I must admit I am a bit of a skeptic when it comes to many “herbal” remedies. I think that in many cases the “herbal” industry gouges many well-intentioned Americans during periods of anxiety with products that are essentially useless.
So with that in mind I reluctantly agreed to a trial of “Gripe Water” for our son. My wife read about it thoroughly on the internet and it is touted by many to be an effective remedy for colic and hiccups. While I am glad to report our son did not suffer from colic, he did suffer from recurrent and often prolonged bouts of hiccups. For most of the first 6-8 weeks he could care less about the hiccups. However, as he got a little older, the hiccups started interfering with his sleep and at times seemed to exacerbate his spitting-up. So we gave the Gripe Water a try.
To my surprise it worked almost instantly. Certain that it was a fluke, we tried again, and again instant cessation of the hiccups. We have been using it now for a few weeks and so far it has never failed us (or our son). So of course, I thought I should look into it a bit more. Something with this kind of success should have some sort of support in the medical literature – right? Turns out there isn’t much written information about it. What I could find comes mainly from Europe. Here is a link to a nice review if you want to learn the history for yourself.
Gripe Water has many things in it. Most of them I cannot pronounce and I certainly cannot spell them. The one ingredient that I did take note of though is fructose (sugar).
While it is hard to find much about the benefits of Gripe Water, there is lots of research that has shown the greatness of sugar water for relieving all kinds of problems in newborns. In fact there is even a medical product in the hospital called sweet-ease. This is nothing more than sugar and water and it is used to soothe babies that are being subjected to all kinds of painful procedures (IVs, circumcisions, etc.)
So with this in mind, and trying to put 2 and 2 together, I hypothesized that it was not the “gripe” in the water but actually the sugar in the water that was having such a profound therapeutic effect on my son’s hiccups. With my new hypothesis in mind I designed a little study of my own to test a homemade concoction of sugar water against the store bought Gripe Water. There are hundreds of different recipes but there is no magic to it. Just put some sugar in some water until it is sweet to the taste.
So the next time the hiccups came back, I tried my little homemade concoction. Not all that surprisingly, it worked instantly – just like the gripe water. Still curious, I did a little internet search and found that some people think that it is not the sugar in the water but the water itself (or rather the process of drinking the water). So of course I am going to try just plain ol’ water next time and see what happens – my guess is instant relief of hiccups.
Below are some reference if you want to do a little research for yourself.
This study in Archives of Disease in Childhood finds that indeed sucrose is helpful for kids that have colic.
This study was published way back in 1971. I cannot find anything other than the title online. However, it was published in the very prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, and as such probably a good study.