It’s hard to believe so many of our children are suffering from such a horribly wide array of digestive issues these days.
I’ve worked with kids experiencing everything from burping and heartburn to gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. On top of that, all ages are at risk, from infancy into young adulthood.
Here’s the thing: as a Gastroenterologist, years ago we would have primarily been seeing people in their 50’s and 60’s presenting with digestive issues. Every year that goes by, the patients get younger and younger. It is mainly because of this trend that I started looking closer at the cause of these issues running rampant in our society.
In this article, I’ll explain why this is happening in our younger population more than ever before, and I’ll make a case for why it’s so important to get to the root cause and address these issues as soon as possible.
I have been personally assessing and treating digestive issues in adult patients for almost 15 years. My clinic, Dr. Liz Cruz Partners in Digestive Health, has a registry of over 17,000 patients. So I’ve learned a lot about how to help people suffering in silence with serious digestive issues.
Many of my patients have children or grandchildren suffering from similar digestive issues that they are experiencing. As a proud mother, my passion is for kids, and my team and I have been able to help more families with more kids than I can count.
The aim of this article is to give you an in-depth knowledge of the connection between digestive issues in children (causing a leaky gut) and our food and pharmaceutical industries. And to give you hope that there is a proven and natural way to heal your child’s digestive issues, even if nothing has worked until now.
If you don’t have time to read this article and just want to reach out to us for help, then you can get in contact by completing this short form.
#1 I asked myself, “Why aren’t they getting well?!”
I have been a Gastroenterologist since 2003 and have owned my own practice since 2007. I have taken care of thousands of patients, many of whom suffer from a myriad of digestive issues such as reflux, heartburn, gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
As a physician, I have striven to be an advocate for my patients by listening carefully to get to the root of every issue. I am extremely thorough with my workups, and I couldn’t help but notice a disturbing trend: most of the time, my patients’ tests were coming back negative. This dead end made it difficult to figure out what was wrong with them.
I was putting my patients on medications, only for them to come back and say they weren’t feeling any better. I was also seeing younger patients with the same digestive issues that I usually see in older patients. I was perplexed. I was upset. I like to help people get better—it’s why I became a doctor in the first place.
So, I went on a search for answers.
For the next three years, I studied everything I could get my hands on related to digestive health, healing, weight loss, diet, detoxification, and the inadequacies of the modern healthcare system. (Sadly, these areas get little to no focus in medical school where the pharmaceutical approach to care dominates.) What I discovered during this time was a giant wake up call for me.
Of course, I continue to practice per the standard of care as a gastroenterologist by running tests and doing procedures on patients. Based on what I learned, l realized l was missing a critical piece of the puzzle in the care I was providing.
In 2010, I began to offer wellness education and services, too.
I also started to write about my unique approach to digestive health so I could reach as many people as possible with this important message. In fact, my son Kai and I are so passionate about helping kids that he helped me take my book and make it for little hands to read and learn from.
In this short video, my son Kai talks about the personal journey he’s taken to be able to offer hope to children who want to resolve serious digestive issues naturally.
#2 Our little ones shouldn’t have to suffer. Period.
It breaks my heart to hear when a child is suffering from some serious digestive issue; whether it’s acid reflux/heartburn, gas/bloating, constipation/diarrhea. And it breaks my heart when I hear a child has been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.
The big problem with many of these issues is they are ongoing, so the child (and you, their doting parent or grandparent) feels or sees no relief in sight. It’s beyond frustrating.
Now, there are different pains and symptoms that are associated with each of these digestive issues and we are going to cover here today. But the bottom line is: living with these issues can barely be called living at all.
Parents who watch their children suffer from digestive issues feel helpless and fully obligated to find the cause. You visit one doctor after another trying to find the answer. Doctors expose your children to a myriad of tests and procedures, many of which are not fun, only to find there is no cause to point to – at least that is what traditional medicine will tell you.
This whole experience can be a living nightmare for the parent, much less the child who is suffering. It’s not easy for any parent to watch their child suffer from no end in sight and no explanation on how to fix it.
They fear no one will understand what they are going through.
But I understand!
Here are some of the things parents and children have confided in me:
“My son strains every time he goes to the bathroom.”
“My daughter doesn’t want to potty train because of the trouble she has in the bathroom.”
“My son doesn’t like spending time away from home because of how often he needs to use the restroom.”
“My daughter doesn’t like to eat because she says it hurts to eat.”
“My grandson is so constipated he can’t even play baseball anymore.”
