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It’s Time to Worry If Your Child Has Heartburn

It’s Time to Worry If Your Child Has Heartburn
January 26, 2011 Patrick Nemechek, D.O.

Are You Poisoning Your Children?

Believe it or not, if your child has heartburn it’s because they are slowly being poisoned by the excessive amounts of carbohydrates in their diet.

Their excessive carbohydrate intake is toxic to their nervous system and is directly responsible for increasing incidence of heartburn, fatigue, headaches, abdominal pain and frequent urination.

Heartburn, the Most Obvious but Not the Only Symptom

I see kids almost every week who are experiencing the symptoms of heartburn.  This is not a harmless condition but a harbinger of illness yet to come.  And kids with heartburn often experience other signs of carbohydrate neurotoxicity as well.

Many have to urinate frequently, a sign of poor neurological control of bladder emptying.  They may experience headaches, poor concentration, and fatigue while sitting in class, a sign of poor blood flow regulation to the brain.

Watch Dr. N’s CoffeeTalk on Heartburn

Parents are often surprised when I get their children to admit to a variety of other symptoms once I hear about their heartburn.  Kids don’t complain much and just seem to suffer through it.

Damaged Nervous System Functioning

From a broader perspective, heartburn is a warning signal that your child’s nervous system is not functioning correctly.  Yes, heartburn is actually a neurological problem.

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Excess acid collects in the stomach, not because of excess acid production but because the stomach isn’t emptying as well as it should.  Couple this with poor closure of the valve between the stomach and the esophagus and you end up with stomach acid splashing up into the esophagus.  It’s this combination of neurological problems that leads to heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Both of these problems are controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS).  The ANS is a primitive part of the brain that controls all bodily organ function.  It controls peristalsis that pushes food through the intestinal tract.  It coordinates the muscles and valves of the bladder so we can empty the bladder efficiently.  It even controls blood pressure regulation, sweating, pupil dilation and constriction, saliva production and erections.

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that carbohydrates are having a toxic effect on the ANS and is the cause of such common problems as heartburn, constipation, frequent urination, chronic fatigue and lightheadedness.

Recovery is Possible

Fortunately, a reduction in carbohydrates can result in complete reversal of many of these problems.   Simply cutting out all the soda and juices in a child’s diet can result in nearly complete reversal of these symptoms within just a few weeks.

If they are having heartburn don’t drink any soda or juice, find out what they drink at or after school (might be sodas there), and start cutting back on the bread, pasta or potatoes in their diet.

The bottom line is you have to cut back on the carbohydrates or their symptoms won’t go away.

Childhood Heartburn, A Warning Sign for Your Child’s Future Health

It goes without saying that no one wants their child to have heartburn.  But I believe the most important aspect of this problem is that a child with heartburn is a child that is progressing towards more serious illnesses in early adulthood.

High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, polycystic ovarian disease, gout, obesity, sleep apnea and all triggered by excessive carbohydrates consumption.  These are all illnesses associated with insulin resistance; a disorder known to be triggered by excess carbohydrate consumption.  Coincidentally, these conditions are becoming increasingly more common in young adults.

Your child’s lifelong eating habits and taste preferences are formed when they are young.  If your child has heartburn, they are on the fast track to develop these other illnesses as well.

It is imperative you change their eating habits by controlling the foods that come into the house, their choices when eating out and the foods they eat at school.  You must take charge because no one else is looking out for them.

It’s not too late to change their future.  Start today by pledging not to bring any more soda, juices, chips, cookies, fruit rollups, donuts or ice cream into the house.  These should be foods that are eaten only infrequently.  Save them for the rare celebration.

Your kids don’t NEED these foods.  Sure they will gripe and complain.  But in time, they will adapt and in the process, you will literally save their life in adulthood.

