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Search Health Information    Obese Kids Suffer From GERD, Too
 Digestive Disorders Center Feature Story

Obese Kids Suffer From GERD, Too
Lifestyle changes may help ease youngsters' painful reflux disease

Obese Kids Suffer From GERD, Too(HealthDay News) -- Many adults are all-too-familiar with GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition in which the stomach contents back up into the esophagus.

But research now indicates that obese older children are also at significantly greater risk for the painful disorder.

"Although we know that childhood obesity, especially extreme obesity, comes with risks for serious health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, our study adds yet another condition to the list, which is GERD," Corinna Koebnick, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research and Evaluation in Pasadena and the study's lead author, told HealthDay.

GERD affects about 20 percent of the U.S. population and has previously been linked to obesity in adults, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The experts pointed out that research shows that GERD is common -- but often overlooked -- in children and teens because symptoms of the disease, such as coughing, laryngitis, wheezing, asthma or pneumonia, are commonly associated with respiratory illnesses. Reflux that continues past 1 year of age may be GERD, they noted.

Among the children at greatest risk for GERD: those 6 years or older and obese, according to the report, published in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity.

For that study, researchers analyzed more than 690,000 kids 2 to 19 years old who were members of the Kaiser Permanente health plan in Southern California. After taking race and ethnicity into account, the investigators found that 1.5 percent of boys and 1.8 percent of girls experienced GERD. Extremely obese children 6 years and older were 40 percent more likely to have GERD than normal-weight kids. The moderately obese children in that age group were up to 30 percent more likely to develop the condition, they found.

"Knowing that GERD is associated with obesity in children, pediatricians can counsel those children to report symptoms of GERD and make lifestyle changes that target not only obesity but target GERD," Koebnick said. Eating smaller, more frequent meals is one way to help reduce acid reflux, she noted.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery offers other steps that can be taken to help older children with GERD, including:

  • Lifestyle changes: Raise the head of the child's bed about 30 degrees. Avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime. Research also suggests losing weight or dressing in loose clothing may assist in alleviating GERD.
  • Dietary changes: Children with GERD should avoid chocolate, soda and other carbonated drinks, caffeine, peppermint, tomato products as well as other acidic foods like citrus fruits. Fried foods and spicy foods are also known to worsen reflux symptoms.
  • Medical treatment: Medications are available to treat GERD. They work by breaking down intestinal gas, neutralizing stomach acid, or improving intestinal coordination. In rare cases, surgery may be required.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also suggests that children sit upright in a chair after mealtime and read, do homework or do some other calm activity to give the digestive process time to work.

On the Web

To learn more about GERD in children and teens, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Corinna Koebnick, Ph.D., research scientist, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Pasadena, Calif.; July 9, 2010, International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, online; U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (digestive.niddk.nih.gov); American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery (www.entnet.org); American Academy of Pediatrics (www.healthychildren.org)

Author: Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Publication Date: July 31, 2011


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