“My granddaughter has so many problems with food that she thinks something is mentally wrong with her.”
But the most troubling and common complaint of all?
“I can’t tell you how many doctors we’ve been to and tests they’ve run, and they can’t figure out why it’s happening.”
This has to be so frustrating for everyone involved. Not being able to pinpoint the true cause so it can be fixed and the child and the family can get their lives back.
#3 How Acid Reflux “disintegrates” the health of our youth
Whether your child is currently taking medicine for acid reflux symptoms or not is irrelevant here.
If your child is suffering from acid reflux, they are not digesting their food properly. Plain and simple.
And once they start taking an acid-reducing medicine, it just makes digesting their food that much harder.
If your child is not digesting their food properly, they are not benefiting from the nutrients, no matter how healthy their diet.
If they aren’t getting nutrients into their body on a regular basis, they will begin to feel fatigued, with a body full of aches and pains. Poor digestion is why many people who suffer from Acid Reflux also suffer from anemia or vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
When your child is not digesting their food properly in the stomach, it’s not going to go well coming out the other end either.
In addition to all of this, acid reflux is also the precursor to a leaky gut. In the simplest terms, Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) just means the intestinal lining is more permeable than it should be.
The ultra-delicate lining of your intestines is only one cell thick, so is easily prone to breakage.
The purpose of your gut lining is to enable you to absorb nutrients from the food you’ve eaten and digested, and it keeps bacteria, wastes, and undigested food out of your bloodstream and in your intestines where they belong.
If you have a leaky gut, not only do the wastes and toxins gain entry into your bloodstream, you also have a reduced ability to absorb vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from your food causing the first sign of ill health fatigue and low energy.
Our small intestines are laced with finger-like projections called villi. These villi increase the surface area of the intestine and contain specialized cells that transport substances into the bloodstream. Although these villi do not aid in the digestion of nutrients, they do help with nutrient absorption.
With LGS, the tissue of the villi in the small intestine becomes inflamed and irritated, which allows metabolic and microbial toxins of the small intestines to flood into the bloodstream. This event compromises the liver, the lymphatic system, and the immune response, including the endocrine system.
Some of the most incurable diseases are caused by this exact mechanism, where the body attacks its tissues. This is commonly called auto-immune disease.
Leaky Gut is often the primary cause of the following common conditions. Gas, bloating, constipation diarrhea, asthma, food allergies, chronic sinusitis, eczema, migraines, irritable bowel, fungal disorders, fibromyalgia, weight gain/loss and inflammatory joint disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis are just a few of the diseases that can originate with leaky gut.
Think about it like this: Your gut is your body’s second brain.
Your gut feeds the body, and it cleans it out; and if it’s not working right, many processes and systems in your body will gradually fall apart.
And that’s why having acid reflux isn’t just about the intensity of the pain it causes, but the wider negative impact it can have on the workings of the body.
#4 Gas and bloating are more common than we’d like to admit
Belching is a normal process and results from swallowed air accumulating in the stomach. The air can either be belched back or can be passed out of the stomach into the small intestine and be subsequently passed as rectal gas (flatus).
Bloating refers to a sense of fullness throughout the abdomen. This can be influenced by gas and food accumulation in the stomach.
Flatulence refers to the passage of rectal gas. The gas is a combination of swallowed air and gas produced by the action of colon bacteria on undigested carbohydrates.
The gas that accumulates in the right upper portion of the colon can lead to pain that could seem like gallbladder pain. The gas that accumulates in the left upper portion of the colon can radiate up to the chest and seem like cardiac pain.
No matter what name we give it— gas, bloating, belching, flatulence, or indigestion—the pain is so severe, especially in a child that it “paralyzes” them as they double over in pain, unable to move until it slowly fades away. Although these symptoms seem harmless, they result primarily from a leaky gut, and in some cases, these symptoms could indicate a more serious condition.
#5 Shackled to the toilet with constipation or diarrhea
Whether a child is suffering from constipation or diarrhea, it seems like a life sentence chained to the toilet. Both debilitating issues can have long term effects on a child’s health and well-being. I promise this won’t become a science lesson, but let’s examine each one in some detail:
Acute diarrhea is when stools are softer (and may be watery) and more frequent than normal, usually more than three bowel movements each day for less than three weeks total. Diarrhea may be due to infections with bacteria, viruses or parasites. While these acute episodes of diarrhea usually go away on their own, it is important to avoid becoming dehydrated from loss of body fluid.
