Why does reflux happen?

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Experts are constantly researching and revising the reasons why reflux, GOR and GORD, occurs so readily in infants.

Prematurity. Premature babies are more likely to have reflux episodes in their early days because their digestive systems are not mature and the signals from the brain that control digestion aren’t regulated.

Constipation. Constipation can slow digestion and prevent food from leaving the stomach at a normal rate, thus creating a backlog of foods and fluids which can back-wash.

Immature Neurological System. A baby’s immature brain forgets to keep signaling to the Oesophageal structures, which relax for no particular reason. Doctors call these Transient Lower Oesophageal Relaxations (TLOSRs).

Allergies and Intolerances. Food allergies can cause the stomach to reject food, cause vomiting and irritation to the Oesophagus and stomach lining. Small ulcers and irregularities can occur, cause a baby to have reflux symptoms and discomfort.

Lower Oesophageal Sphincter (LOS) Relaxation. Under normal conditions, the sphincter relaxes to let out a burp or let in a swallow of food. During a reflux episode, the sphincter relaxes too much and allows food and fluids to escape from the stomach into the Oesophagus.

Delayed Stomach Emptying. If the stomach isn’t contracting efficiently, food may remain in the stomach without moving into the intestines. Stomachs have electrical contractions just like the heart and some babies and children just have poor rhythms.

During the first year of a baby’s life, their digestive system and neurological responses gradually improve and their chance of having reflux decreases.

Reflux in babies is very common so don’t worry. If it is a concern then visit your GP and have a chat; in the meantime try and keep your baby upright as much as possible whilst feeding, playing and sleeping and monitor feed levels, keeping a little and often approach in mind to help keep the volumes of sick down to a minimum.

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About Author

Jonathan

As well as being one of the founding members of refluxSUPPORT...Jonathan is a Board Member and trustee of Living with Reflux – the only UK Charity for infants with reflux related conditions.He is also a stakeholder in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – Gastro-oesophageal reflux in children and young people.He has three daughters of which the eldest is now seventeen. Two suffered from severe reflux.