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  1. Courtney Stevens 7 years ago

    I enjoyed this article, thank you for it. My daughter age 10 has heartburn. She is about 10 pounds underweight, and eats a sandwich for lunch–the only carbs she has during the day would be at night when we have potatoes or rice. We make everything from scratch at our house. If she eats carbohydrates from the store (like store-bought bread) then her ears ring and she gets a headache.
    I think there may be a little more to children’s heartburn than eliminating carbs. I think we might need to go further in introducing more roughage to their diet, since I have found she only has problems when she has eaten no veggies so far that day. (fruit helps, but not enough.) I appreciate your article, well informed.

  2. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 7 years ago

    Courtney, I believe vegetable intake is important but have found through experience that the reduction of all carbohydrates is essential for the reversal of these neurological problems. It just might be that on the days when your daughter is eating more vegetables, these vegetables are replacing carbohydrates she would of otherwise consumed.


  3. Kris Rutkowski 5 years ago

    Wow, very interesting information. My daughter recently began having reflux feelings, squeezing of her throat, burning and some itching in her throat, which I am guessing is all heartburn. She is just at the border on the growth chart of normal/overweight and really lives on carbs as she is so picky. She also had an intracranial hemorrhage when she was younger, so she already has a neurologic history. We have tried Prilosec and so far no help. Her symptoms are mainly at night, but she is still going to school fine and doing her Karate 4 days a week without complaints. I will work on eliminating carbs and trying to find substitutes that she will actually eat as well as getting rid of the occasional soda. She does not drink juice, it gives her reflux. Thank you so much for this article, very good information.

  4. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 5 years ago


    She may also have developed SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) from autonomic dysfunction due to the hemorrhage.

    SIBO can be rebalanced with a very special fiber called Inulin. A little everyday in kids can greatly improve intestinal motility.

    Good luck


  5. Paul B. 5 years ago

    My 5 year old daughter has recently been complaining about “spicy juice” that comes up into her throat, sometimes accompanied with a burp. Also we’ve noticed that she’s been constipated quite frequently lately as well. After reading this I believe that I may be getting closer to the explanation as to what is happening. I too suffer from very bad acid reflux. It affects me about once a month really badly. Our 12 yr. old daughter has diabetes as well. I’m beginning to wonder if any of this could be related in any way perhaps within their genetics? I suppose a visit to her doctor is in order. Thank you.

  6. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 5 years ago

    Many young children are suffering from an intestinal condition called SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). This imbalance of intestinal bacteria alters how the brain functions and commonly leads to children with reflux (i.e., GERD, heartburn), constipation, particular food intolerance, post-meal stool urgency, headaches, urinary frequency and urinary tract infections.

    I often suggest parents try supplementing their diet with a small amount of a prebiotic fiber called Inulin. Its a natural plant fiber that helps balance intestinal bacteria. I find it is much more effective than probiotics. Symptoms often greatly improve within only a few days.


  7. MDhillon 2 years ago

    Hi there , my 5 yr old has been complaining of wet burps frequently throughout the day for several months now,this went away for about 3 wks in September but then returned. I am puzzled as to why and what the cause could be.He has a pretty well balanced diet and never had any issues from birth til 4 yrs. He doesn’t have constipation ,only had heartburn once or twice over the past year. Any suggestions ?

  8. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 2 years ago

    Try what I suggest for children with Autism in my more recent post.

    Dr. N

  9. Jennifer 2 years ago

    Is the Inulin just the plain one in the orange bottle?

  10. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 2 years ago

    There are many manufacturers of inulin. Inulin is a very common natural fiber found in many different plants. I advise patients to supplement with a product that is pure inulin and doesn’t contain any extra ingredients such as probiotic bacteria, or herbs.

  11. nicola cohen 2 years ago

    one of my 7yr old twins has heartburn, you mentioned a Damaged Nervous System Functioning, could this lead to motor ticks which she has she has had them now on and off for the past year.