Long-standing, chronic diarrhea, is a clear indication that food is not being digested well. Celiac disease can be a cause of chronic diarrhea. Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Chronic diarrhea, no matter what its cause, can result in many serious medical problems, such as malnutrition. This, in turn, is causing other medical issues throughout the body. Not to mention the impact this has on quality of life.
Constipation, on the other hand, is defined as infrequent bowel movements, hard bowel movements, and difficulty in passing bowel movements or painful bowel movements. Although this is a common issue among children, it can be difficult to treat because not all kids tell their parents they are suffering. Or if they do tell their parents, many parents don’t want to bring it up with their physician or other family members.
Constipation is the most frequent reason that children are referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist. Although constipation seems mundane in the grand scheme of medical symptoms it is a clear sign of the body not functioning properly. In a healthy body, the body should be able to break down, absorb and eliminate food and drink on a regular basis. If this is not happening on a regular basis, it means the body is not digesting food properly and not eliminating it properly which could lead to a toxic build-up in the body.
Getting to the root cause of diarrhea and constipation are so critical especially if these symptoms start early on in a person’s life. Remember, the digestive system is the body’s all-important “second brain.” If it’s not working right, it will lead to a host of other medical problems as the child gets older.
#6 Is this your child?
Families end up working with me because they have tried everything else, and many of them are one doctor away from giving up.
Working with me is their last-ditch effort to fix their child’s problem.
Many of my patients come to me frustrated and angry with the options they’ve been given for treating their child’s digestive issues.
They’ve tried every medicine, which in many cases they don’t want their child on long-term, or they have tried every supplement only for it not to be the answer.
#7 The symptoms to look out for
- If you’re not sure if your child is experiencing these digestive issues here is a listing of concerns and signs:
- Acid Reflux / Heartburn
- Complains of generalized stomachaches, mostly around the belly button
- Complains of chest pain
- Feels like they are going to throw up
- Complains of a taste in their mouth as if they threw up
- Says their food is coming back up on them and they have to re-swallow it
- Feeling of nausea on a recurring basis
- Feeling like their food is not going down properly or that it’s “getting stuck.”
- Complains of asthma type symptoms – coughing and wheezing
- Sore throat
- Gas / Bloating
- Feeling of always being full
- Having so much gas, it causes the child to double over in pain
- Random shooting pains throughout midsection
- Random shooting pains in chest or shoulder area
- Not being able to fit in clothes around mid-section
- Stomach aches or pain in other parts of the abdomen
- Tears of the anus called anal fissures which cause blood in bowel movements
- Exhibits withholding behavior because it hurts them so badly to have a bowel movement
- Soiling the underwear with stool often when the child is relaxed (while sleeping / in bathtub)
- Difficulty walking
- Decreased appetite and activity level
- Consistently loose and watery stools
- Running to the bathroom frequently
- Constantly dehydrated which can cause headaches, other body aches, low energy levels
- Soreness when wiping due to the frequency of wiping
#8 The tests they will run
When young children present with digestive symptoms there are standard tests that the doctor will recommend.
For Acid Reflux
X-Rays – although these are not helpful in diagnosing reflux they are often used to exclude other problems that may mimic reflux.
Upper Endoscopy with Biopsies – this is where they send a small tube with a camera down the esophagus into the stomach. Biopsies of the tissue can be taken that can help determine if inflammation of the esophagus and stomach are present during the exam.
pH Probe – a small tube is inserted through the nose into the esophagus that continuously measures how often acid is being regurgitated into the esophagus.
For Gas and Bloating:
Usually, very few tests are done to determine the cause of gas and bloating.
H-pylori Breath Test – this test may be administered to see if there is a bacteria in the stomach called Helicobacter pylori which could be causing gas, bloating or even ulcers. The child is asked to breathe into a bag and then drink a sugary solution, wait 10 minutes and then blow into another bag. H-pylori is highly infectious, and if the child is positive, the whole family should be tested.
X-Ray of the abdomen – to determine how much stool is present and to see if the colon is dilated. This type of x-ray is also obtained before the barium enema, which is described below.
Anorectal manometry or motility test – This test determines if the nerves and muscles responsible for passing a bowel movement are working together. The test is performed by inserting a small balloon at the end of a catheter into the rectum and blowing up the balloon. The response to inflating the balloon determines if the nerves and muscles are working properly together.
Barium enema – This is an x-ray test where barium or another type of contrast is inserted via a catheter into the rectum and x-rays of the abdomen are taken. The test may or may not require a special bowel prep to clean out the bowel before the test. This test is used to diagnose a blockage in the intestine or an area that may be narrowed or abnormal.
