Lately it seems that I’ve been seeing many kids with symptoms of acid reflux, acid regurgitation, and GERD. Depending on the age of the child, it can be hard to determine what’s going on, but usually a child suffering from acid reflux will exhibit some combination of burping or vomiting, and/or the more difficult to detect and decipher nausea, stomach pain and burning. The child could also be coughing, having trouble swallowing, a hoarse voice, complaining of a sore throat especially in the morning, or respiratory symptoms, all can be possible symptoms of acid regurgitation. Acid indigestion has a number of causes. As a parent, sometimes you can identify a specific food that your child is sensitive or allergic to that is causing the response. Sometimes, the symptoms will be consistently occurring at the same time everyday, despite the changes in diet, possibly indicating an over or under production of stomach acid, or a malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter, causing acid to leak back into the esophagus. Or sometimes (every parent’s favorite) there will be no rhyme or reason, just an acid stomach causing pain, indigestion, burping, nausea, and/or vomiting.
Chinese medicine looks at acid reflux as either an excess or a deficiency in the child’s system, or a combination of both. Kids are hot by nature. They have dominate yang. By nature their yin is not fully formed. Yin is everything cooling, descending, still, dark, and inward. As kids develop, their yin develops. They are starting off with a tendency towards heat and at a deficiency with their yin, giving them hot bodies that are not able to cool down as readily. Add to this hot nature, an imbalance, such as exposure to an allergen or a cold or flu, and their bodies can be set off with an over production of heat. It can be in their stomach and it will come out as acid reflux, or in their heart (Chinese energetic heart) and you see nightmares or ADHD, or in the lungs and the manifestation will be allergies or asthma. It is my job diagnosis and clear the heat and support their yin, through acupuncture, acupressure and Chinese herbal medicine. Often with this heat in the stomach, it just takes some redirecting, or descending of their energy, to help their digestion flow in the right way.
Every parents next question is “How will you get my child to sit still for acupuncture??” I’ve found that the most important thing is allowing the child to be in control. In my practice, I tend to use a combination of acupressure and acupuncture with most kids. We always start with the pressure, just pressing the points, and then I gauge the child’s comfort level. It often helps the child to bring a beloved stuffed animal that we can “practice” on first. I can put needles in the animal, which provides a good test subject, and even let them help me, so, again, they can feel in control. After practicing on Teddy, most kids will allow me, even in that first session, to do at least one or two needles. I always make sure the kids feel very comfortable, and again, they know I won’t sneak up or surprise them. Usually I just talk with them about their favorite game, or we sing a song together, or we count to ten or twenty while they sit with the needles, and then the needles come out. Kids don’t need near the retention time/relaxation time with the needles that adults need, their bodies just take a little bit of redirecting to get back into balance. The results continue to amaze me. Kids are so quick to respond, and usually their symptoms are greatly diminished after that first treatment. Kids end up looking forward to their appointments!!