  12. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 2 years ago

    Yes it can but bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) alone can do it indirectly. Supplementing with inulin fiber can greatly help. Many of my parents give their kids 2 Fiber Choice gummies once or twice a day. It contains all natural inulin and often helps a great deal. I recommend sticking with this brand, and they are generally easy to find in the local store or pharmacy.

    Dr. N

  13. Elise Bower 2 years ago

    I remember all the way back in elementary school (I’m in high school now) that there was a boy in my class named Gavin. I sat by him in class and, because I was an observant child, noticed a sudden look of shock that would occur with him ever so often. He had no disabilities, but he never ate lunch, every day, because he claimed that it made his stomach feel “weird.” He’d suddenly stand up ever so often, breathing heavily and looking away. Finally, one day, I asked him what was wrong.

    “Elise, I have heartburn,” he said. Being a curious person, I looked it up that night, and the next day I brought my research paper to school.

    “Gavin. I think you might have a disease,” I said, handing him the paper. He looked at it and put it in his folder. He moved away that summer. I still wonder what happened to him.

  14. Patty 2 years ago

    Hi Dr. N – I saw a comment from you posted Jan 27, 2016 2:51 pm about autism and heartburn – where can I find that post? This heart burn article was a good read – helps me to understand why my son has developed all these new health issues since being given to his abuser in 2014. Thank you.

  15. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 2 years ago

    Look down the list of posts on this site. Autism article was in December 2015

  16. Anonymous 1 year ago

    My son gets it after he eats spicy food.

  17. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

    He most likely has SIBO. Inulin fiber often helps my young patients with SIBO

  18. Zoe 1 year ago

    Hi. I really need your help. I’m fourteen and for about three days I have had upper left or center abdmonial pain. It has a stabbing sensation and then it goes away and then comes back. Also, i’ve realized I might have heartburn. The left part of my chest also has a stabbing sensation that comes and goes. I’m really concerned about this but my parents won’t let me go to the doctor. My BMI is 25 so I think I’m overweight. Is this a cause? Also, I’v tried to lose weight(exercise, eat less) for the past week. However I started to eat more, sleep less and exercise less and then the symptoms started.

  19. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

    Zoe, I understand you want to feel better but it’s not appropriate for me to comment in any particular until you are evaluated by a doctor.

    I’d try to get your diet and exercising back on track, and if your symptoms worsen or don’t go away, mention it to your parents again.

    Dr. N

  20. Olivia 1 year ago

    Im only 12 and i get heartburn at night i have water and pop(just Orange)i have bad memory, sleeping disorder, and absent minded. One question is the bad memory,sleeping disorder,and absent minded bad for a 12 year old? If it is should i tell my mom?

  21. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

    Olivia, I think it’s important you share this with your mother.

    Dr. N

  22. Diana 1 year ago

    My daughter is 2 years old, and I believe she’s had heart burn since she was a baby. She wakes up several times at times at night crying, and I can feel/see she has wet burps. We took her to a stomach specialist who told us she was fine and it was a behavioral issue. We have tried changing her diet, including replacing milk with non-dairy alternatives. I am in the process of taking her to a different pediatrician, but would love to hear your thoughts.

  23. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

    More and more kids as adults are being affected by bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine.

    I often recommend a prebiotic fiber called inulin. One can find it is a soft gummy called Fiber Choice – available at many pharmacy’s and markets.

    Dr. N

  24. Nikita 1 year ago

    I there, I’m 24 and have been experiencing acid reflux, heart burn and severe constipation since i was a toddler, it wasn’t until the past year and a half that things have gotten a lot worse. I’m having constant upper middle abdominal pain, as well as issues with digestion, usually painfully bloated even after small meals (sometimes will throw-up after) and all the way down i can feel the pressure and pain also have very yellow stool and am usually slightly constipated. I have been in and out of the hospital a few times with little diagnostic success, blanket IBS diagnosis was given. Im vegetarian, have tried increasing fiber and protein intake, eliminated gluten dairy yeast barley corn and caffeine! Is there any recommendations you have?