Rectal biopsy – This is a test where a biopsy is taken from the lining of the rectum to determine if normal nerve cells are present in its walls. The sample of tissue that is obtained is examined under a microscope.
Transit study or marker study – This test is performed to determine if the reason for constipation is due to slow movement throughout the colon or just in the last part of the colon known as the rectum. Plastic markers, which can be seen on x-ray, are swallowed, and then several x-rays are performed over the next 4 to 7 days to determine how long it takes them to pass through the GI tract. Patients with normal motility pass the majority (>80%) of the markers within five days. If the markers are not passed but are found to remain throughout the colon, this suggests slowing of the entire colon. If the markers do not pass and are clustered in the rectum, this may indicate a problem in the rectum only.
Colonoscopy – This is a scope test. This test is usually not indicated for the evaluation of routine constipation in children. This test may be helpful if children have blood in their bowel movements, not due to a fissure or straining or for the purpose of placing a colonic manometry catheter (see below).
Colonic manometry – This is a specialized test done in children who have continued problems with constipation despite medical therapy. It involves placing a catheter at the time of colonoscopy to determine whether there are normal contractions in all parts of the colon. The test requires a period of prolonged monitoring of the contractions of the colon after placement of the catheter. This test is used to establish the diagnosis of colonic pseudo-obstruction in children, a very rare condition.
Colonoscopy with biopsy – this test is usually indicated when stool-studies have not identified an infection and diarrhea persists. It is most useful in distinguishing acute inflammation of the colon that gets better on its own, known as acute self-limited colitis, from chronic inflammation of the bowel known as chronic colitis. Colonoscopy does not usually help to find the cause of diarrhea due to infection (except diarrhea that follows antibiotic use). Colonoscopy is invaluable in making the diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease and figuring out what portion of the colon is involved with the inflammation.
Just writing about these tests makes me sad.
The fact that many children today are having to go through such invasive tests to determine what is at the core of their digestive issues is terrible. Especially since most of the time, these tests come back negative.
Not only are these tests not fun to experience, but they can also be expensive. And to not get an answer after having gone through any number of tests can be extremely frustrating for the child and the parent.
Most doctors do not test for intestinal permeability or “leaky gut,” because there is no one medicine, pill, potion, or surgery, to fix intestinal permeability.
When patients present with digestive symptoms, doctors are left to follow the standard of care. They will use the tests I mentioned above but the bottom-line is there are no medicines for leaky gut, so doctors tend to be less aware or educated on such diagnoses.
#9 What is normal?
When your child’s digestion system is working properly, the digested food (or chyme) will exit the stomach and move into the small intestine. There, it will get absorbed through the wall of the small intestine bringing to their body much-needed nutrients for building healthy cells.
Healthy cells make healthy tissue, and healthy tissue makes healthy organs. Then, guess what they will have? You guessed it, a healthy body.
Whatever the body doesn’t want then dumps into the large intestine (or colon). The colon is a muscle; its job is to squeeze as many nutrients and as much water as it can while creating a formed stool in the process.
A healthy functioning body should be properly digesting, absorbing, and eliminating food and drink daily. A healthy body should be having at least 2 to 3 bowel movements per day (preferably one after every meal).
The bowel movements should be firm, but soft and well-formed. A healthy body is free from all medical symptoms, has enough energy to get through the day (and then some), and free from aches and pains.
The bottom line: a healthy child with a healthy body does not experience the pain of reflux, gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea and they go about their day with no digestive pain or discomfort.
#10 How the medical system fails you
Once the tests are run, the next step in the “standard of care” is to put children on some form of medication to “solve” the problem. This “standard of care,” many times, is driven by pharmaceutical companies. Those companies have a lot of money at stake in selling their drugs.
Doctors are driven by research-based studies—double-blind, placebo studies that are supposed to prove or disprove a certain drug can do a job without hurting someone. Most of the drug companies have so much money that they can put together whatever kind of study they wish. What’s most troubling of all? They can pay for whatever outcome they’d like.
If a study says “it works,” doctors take it as gospel and begin prescribing the drug like candy. Some doctors are even paid to prescribe or promote a drug.
Many pharmaceutical companies invest big money into medical schools. They do this not because they want to contribute to the doctors in this country, but because they want to control what the doctors in this country are prescribing.
Our health—or should I say illness—in this country is all about the bottom line for big pharmaceutical companies!
