t:
1. Play with a big basin of water and cut down McDonalds straws (something about them being thicker and wider). You practise blowing bubbles with your child – because basically they try to blow bubbles and most tend to suck instead. They get a bit of a shock but work it out. Unless they refuse. 😉
Try this meal plan for bigger babies who would otherwise be ready for solids / finger foods:
Many people are not aware that a Speech Pathologist may be able to help when their baby or toddler is difficult to feed, having difficulties chewing, food refusing or is a fussy eater. Often babies or toddlers with reflux will have difficulties related to eating. Very early on, babies with reflux associate eating with pain and discomfort and begin to fuss or even completely refuse feeds.