  25. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

    IBS is basically parasympathetic dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system combined with SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth).

    You need to try stabilizing your gut bacteria with inulin fiber, and improve autonomic function by making sure you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids of the EPA and DHA variety. Caution to all vegans: the omega-3 ALA from nuts and flax will not convert adequately into DHA, and you will not recovery autonomic function.

    Good luck – Dr. N

  26. Maree Jones 1 year ago

    Hi, my son is 4 and 1/2 years and has had GERD since a newborn baby. He was born 6 weeks prematurely by emergency C-section, with no other complications other than the GERD. He was on omeprazole for the first year of life, and since has been on it and off it. It does help his appetite but I believe he suffers a lot of side effects from it. I’m currently weaning him off it. He has had an endoscopy and there was no physical reason causing the heartburn. I find this article fascinating as we live in New Zealand and have been to specialists etc, feeling like we have tried everything. He has food intolerance which adds to it, but is hard to know what food actually upsets him, as he seems to be always uncomfortable after eating. He is gluten and dairy free on advice from the specialist, and takes daily probiotic. I am keen to reduce the carb intake as his safe foods he loves are gluten free bread, cereals and crackers and somedays that is all he wants. He also seems to urinate a lot. How much in a child do you recommend to reduce the carb intake? I am just a bit worried as he has food aversion to many foods so eating is sometimes a challenge. And how much inulin powder a day?
    Many thanks.

  27. Steve 1 year ago

    A few years ago around the time that my daughter had roughly 9 antibiotocs in a 14 month period due ear infections ..we then had her get tubes.she started to get bad acid reflux..she did have it as a baby but grew out of it. I had her take colic calm instead of prevacid. It worked. We took her to a gastro dr after her taking prevavid which didnt work. During the time we waited for the apppintment i gave her prunes with every meal. I noticed that she didnt get reflux unless she ate something greasy or drank too much water. The more natural the food the better it was. I told the doc about this when we had our appointment and he said that she had ibs/acid reflux. He put her on a diet for three months and when she had fiber with her meal she was good…if not look out. He released us stating to stick to the diet. Its been two years and when she gets a bad stomach ache i gave her aloe or colic calm amd she is ok. We do use abput a half of tums a day total. I do gove her a probiotic a day but i just think its hard to rebuild your bacteria once you kill it all off. What do you think is going on? I just was never like this as a kid no matter what i ate. Carbs are different i think.

  28. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

    It is almost impossible o rebuild the gut bacteria if critical species have been eliminated. Hopefully she was just knocked off balance enough to trigger SIBO by the antibiotics.

    I use a prebiotic fiber called inulin fiber to help rebalance my young patients. See my past posts on SIBO and autism

  29. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

    About a 1/4-1/2 tsp of inulin powder per day is recommended, and has helped a lot of my young patients with heartburn, reflux and food intolerance.

  30. Steve 1 year ago

    What is your opinion that inulin will allow bad bacteria to grow also?

  31. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

    It’s generally only metabolized by the predominant variety of bacteria that normally resides within the small intestine.

  32. Dee 1 year ago

    My 11 year old daughter has been suffering chest pain and also she has mentioned that her stomach has been acting weird she also has been getting headaches. Could that be heart burn and if it is should I take her too see the docter

  33. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

    Yes it may be. Have her seen by a gastroenterologist.

    Some of my young patients have their heartburn go away after supplementing with the prebiotic powder inulin.

  34. elaine 1 year ago

    My teenager daughter has been suffering from nausea, heartburn symptoms, bad breath wind, urine urgency, and diarrhea for the past year , Had all bloods done all ok. Was on Nexium for a while, it did help. Her doctor decided to treat her for the hyplori bacteria even though he reckoned she didn’t have it, but was very nauseous on the meds so discontinued after one day, Decided to have the breath test 13c done .It came back negative. Now I am wondering should she be tested for SBIO.
    Many Thanks

  35. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

    Breath tests for SIBO can be negative. I often use inulin fiber in my pediatric patients to try to control bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. About 1/2-1 tsp per day is what I recommend.