Few medical schools are teaching the long-term side effects of the drugs doctors are being asked to prescribe. Few medical schools are also looking at the drug-to-drug interaction in patients’ bodies. And few medical schools are teaching how to treat the whole body.
Because no one would make any money teaching those things. No one makes any money if people are healthy!
Don’t misunderstand me, please. There are proper times to introduce pharmaceutical medicine. The idea, however, of taking medicines long-term to resolve Acid Reflux, Gas and Bloating, Constipation or Diarrhea is not the answer. We live in a society that demands medicine for illness instead of getting to the root cause.
Getting to the root cause of the digestive issues and leaky gut changes the whole game and gets children well again.
#11 Getting to the root cause of acid reflux
Whether your child has been diagnosed by a medical professional or you have taken matters into your own hands, what seems to be an accepted solution is an acid-reducing medicine.
Acid Reflux is so common these days that many of these medicines are available over-the-counter, allowing anyone to self-diagnose and treat.
It’s unfortunate, but these medicines are just Band-Aids. None of these medicines address the root cause of Acid Reflux or provide any real “fix.”
Also, these medicines cause many detrimental side effects, which patients both young and old experience once they’ve been on them for a while. Of all the medicines to take for digestive issues, acid reducers are probably the most dangerous of all for children.
New studies show that being on acid-reducing medicines long-term can cause such things as:
- Kidney disease
- Heart attacks
Known side effects have always been
- Bone loss
- Muscle spasms
- Leg cramps
- Nutrient deficiencies
The food your child consumes needs acid to digest properly. This is a key concept to keep in mind – that may save your child from further distress.
Once your child starts on an acid reducer or blocker, they are stopping their stomach from producing acid. When their stomach ceases to produce acid, it is unable to break their food down properly so they can benefit from it.
Your child’s body needs vitamins and minerals to function. We all know that. But when the body doesn’t receive nutrients from food, it must “steal” from itself. Bones and muscles are the first victims.
Starving the body of healthy nutrients through food, over time, will affect all the cells in the body. It is no wonder studies find new, long-term side effects to these medicines all the time.
Moreover, there’s a dangerous “snowball effect.”
Once an acid reducer is started, stopping is unlikely. Imagine being told at the age of 10 you will have to be on this medicine for the rest of your life. When your child begins having other medical issues from the effects of these acid reducers, the next step your doctor takes is usually recommending more medicine.
#12 More medicines, more problems
I have found that the more medicine patients take, the sicker and sicker they become. More medicines cause more side effects, which then creates the need for more medicine. It’s a vicious cycle that can play havoc with your health.
In short, the body is meant to heal itself; we just have to give it what it needs and let it do its job.
To understand why Acid Reflux happens, you first need to understand how digestion works.
When you eat food, it goes into your stomach as a solid. (Obviously, we chew our food, but we don’t chew it into a liquid.) Your body cannot use food in a solid form; it must first be broken down into a liquid, and that is supposed to happen further down your digestive tract.
For your body to benefit from what you eat you need these things to happen:
- Proteins must be broken down into amino acids.
- Fats must be broken down into fatty acids and cholesterol.
- Carbohydrates must be broken down into simple sugars.
What does this mean?
When you eat, your body must go to work. It must make enzymes, acids, and many other gastric juices to help break down the food. Once the food is liquefied, it moves into the small intestine where even more digestion takes place.
Enzymes, bile, and other special juices from the liver, pancreas, and small intestine are excreted to help break down your food even further. It is in the small intestine where nutrients get absorbed into the body.
This process is how we feed our body.
Amino acids, minerals, and metal elements, such as iron or zinc, bond to create digestive enzymes.
At birth, we are given a certain potential for manufacturing enzymes in our body, and this process creates an enzyme “reserve.” However, if we do not continually replenish that reserve through proper nutrition, it depletes.
Depleting this reserve puts tremendous stress on the body, which is then forced to draw reserves from other locations throughout the body. The more we depend on our body to create digestive enzymes without the proper tools, the less time and energy the body’s systems and organs have for rebuilding and replacing worn out damaged cells and tissue.
Giving our systems and organs extra work puts a tremendous amount of stress on the endocrine system, as well as the immune system. After years and years of relying on your “reserve,” it is eventually depleted. When you look at what are kids live on these days (pizza, nuggets, fries, mac n’ cheese, burgers, juice, soda) it’s no wonder why digestive issues are creeping in sooner than would be expected.
