It is every parent’s nightmare to have a child who is not feeling well. Doctors are often bound by limited nutrition training and minimal time to spend ruling out the etiology of symptoms, thus drugs are generally the only treatment option given to parents. Having worked as a family doctor in the US, I appreciate prescription drugs for certain conditions, but when it comes to putting children on long term medications, I am always very hesitant.
18 month old Sarah was a great kid, happy and full of life, but she had been suffering from abdominal pain and constipation the majority of her life. Her mom, Nancy, reported that she would cry, squatting in the corner to try to have a bowel movement and often push her hands into her stomach and grunt after eating, indicating she was in pain. Nancy had taken her to their family doctor, who quickly prescribed Ranitidine (commonly known as Zantac or an ‘acid-blocker’) and sent them on their way. Sarah did get better on the drug and so was instructed that this would be her new long term daily medicine. Nancy was concerned about the long term side effects of the medicine so she brought Sarah to my office to see if there were any natural options for her.
Ranitidine is a drug which works by reducing histamine’s effect on the stomach thereby reducing stomach acid. In my opinion, the fact that this drug works has nothing to do with stomach acid and everything to do with histamine. Histamine is released in our body in response to an allergic trigger. I explained to Nancy that we needed to find the cause of Sarah’s gastro-intestinal concerns and not just mask the symptoms. Gastro-intestinal symptoms almost always have a food sensitivity component, so we started Sarah’s treatment plan by removing the highly allergic foods one at a time as well as giving her some probiotics for general GI support. Fortunately children’s body’s react quickly and it is generally easy to tell if a food is causing a problem within a week of removing it. After a few trial and errors with foods, we finally discovered Sarah was allergic to soy. Once we removed all soy from her diet (including in her formula) her bowel movements were soft and regular, she was no longer grunting and straining, and she was finally out of pain. Within a few days we started weaning her off her ranitidine, which she no longer needed with the soy out of her diet. She continues to be symptom free and only comes in as needed for other concerns.
Gastro-intestinal (GI) concerns are one of the most common medical complaints currently. There are several theories as to why GI symptoms are so common including; over-use of pesticides and herbicides, genetic modification of foods, recurrent exposure due to some ingredients being found in almost all food.