  36. Ava 8 months ago

    Hi, I am 12 years old and have had nagging symptoms like the ones on here. I have had heartburn, burning in my abdomen, and I have had anxiety ever since I was little. I excercise almost everyday but I don’t eat that well. I have a lot of carbohydrates. Also, could my anxiety be a part of this too. I’ve told my parents and we went to the doctor. I have acid reflux. I’ve been doing everything the doctor said and I still get it at night. Any help?

  37. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 8 months ago

    I suggest reading my articles on gut bacteria and SIBO

  38. Lynda 8 months ago

    Hi, my 11 year old daughter has suddenly started getting acid in her throat and is becoming extremely anxious about it. She only drinks water. She has been eating biscuits quite a lot before this started. She is extremely thin and worryingly because of the acid hurting her throat and her phobia of being sick she is eating very little. I did wonder if she was dairy and gluten intolerant so have replaced her normal cereal with gluten free and almond milk. She had this for breakfast then 2 slices of turkey and a few rice cakes. That is all she has eaten today as she says her tummy hurts and she feels funny. Then when she goes to bed even though she is propped up she starts crying as acid is coming up in her throat and burning her. She has seen the doctor twice but they put it down to anxiety. I feel she may be on the autistic spectrum as her sister who is 13 years older was diagnosed at university with high functioning autism and she recognises the same traits in her sister.

  39. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 8 months ago

    You might want to read our post on autism.

  40. Nicole Yard 8 months ago

    Hi. My son is almost 7 years old and has had acid reflux since he was an infant. He even had an endoscopy done at 3 months old. Was told it was fine, he just had reflux and would hopefully outgrow it someday. Well, he hasn’t. He has bad bouts of it that flare up and cause him to have what he calls “water come up in his throat.” He also is constantly congested and/or has runny nose. He also gets the stomach aches at times also. I really do not want to put him on acid medication. He was on it as a baby, but I never really saw where it made much difference in him and I stopped it before he was a year old. He had his tonsils and adenoids out when he was 5, but still continues with the reflux and nasal/sinus symptoms. He’s been a very picky eater all his life and is on the low end of the growth chart for his age. I really am thinking this could be carb related as he tends to want to eat those. Do you think he might benefit from trying the inulin in the Fiber Choice gummies and possibly even the Nordic Natural omega-3 supplements? I would really like to get to the bottom of his acid reflux problems once and for all as I don’t believe putting him on acid reducers or PPI’s is the answer. Thank you.

  41. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 8 months ago

    I have found that inulin followed by omega-3 helps reverse a large number of kids with not only heartburn, but cramping, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea as well.

  42. Amber 6 months ago

    My daughter is 10 and for awhile now while we’re eating, she will beat on her chest and say it’s burning. She’s a tiny thing (only 50lbs) she complains of stomach pains ALOT and doesn’t go to the bathroom more then normal. I’ve always told her, her stomach hurts bc she needs to go to the bathroom, or she needs to eat more. After last nights episode I thought I’d look into what could be going on with her. I’m wondering if this is could be what it is.

  43. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 6 months ago

    Absolutely. She is very likely having reflux. Try the inulin and if this doesn’t work make sure she gets checked out by a physician.

  44. Pina 2 months ago

    Hello – what an interesting article.
    My 12 year old daughter has been having tummy problems for a number of years now. She is an anxious easily angered child who just never stops talking. She complains about tummy pain above her belly button; burning in her throat and tummy(doctor claims acid reflux) and feels like she always has to vomit. She is constantly constipated and we just recently found out she has a dairy abd allergy. Would the above recommendations be well suited for her to try as well. Our doctor also believes she has ibs.

  45. Author
    Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 2 months ago

    Sounds like she might be a good candidate to give it a try.

    Run it by your doctor if you have any concerns.

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