There are studies that show our enzyme production depletes by almost 10% to 13% every ten years.
So I’m used to seeing Acid Reflux symptoms start to creep up in individuals who are midlife; as we age, our enzyme production in the stomach declines, and we can’t digest our food like we used to.
And showing the impact of today’s modern diet on enzyme production: I’m also seeing lots of young people with Acid Reflux in their late teens or early 20’s. Many of my pediatric GI doctor and primary care doctor friends have expressed how many more children they see in their office these days complaining of reflux type symptoms.
Remember, this is a generation who have grown up on a nutritionally-depleted, fast-food, and processed-food diet.
Now, these issues are taking root as Acid Reflux because their bodies haven’t been fed with healthy nutrients for such a long time.
#13 Why acid reducing medicines are not the answer
If your child presented to a general practitioner or even a gastroenterologist with the symptoms of Acid Reflux, chances are they will walk out with a prescription for a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) or some form of acid-reducing medicine (like an antacid or H2 blocker).
Although these medicines are frequently used, most of them are not working to their benefit. These names may be very familiar to you:
- Milk of Magnesia
What Antacids do:
- Work to neutralize stomach acid
- Work quickly but are considered short-lived relief
H2 Blockers (histamine blockers)
About H2 Blockers:
- Block the histamine receptor on cells in the stomach
- Slower onset of action, but more long-term relief of symptoms
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
- Omeprazole (Prilosec)
- Completely stop stomach’s production of acid
- Require one to four days to work
- Considered “miracle drugs” when they were introduced
- Used for inflammation of the stomach and esophagus, in addition to acid reflux
- Used to heal bleeding ulcers
But here’s why these drugs are not the answer…
Aside from being able to self-prescribe and get most of these medicines over-the-counter, many general practitioners are handing out acid reducers to patients as the first form of treatment for acid reflux.
By the time my gastroenterology office sees them, patients have typically already been on one—if not two or three—to try to stop their Acid Reflux problem. All three of the categories of medicine mentioned above work in some way to reduce stomach acid. While they seem to work to relieve symptoms, you should know that there are serious problems with taking these medicines on a regular basis.
As I touched on earlier, your stomach produces acid for a reason. You want your body to produce acid. It’s good for you. You just don’t want to feel it burning the lining of your esophagus.
Although acid is not necessary for life, it is necessary for your health.
Most people don’t understand the essential role stomach acid plays in our body. When the medicines listed above are taken on an ongoing basis, it puts the body at risk of serious (and even life-threatening) conditions.
There are six primary consequences of taking acid-reducing / blocking drugs:
- Increases bacterial overgrowth in the gut which causes a leaky gut
- Hinders nutrient absorption, especially calcium, iron, B12, folate, and zinc
- Causes potentially serious infections, such as pneumonia and Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff
- Results in electrolyte abnormalities, such as magnesium
- Causes bone loss, muscle spasms, leg cramps
- New findings show long-term use potentially causes dementia, kidney disease, and heart attacks
#14 Getting to the root cause of Gas and Bloating
Much of gas and bloating can be blamed on not enough enzymes in the stomach during digestion. As we discussed in the section about acid reflux, a lack of enzymes can cause a whole host of problems including not being able to break food down properly.
Imagine chunks of food moving into the small bowel instead of liquid food; these chunks cannot pass through the wall of the small intestine which can cause not only malnourishment but also major gas and bloating (leaky gut).
Also, from birth to the age of two years old, our gut is being developed with the trillions of bacteria it will need to keep your digestive system functioning well.
The bacteria in the gut play a very special role in helping to digest and eliminate your food properly. Over 70% of our immune system is held in our gut. We replenish those bacteria on a regular basis through healthy foods we eat, but we can also kill off much-needed bacteria by eating a very poor or nutritionally-depleted diet.
Being prescribed antibiotics also takes a toll on our gut bacteria; antibiotics not only kill off bad bacteria in our body, but they also kill off good bacteria. (Something to note…any child who is given a round of antibiotics before the age of two has a much higher likelihood of suffering from medical issues as they get older.) Lack of healthy bacteria in the gut is also a major contributor to having a leaky gut.
The same way our enzyme production declines as we age, our immune system becomes compromised as we age because the gut bacteria gets off balance.
I’m used to seeing gas and bloating symptoms start to creep up in individuals who are midlife because of these factors.
