Gastroenterologist, Norman M. Panitch, shares home remedies to cure his own children from common illnesses, including heartburn and indigestion to an upset stomach.
As a gastroenterologist with two children, I obviously have taken care of them myself when they were babies, toddlers and teenagers. Here are some of nonprescription remedies I suggest. I hope some of these remedies that I’ve used and have come across over 35 years of practice will help you in caring for your young children.
Heartburn and Indigestion
Let us start at the top. Number one would be heartburn and indigestion—or as we call it in the adult world, GERD. This is when acid material comes up from the stomach into the esophagus, causing a feeling of heartburn or indigestion. If it comes up high enough, it can hit the vocal cords and even cause asthma or a chronic cough in a child.
Nonprescription treatment would include:
- Sugar-free gum for 30 minutes. But remember, chewing gum causes swallowing of air, and this will lead to burping. Assure your child that a burp is normal and that the air that comes out is from the atmosphere. You are not making excessive air.
- Baking Soda. This has been a standard for centuries to treat heartburn and indigestion, usually a teaspoon in eight ounces of water. But remember, this is extremely high in salt and alkali and can cause kidney disease or so-called milk alkali syndrome if used excessively. It is an excellent immediate relief technique for heartburn and indigestion.
- Licorice. I’ve been told my by colleagues that licorice is very soothing on the stomach, but remember licorice has glyceric acid. This can raise blood pressure enormously. If you use licorice, use it sparingly and before meals.
- Milk. I’ve always given my children milk as a quick heartburn or indigestion relief. Remember, don’t give milk if your child is lactose intolerant. There are other alternatives.
The next symptom that infants, toddlers and teenagers get is, of course, diarrhea. For this there are many treatments. I like flat 7-Up with saltine crackers. The salt in the crackers is essential. Remember the BRAT diet. That’s Bananas,
Apple sauce and
Tea. Most of my colleagues recommend chamomile tea. If diarrhea persists over 24 or 48 hours, you must take the child to an urgent care center or laboratory to get a culture. There is a very viscous strain of E. coli that is prevalent and can be deadly in children. This must be cultured and treated.
Nausea and Vomiting
The next symptom I’d like to discuss is nausea and vomiting. The first rule is to let them vomit. Most of this is caused by viruses or food poisoning, and you want it out of your child’s system. If they’re not constantly vomiting, a “flat” Coca-Cola or Pepsi is an excellent treatment for nausea and vomiting. Many of my colleagues use peppermint in sugar-free sticks or candies. If nausea and vomiting persists over twenty-four hours, again, one should go to the urgent care center.
The next symptom I’d like to discuss is constipation. This is extremely common in young children. At times it is a behavioral problem where children are asserting their independence. I will not get into the causes of constipation, but home remedies include:
- Prune juice, of course.
- High-fiber cereals.
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Beans (extremely high in fiber).
- Lots of fluids.
- Tell your children not to “hold it in”. Do not suppress the urge to have a bowel movement. This leads to fecal impactions.
- Avoid harsh laxatives.
The next symptom I’d like to discuss is excessive gas. This is quite common in children and in my practice as an adult gastroenterologist is the most common symptom that I see. For children I would recommend yogurt with probiotics. Activia would be an excellent choice, but there are many probiotics that you can buy, such as Phillips' Colon Health, to give your child. In order to avoid gas they must not use straws or chew gum. They must not talk excitedly when they are eating because they will swallow air. Try to lower the sugar in their diet. Try to avoid “white,” such as white rice, white bread and white pasta--all of this is extremely high in sugar. This sugar will be metabolized by the bacteria in the colon to gas. Some of my colleagues have used peppermint tea for gas.
The last topic I would discuss is a treatment for babies with an “upset stomach,” the babies who cry and hold their stomachs. There’s something called “gripe water.” This is very good for a bellyache. In many underdeveloped countries this is sold as a product over the counter. In order to make it here, you would combine fennel, ginger and chamomile. Boil them together to make “gripe” tea. Cool it and strain and have the baby or child sip.
As most of you know, as a gastroenterologist I have many prescriptions available in my medicine chest for my children, but these are some easy home remedies that I think will be very helpful for your child.