Cow’s milk colic and reflux


Sad face from Tummy-Pain Colic at the Clinic Dr-Rodney-Ford

Relief from colic has been observed in breast fed infants whose mothers have been put onto a diet free of both cow’s milk and dairy products. The baby’s colic was found to return when the mother began eating dairy products again. These initial studies were done a long time ago in 1978 by Jacobsson and Lindberg. These were “open” studies (mothers knew whether or not they were drinking cows’ milk) which showed that a third of colicky babies responded to their mothers going off dairy.

Colic is caused by cow’s milk in 1-in-4 babies

This work was subsequently strongly criticized, and so they repeated their research by doing “double blind” studies (they gave the mothers “disguised” drinks so that they did not know which days they were drinking cows’ milk). The mothers then observed the symptoms in their babies. By doing this more rigorous study, they confirmed their observations: that the colicky babies responded to dairy products. However, this time around they found that a quarter (25%: one in four) of colicky babies got better when their mother went on a dairy free diet.

Cow’s milk colic and reflux

Cow’s milk is a very common trigger for baby eczema. Cow’s milk is one of the first food proteins to which most children are exposed either in a formula or through the mother?s breast milk.

Children who are allergic to cow’s milk will often be allergic to other foods, especially eggs and peanuts. For those children who are allergic to cow’s milk, it is important to find them a safe alternative drink. There are a number of choices depending on the age of the child.

These colic symptoms are often caused by gastric reflux – GERD / GORD. This needs to be treated.

Cow’s Milk can cause a lot of problems

Almost any symptoms can be caused by milk. This is why milk allergy/ intolerance is so hard to pin down. It tends to be the last thing that your doctor will think about (instead of the first).

Cow’s milk allergy symptoms include:

  • Eczema
  • Other rashes
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Blood in stool
  • Gastric reflux
  • Runny nose
  • Asthma
  • Glue ear
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Behaviour disturbance

Gastric Reflux

This is a serious problem, causing distress to both child and parents, and often overlooked.

Gastrooesophageal reflux disease (GORD or GERD) occurs when the stomach contents (acid and enzymes, as well as food, and sometimes bile) regurgitate back into the oesophagus/ oesophagus. This can cause damage. When acid back-tracks up from the stomach to the oesophagus (gullet), it can burn the delicate lining of the skin, and at times cause an ulcer. This produces pain and distress. Babies can only show this pain by becoming very distressed and crying. Adults experience heartburn and chest pain as well as indigestion.

Why get reflux? It is thought that the reasons why some babies get reflux include:

  • They have less efficient motility of their oesophagus or stomach.
  • The lower oesophageal sphincter (at the far end of the oesophagus) is immature and does not close properly to stop this acid regurgitation.
  • They produce lots of acid which will overwhelm their protective mechanisms.
  • They become intolerant to foods (especially cow’s milk and gluten) and the adverse reactions result in reflux.
  • As time goes by, as these infants become more mature, and the reflux usually goes away.

The eClinic can help you a lot more to work this out. I treat a lot of miserable babies who have reflux provoked by dairy and gluten.

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