Digestion is a biological process by which the complex molecules of food substances are broken down into simple ones so that valuable nutrients present in them can readily get absorbed into the body. As long as the digestive system is functioning normally, your child is healthy. Any abnormality in its functioning can lead to some minor or major digestive problems in young ones. Children are prone to them mainly because their overall digestive system is not yet developed completely.
To find the correct remedy or treatment for a particular digestive problem, it is important to learn about its causes. The problems are usually triggered by wrong foods, wrong eating habits, infection, exposure to toxins, etc.
Digestive Problems in Older Children
Constipation: In this condition, children have infrequent bowel movements. Its symptoms are hard stools, which are difficult to pass. Stool withholding, lack of fiber in diet, and side effects of medicines are the most common causes of constipation. Constipation in children can be relieved and regular bowel movements can be restored by including lots of fibre-rich foods in their diet.
Diarrhoea: Diarrhoea in children is mostly triggered by bacterial or viral infection. It can be a symptom of an undetected disease of the digestive system. It is identified with watery stools occurring 3 or more times a day, abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, and dehydration. Diarrhoea can be acute or chronic. In acute cases, these symptoms last for one or two days. On the other hand, chronic diarrhoea is more serious and persists for several days. In this condition, the treatment involves replenishment of lost fluids with the help of rehydrating solution and avoiding all such foods that cause stomach irritation.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): This can be described as abnormal functioning of the bowel. Due to this abnormality, the intestines fail to contract properly to promote bowel movements. As a result, one gets diarrhoea and constipation alternately. Irritable bowel syndrome makes the intestines highly sensitive towards gas and causes abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, etc. Irritable bowel syndrome in children cannot be cured completely, but its symptoms can be treated with the help of suitable medicines and dietary changes.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): This is a condition in which the stomach acids flow back into the oesophagus and cause a lot of irritation in that area. A small amount of these acids released into the oesophagus is a common occurrence in both, adults and children, and does not cause any harm. However, when a large amount of acids flow back into the oesophagus, its lining gets damaged and causes a lot of discomfort. Heartburn, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing food, wheezing, etc., are some of the commonly observed symptoms of acid reflux disease. The treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. Sometimes, following a GERD diet can bring about improvement in the condition and in other cases medicines are needed to control acid production in the stomach.
Digestive Problems in Infants
Colic, food allergies, lactose intolerance, and acid reflux are the problems found in infants. Colic is found in babies, who are less than 3 months old. This happens mainly in those babies, who are more sensitive towards intestinal gas. In this condition, the baby cries continuously for several hours of the day, especially in the evening. The symptoms that you notice while the baby is crying are swollen abdomen, tensed legs that are drawn towards the body, and the hands clenched. Even the face of the baby turns red if he/she is suffering from any of the above problems. Infant acid reflux mainly occurs when the baby drinks too much of milk or drinks it faster. Sometimes, excessive crying or coughing can also cause back flow of acids from the stomach into the oesophagus. It can be identified with frequent spitting out, vomiting, lack of appetite, irritability, etc. These problems can be tackled by bringing about changes in feeding techniques and overall eating habits of the baby.
Some infants do not have enough lactase (a digestive system enzyme), which breaks down the lactose present in milk and dairy products. As a result, they suffer from nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain every time they consume dairy products. Some infants are allergic to certain foods. It can be milk, soy products, peanuts, etc. If they are exposed to these foods, their body responds to them abnormally, which, in turn, causes diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. Food allergies and food intolerance are two such problems, which continue to occur throughout the life and one has to avoid the food that causes the allergy or intolerance.
As you can see most of the digestive problems occurring in children can be controlled with the help of suitable diet and medicines. However, do not try any home remedies for these problems without consulting your paediatrician.