Naturopathic Medicine and Children's Health
Naturopathic medicine can play a helpful role in your child’s health. Some of the factors that profoundly impact health begin at an early age, such as the habits we develop, the food we eat, and the environment we grow up in. Parents can include a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) on their child’s health care team to ensure that health promotion and wellness are part of their child’s road map to a successful future.
ND’s in licensed states can provide routine well child examinations, which are comprehensive examinations and possibly other testing to assess a child’s growth and development milestones. Routine history and physical examinations would comprise a typical routine well child examination. After the examination, the ND would make recommendations regarding diet, exercise, environment, and other factors that may influence your child’s health. Some children require physical examinations in order to participate in sports and other school programs, and ND’s can perform these examinations as well.
Many children suffer from allergies, which can cause many problems including skin rashes, intestinal problems, asthma, fatigue, and possibly behavioral problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A typical visit to an ND would include a comprehensive evaluation of potential environmental as well as food allergies for these kinds of conditions. Other factors, such as toxins the child may be exposed to, would also be evaluated. A comprehensive treatment approach utilizing therapies such as diet, nutritional supplements, plant medicines, and homeopathy can often dramatically improve these problems.
Eczema is a very common condition of children, and one that can be addressed very successfully with naturopathic medicine. Very often, food sensitivities are a major contributing factor in eczema. An ND will carefully evaluate a child for food sensitivities, and if any are detected, place the child on a restricted diet to eliminate the offending foods. Appropriate substitute foods will be recommended to assure adequate nutrition for the child. Nutritional supplementation may be recommended to support skin health, such as zinc, essential fatty acids, and B vitamins. Other supplements may be recommended to reduce inflammation, such as turmeric, quercitin, vitamin C, and others. Finally, topical creams or ointments may be suggested to reduce itching and promote skin healing.
Earaches are a very common condition in children. Most earaches are caused by viruses. Some earaches are caused by bacteria. Sometimes, fluid can accumulate in the ear without any infection. Fluid build-up in the ear can predispose a child to earaches. Untreated earaches can become chronic problems and even result in hearing loss. An ND will likely approach the problem of recurrent earaches in a child by trying to identify the cause of the fluid build-up. This could be due to diet, food sensitivities, or environmental factors such as smoke, pets, mold, dust, etc. Removing the contributing factors alone may take care of the problem. In a child with an acute earache, the ND will likely prescribe nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic medicine to stimulate an immune response, reduce fluid build-up, reduce pain, and provide anti-microbial activity. Commonly used herbs are echinacea, goldenseal, and licorice root. Commonly used vitamins are vitamin C and vitamin A. Minerals that might be used include zinc.
Colds and Flu
Colds and flu are also very common in kids. Typically these conditions are self limited and will resolve on their own with or without treatment; however, naturopathic therapies may help resolve the symptoms more quickly. These conditions are caused by viruses, and antibiotics are of no use in treating them. An ND will likely treat colds and flu by providing herbs and vitamins that stimulate an immune response to accelerate the body’s healing time. Commonly used products are echinacea, goldenseal, licorice, elderberry, vitamin C, and zinc. Within safe parameters, an ND will support and even promote a fever response, as a fever is the body’s way to increase the activity of its immune system, and decrease the replication time of viruses. Other treatments may be used to manage the symptoms of cough and achy muscles, such as herbal cough medicine, homeopathic medicine, and Epsom salt baths.
Hyperactivity in children can be a very frustrating problem. There is no known cause, and conventional treatment with drugs such as Ritalin can cause unwanted side effects. Naturopathic medicine may be helpful for children with hyperactivity disorders. An ND will evaluate many factors, such as diet, the home and school physical environment, and mental and emotional factors. Food sensitivities will commonly be identified, and the child will be asked to eliminate those foods from their diet. Food additives may also play a role in hyperactivity, and foods containing additives will also be eliminated. Vitamin, mineral, and other nutritional supplements such as fish oil may be prescribed on an individual basis. Counseling for the child and their parents may also be helpful, and Naturopathic Doctors will work with counselors to help address any mental and emotional factors that are contributing to the problem.
Asthma is a very serious and common condition of children. Once again, the cause is unknown. It is important that any child with asthma be evaluated by an expert in this disease. Usually, an ND will co-manage this condition with an MD. Food sensitivities and food additives are once again often a contributing factor in asthma. Environmental and household allergens often play a role in triggering asthma, as does cold, stress, and viral infections. An ND will work to identify any contributing factors and advise elimination of all identified triggers that can be avoided. Naturopathic therapies that can be helpful include nutritional supplements and botanical medicines that can help to stabilize the cells that release histamine, the substance produced by the body that causes some of the symptoms. These would include vitamin C, quercitin, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and fish oil. Homeopathic medicines may also be helpful. Conventional medications are usually very effective in controlling symptoms, and should always be used in serious cases of asthma. Conventional medications for asthma should never be discontinued without consulting the prescribing physician, and working with a knowledgeable health care team.
Naturopathic medicine can be a wonderful tool in helping your child grow up healthy and happy. Make sure to find a pediatrician and an ND who are willing to work together with each other and with you, and who have the best interests of your child as their primary goal.