Identifying Rumination Disorder in Children

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When you see a child eating a food, but the food regurgitates or backs up into the mouth after swallowing, that child may be suffering from a rumination disorder. The process in which the food passes up to the mouth from the stomach is called regurgitation and the child will either re-chew the food or spit it out. This condition is common among three month-old babies who have had normal digestion, but it may also occur among teenagers and adults in rare situations. In order to diagnose a rumination disorder, the symptoms of regurgitation must be present for more than a month.

What are the Risk Factors of Rumination Disorder

The exact cause of rumination disorder in children is unknown, but there are a number of factors that may influence the development of the disorder.

Are you regurgitating food when you are eating?
  • Physical illness or severe stress that may trigger the behavior of the child.
  • The abnormal relationship between the mother (or primary caregiver) and the child gives an uncomfortable environment that leads the child to resort in self comfort habits by chewing.
  • The child may be acting to gain attention from the parent or primary caregivers.

Symptoms of Rumination Disorder

In order to fit the definition of rumination disorder, the symptoms should be present for at least a month or so.

  • Repeated regurgitation of food
  • Repeated re-chewing of food
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath and tooth decay
  • Repeated stomach aches and indigestion
  • Raw and chapped lip

In some infants, unusual behavior may be observed, which includes straining and arching the back, holding the head back, tightening the abdominal muscles, and sucking movements with the mouth. These are some indications that the infant tries to bring back up the swallowed and partially digested food into the mouth.

When to Seek Help

Taking your child to a doctor will help you properly diagnose whether the child is manifesting an eating disorder that you should be concerned about. The repeated regurgitation of food from the stomach and re-chewing can lead to some potential health conditions like malnutrition and a weakened immune system. A basic knowledge of first aid, especially when the child suffers from indigestion and stomach upset can help provide relief to the child. In certain circumstances, a health care provider will perform clinical tests like abdominal x-ray, upper endoscopy and an assessment on the stomach emptying to ensure the absence of other underlying disease.


International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder. Rumination Syndrome in Children and Adolescents. Retrieved June 18, 2014

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