Childhood Obesity and Reflux
First Lady Michelle Obama recently launched the Let’s Move campaign to increase awareness of childhood obesity. The statistics are sobering. Childhood obesity affects millions of children in the United States and it is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 17% of children ages 2-19 are obese. Childhood obesity is linked to adult obesity as well as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
Surprisingly, there is also a link between childhood obesity and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). The added weight puts pressure on the lungs and digestive system causing a worsening of reflux symptoms. Weight loss greatly improves overall health and as an added bonus, decreases reflux symptoms too.
Is My Child Overweight or Obese?
How do you know if your child is overweight or obese? During well baby and well child check ups, the doctor will measure height and weight. Using a growth chart, the doctor can compare your child’s weight to the average for other children of the same age. You may have heard of the BMI or Body Mass Index. The BMI refers to the comparison of weight to height and the age of the child. A high BMI is related to obesity. Be sure to ask the doctor if your child is overweight or obese. The doctor can tell you more about the BMI for your child and what it means.
The Obesity/GERD Connection
Many children with GERD are underweight or struggle to maintain their weight. I used to worry endlessly about weight gain and not weight loss with my children with reflux. So it is a bit surprising that a child who is overweight or obese can have reflux too. Sometimes GERD can have the opposite effect and cause constant nibbling and snacking. Frequent eating and drinking will temporarily push the acid back down and soothe a sore, red throat from acid exposure. Over time, this pattern of eating may lead to weight gain and a worsening of the reflux symptoms.
If your child is overweight or obese and also has GERD, you will need to work with the pediatrician to decrease the pace of weight gain and treat the reflux symptoms. Prevention of obesity is vital so my next Sharepost will address ways to prevent weight gain that places a child at risk for obesity.