Indigestion is a form of upset stomach. It usually happens when people eat too much, too fast or foods that aren’t agreeing with their body. Heartburn typically happens in connection with indigestion. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with someone’s heart. Heartburn is a burning sensation that moves from a person’s chest up into the neck and throat. This is caused by the stomach acid, which normally doesn’t cause a problem until it moves out of your stomach.
When someone has heartburn the stomach, acid splashes up out of the stomach and irritates the esophagus or the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. This is also referred to as acid indigestion and it usually leaves a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. One of the best ways that a parent can help their children deal with indigestion is to prevent it entirely.
1.) It is a good idea to avoid problem foods, and have your child eat smaller meals. Avoid giving them fatty, greasy foods as much as possible. Avoid giving chocolate or citrus fruits in excess. Make sure they eat slowly. Find ways to allow your children to relax and decrease their stress levels. Make sure they have time to digest their food, don’t give a large meal and then rush off to sports practice.
2.) However, if you child already has indigestion then a second way to help is provide them antacids. While these provide a rapid way to sooth indigestion, they are only effective for short periods and don’t have the ability to treat any damage to the esophagus. There is a liquid suspension form available for children. The acid floats on the liquid in the stomach after a meal and the alginate molecules in the medicine bond to increase the surface tension, which diminishes the reflux that occurs after a meal.
3.) A third option is to give them over-the-counter H2 receptor antagonist’s medicines, which suppress or reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces. These are different from antacids because they can prevent heartburn rather than relieve them. Examples of these are Zantac, Tagamet and Pepcid. They work by blocking the action of histamines on parietal cells in the stomach, decreasing acid production by these cells (1).
Proton Pump Inhibitors
4.) Proton pump inhibitors are a fourth option since they not only limit acid secretion in the stomach to help prevent indigestion, but can also help heal the esophagus (2). Examples of this class of medication are Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid and Pariet. By targeting the last biochemical step in stomach acid production, proton pump inhibitors reduce gastric acid secretion by up to 99%, and are the most potent inhibitors of acid secretion available today.
5.) There are also promotility agents that take effect in the esophagus and/or the stomach to help improve the motility of the food. However, there are significant side effects with these medications so you should discuss the use of them with your physician before giving them to your children. Reglan and Propulsid are two of these types. Propulsid was removed from the market in 2000 by the FDA and is no longer available.
These are five ways you can help a child with indigestion. However, you should remember that in an infant this condition is only temporary. In older children or those who continuously face indigestion then it may be a good idea to take them to see your physician rather than giving over-the-counter products. Your doctor can determine if there is another underlying condition and be able to give you the most accurate treatment plan for your child’s indigestion.
Photo of school children eating lunch by Anthea Sieveking , Wellcome Images
1. Katzung, Bertram G. (2004). Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, 9th ed. ISBN 0-07-141092-9
2. Cooper BT, Chapman W, Neumann CS, Gearty JC (2006). “Continuous treatment of Barrett’s oesophagus patients with proton pump inhibitors up to 13 years: observations on regression and cancer incidence”. Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 23 (6): 727-33. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2006.02825.x. PMID 16556174.