Knowing the impact of today’s modern diet on enzyme and bacteria production in addition to the high usage of antibiotics, I’m also seeing lots of young people—too many young people—with gas and bloating in their late teens or early 20’s. And again, many of my pediatric GI and primary care doctor friends are saying there is a huge increase in the number of children experiencing gas and bloating on a regular basis.
Remember, this younger generation has grown up on a nutritionally-depleted, fast-food, and processed-food diet who get prescribed an antibiotic for every little thing that arises.
Now, these issues are taking root as gas and bloating because their bodies are not breaking down the food that is being consumed, the bacteria in their gut is extremely off balance, and their gut is leaking toxins and chemicals into their bloodstream.
#15 Why over-the-counter and prescription gas medicines are not the answer
There aren’t many great treatments available today to address gas and bloating. The main medicine offered is simethicone, and these names may sound familiar to you:
- Mylanta Gas
Many of these medicines are found over-the-counter and are so mundane they are given to infants.
Seventeen billion dollars per year is spent on over-the-counter digestive remedies such as these.
Relieving the gas in the stomach is only part of the equation, and the medicines offered to do this are only slapping a Band-Aid on the problem.
The gas is being produced for a reason. To resolve the gas and bloating, we must get to the core of why the gas is being produced in the first place – typically an enzyme or bacterial imbalance causing Leaky Gut Syndrome.
On a rare occasion, I even see a patient who comes to me who has been put on a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) for gas and bloating. PPIs are medicines like Prilosec, Omeprazole, and Nexium. Again, these medicines are so common that they can be purchased over-the-counter allowing patients to self-diagnose and treat.
A PPI is not going to solve the gas and bloating problem. In fact, many patients that go on a PPI because of acid reflux end up with a lot more gas and bloating than usual. The excessive gas and bloating occur because the PPI is cutting the amount of acid being made in their stomach to help break down their food.
Without enough stomach acid on board, the food moves further down the digestive tract only partially digested. Partially digested food ferments and putrefies causing not only gas and bloating, but can also cause constipation and diarrhea.
Without addressing the root cause of the gas and bloating (and simply taking gas-reducing medications or PPI’s), the issue still lurks unresolved within your body. An unhealthy imbalance and a leaky gut are occurring in the body that needs to be tended to.
#16 Getting to the root cause of constipation and diarrhea
There are some theories about how and why constipation and diarrhea occur.
One theory suggests that it’s caused by abnormal contractions of the colon and intestines (hence the term “spastic bowel,” which has sometimes been used to describe frequent constipation or diarrhea). Vigorous contractions of the intestines can cause severe cramps, providing the rationale for some of the treatments of constipation or diarrhea, such as antispasmodics and fiber (both of which help to regulate the contractions of the colon). However, abnormal contractions do not explain constipation and diarrhea in all patients, and it is unclear whether the contractions are a symptom or a cause of the symptom.
Some children begin suffering from constipation or diarrhea after a severe gastrointestinal infection (e.g., Salmonella or Campylobacter, or viruses). Usually, these types of infections throw off the bacteria balance in the gut, which can cause many digestive issues in addition to overall issues with one’s immune system.
Food intolerances are common with children who are experiencing constipation or diarrhea, raising the possibility that it is caused by food sensitivities or allergies. This theory has been difficult to prove, although it continues to be studied. The best way to detect an association between symptoms and food sensitivity is to eliminate certain food groups systematically (a process called an elimination diet). Eliminating foods without assistance can lead to omission of important sources of nutrition. Also, unnecessary dietary restrictions can further worsen a child’s quality of life.
Children who suffer from constipation and diarrhea are not digesting and eliminating their food properly due to a leaky gut. This over time can cause many other medical problems since digestion, absorption, assimilation, and elimination are so critical to the overall health of the body.
Also, diarrhea and constipation, can aggravate hemorrhoids or cause anal fissures.
But the biggest impact constipation and diarrhea have is one’s overall quality of life. The effects of these symptoms may cause one to feel they are not living life to the fullest, leading to discouragement or depression in the child as well as the parent.
#17 Why over-the-counter and prescription medications don’t work for constipation and diarrhea
Constipation and diarrhea are very difficult to treat in children. This is because the typical medicines used in adults for these issues have too many side effects. Many doctors feel using the prescribed medicines is more threatening to the child than the symptoms themselves.
I would also like to emphasize again that I find the more prescription medications a person is on, the sicker the body gets. Taking prescription medicines on an ongoing basis, in my opinion, is putting a Band-aid on the issue instead of fixing the issue.
Plus, many of these medicines have been known to cause even more digestive issues in addition to many other unpleasant side effects. For example, taking a diarrhea medicine only to become constipated and then taking a constipation medicine only to get diarrhea again. Medicines are toxins, and they cause the gut to leak even more. This is why no one has come out with a medicine for leaky gut, because taking medicine and having a leaky gut go hand in hand.
Treatment for constipation is typically over-the-counter aids such as Miralax, Milk of Magnesia, and Mineral Oil. One prescription that doctors will consider is Lactulose. Many doctors will also recommend increasing a child’s fiber intake. Having someone consume more fiber is a common suggestion for when they are experiencing constipation. Dietary fiber is the name given to the non-digestible carbohydrates in plants. In can be found in all plant foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds (most foods our kids don’t eat). Although fiber may work for some, it might not work for others. Mainly because if the digestive system is not working properly, it’s not going to digest fiber properly either, potentially causing more digestive issues than resolving them.
With diarrhea comes an extremely extensive workup. The point here is to try to get to the root cause so it can be treated properly. Even antispasmodic medicines have too many side effects and are not good for children, so doctors try as much as they can to pinpoint the problem and treat based on those results. For example, giving probiotics if the bacteria in the gut is off-balance. If the child is found to be stressed or have anxiety, doctors will work with parents to treat the stress or anxiety using non pharmacological therapies as much as possible before resorting to medicines.
#18 The overlooked natural solution to digestive issues: Helping your child heal their leaky gut…
Digestion is one of the most critical aspects of our health; it’s what feeds the body.
If your food is not broken down properly, many issues develop, including but not limited to:
Food that sits in the stomach too long causes an overproduction of acid, which causes reflux.
Food that sits in the stomach too long leads to putrefaction and fermentation, which then leads to symptoms such as indigestion, gas, bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, the sensation of being full all the time, etc.
Partially digested food moves into the small bowel causes malabsorption issues; this means that even if you’re eating the healthiest diet, your body is not benefiting from it. (This issue is also the culprit that causes leaky gut syndrome, resulting in various food allergies, anemia, along with a myriad of other problems.)
In addition to all of this, if you aren’t digesting your food well during that initial step of digestion, things probably won’t go well as the food is coming out the other end, causing constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating down low.
This basically summarizes every issue discussed in this paper.
None of us want to experience any of this – or have to witness our children going through it. Nor do we want to risk any of the long term effects that having digestive issues can have on their little bodies or their quality of life. When you seek out help, what are they usually given: medicine that only “cloaks” the problem. These medicines don’t give their body a chance to heal, and they can make them even sicker.
Too many children in this country are suffering from digestive issues. Too many children are taking prescription or non-prescription medications on a daily basis to relieve them of digestive issues. Even though the symptoms are resolved any child taking medicines on a regular basis needs to be fixed for good, not patched on a day-to-day basis. This strategy will lead to more health issues as the child grows up. I feel it’s my responsibility to educate parents and children alike about the real cause of their digestive issues.
The solution is not masking the problem by offering medicines that continue to promote unhealthy digestion resulting in malnourishment.
Taking dozens of supplements is also not the answer. That’s not how your body wants to get well.
The way to health is through clean eating while at the same time repairing the leaky gut so your child can start enjoying life again, without the black cloud of digestive issues following them around everywhere they go.
I’m pleased to tell you that there is another way. As we’ve talked about, in addition to a clean diet, we need to help your child repair and rebuild their gut. I’ve discovered that digestive wellness cannot be found at the bottom of yet another medicine bottle.
#19 What’s possible with the right help
Clean eating and repairing the leaky gut is always a little different for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Various factors interplay together to help your child form his or her healing process. These include, but are not limited to, their level of enzyme intake, the function of their immune system, their food intake, how often they take antibiotics, their level of hydration, their stress level, and the number of medicines they take.
None of these factors alone is a “magic bullet,” yet in tandem, they can transform your child’s digestive health for the better, absolutely naturally.
We work closely with you and your child to help them repair and rebuild their gut so they can become pain and symptom-free, and can come off medications with your doctor’s consent and supervision.
We also show you and your child how to maintain their newfound “healed gut” for the rest of their life, so digestion issues can never again steal their right to enjoy their life without worry, stress, and pain.
Our goal is to help your child escape the clutches of digestive issues for good and free them from the shackles of any other digestive issues you feel hold them back from living life to the fullest.
You need to know there is lots of hope if your child is suffering from digestive issues. You now know it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. If you’re ready to help them take back control of their health, I hope you will reach out to us.