Bringing Growing Bodies Into Balance
Childhood is a time of immense social and intellectual development. Ensuring their health during this vital stage of life could set them up for greater wellbeing later in life. There are many ways to do this, a variety of natural healthcare practitioners at Balance Complementary Medicine are available to help and treatment methods are as non-invasive as possible.
Children have special health requirements. They have an immature physiology and specific nutritional requirements that vary from those of adults. Therefore, any naturopathic or Chinese medicines designed for children must be of the best quality and formulated to take their specific needs and stages of development into account. For example, formulas for children need to address issues of:
- Appropriate dosages for children of different ages
- Enhanced absorption minerals and activated vitamins
- Small serving sizes for small patients
- New flavours and formulations for improved compliance
Some health conditions and healthy functions that may be able to be support through the use of Naturopathic and Chinese medicine include:
Behavioural and cognitive difficulties can disrupt the learning ability of some children. It is critical that the developing brain receives the nutrition it needs and that neurotransmitter function is optimal:
- Cognitive development
- Nervous system function
- Stress and anxiety
T-helper polarisation can predispose children to atopic conditions and poor immunity. Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a recurring, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition affecting one in three Australasians at some stage throughout their lives.
Common immunological conditions include:
- Upper respiratory complaints
- Allergy, hayfever, sinusitus
- Recurrent ear infections
- Coughs and colds
Gastrointestinal function is fundamental to a child’s health and linked to immune regulation, neurological development and growth.
Common clinical presentations include:
- Leaky gut
- Gut flora disruption
- Poor digestive function
Acupuncture for Children
A surprisingly effective choice
Acupuncture has surprising advantages for children with health problems. One of the biggest? Few side effects. A lot of children are medication-sensitive, and acupuncture doesn’t have the side effects of medication.
More than a pain reliever
Acupuncture’s use in children and adolescents has mirrored the technique’s rising popularity among adults. A study of 450 children from birth to age 17 who had acupuncture found the technique to be safe in the hands of well-trained practitioners.
Many think acupuncture is just for pain. It can encourage the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. But acupuncture helps children and teens with a wide range of issues, including:
- Sleep problems
- Reflux, nausea and stomach pain
- Bone and joint pain
- Asthma and allergies
Getting to the point
In acupuncture, body points are selected to achieve different effects. You can stimulate some of these points or you can calm them in order to reduce certain symptoms.
This is done by:
- Gently inserting needles
- Using laser acupuncture stimulation
- Acupressure (gentle massage of points) or Shiatsu (Japanese body therapy using finger pressure).
One step at a time
If children are reluctant to try needles, we explain that acupuncture needles are different from the needles used to draw blood. They are hair-thin and nearly painless.
We can introduce laser acupuncture as the first option for things that might be too painful or anxiety-provoking. When things calm down a little bit we can then introduce needles for a greater effect.
A complementary treatment
Acupuncture doesn’t replace traditional medical treatment. In more serious conditions children may need medication so there’s a place for both and they are both complimentary.
Whilst a one-on-one consultation is required to assist with long term resolution of childhood gastrointestinal, immune, neurological and behavioural complaints there are some good diet and lifestyle adjustments that are a great place to start.
Healthy Diet = Healthy Brain
Eating well gives growing bodies the nutrition they need for optimal development. A nutrient rich diet contains essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, fibre and high quality protein.
Having a full breakfast everyday helps kids focus and concentrate better at school. The brain is one of the hungriest organs and between the ages of 3 to 8 children have three times more neurons than an adult making their brain a hungry, learning sponge. Whilst supermarket breakfast cereals can be an easy option in the morning they are often high in sugar and don’t provide the slow release of energy needed for good brain function. Good quality breakfast choices for a child are protein rich foods such as scrambled eggs or quinoa porridge with seasonal fruit and healthy fats such as avocado smash on gluten free toast.
Vegetables and fruits are very high in nutrition and have beneficial dietary fibre that help regulate bowel function preventing digestive disturbances such as constipation. Protein rich foods should be included in each meal or snack. Lean sources such as free range chicken breast, lean cuts of red meat, fish and eggs keep kids fuller for longer and they are less likely to want short energy burst foods that are often sugary in nature.
Plenty of pure water daily will keep them hydrated and rather than giving them soft drinks, fruits juices, cordials or other sweetened drinks a healthy substitute is 4 parts mineral water (sparkling if they like a bit of fizz) with 1 part fresh fruit juice.
We understand a lot of kids can be fussy eaters so making food fun can help get them to eat foods they may otherwise object to. There are some great websites to help you with this with recipes and menus that can be inspiring. An example is the Healthy Food Healthy Planet website that also encourages children to get involved in cooking.
Over 70% of our immune system lives in and around the gastrointestinal tract; therefore having high levels of good bacteria in the digestive system is essential for building a strong immune system in growing children. The beneficial balance of ‘good bugs’ in the gut is easily upset by many factors, including antibiotics, high sugar diets and stress. This can lead to an increased risk of colds and flus for your kids and therefore the whole family. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help develop and maintain healthy digestive and immune function.
In a scientific study of children aged 3-5 years, children who took probiotics daily had significantly less infections, shorter duration of cold and flu symptoms and less days absent from childcare.
However, not all probiotics are the same—your child may need a specific strain that will work better for them so it’s best to book an appointment with our Naturopath to find out.
Healthy Lifestyle = Healthy Behaviour
Studies show that children who are involved in team sports, martial arts, ballet, music or art have greater levels of positive social behavior. The exercise and fresh air that is often associated with childhood activities also leads to a healthy body and a healthy mind. Encouraging your child’s interests and participation in structured social activities can set a good foundation for long term psychological and behavioural development.
Regular movement helps their muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones to grow correctly and any misalignments, pains or postural issues can be identified and addressed whilst their bodies are still growing. Myotherapy can make sure that the musculoskeletal function of smaller bodies is aligned and that bumps and falls do not inhibit growth.
Along with plenty of exercise and fresh air it is important that your child’s growing body and mind has adequate rest and sleep every night. However, sometimes the busy-ness of school, the changes that come with each school year and emotional hurdles can cause internal stress, anxiety and lead to sleep disturbances. Children can be highly sensitive to their external environment and their active nervous systems may not easily switch out of flight/fright mode once it has been activated by an external stress. Teaching children breathing and meditation techniques can help them to self-regulate their emotions and mood. Gentle body therapies such as acupuncture, Bowen and Shiatsu help calm their nervous system, bring them into a greater state of relaxation so they are less irritable and can have a restful night sleep.
Positive role models and family support are essential for children. Lack of supervision and support are strong predisposing factors for problem behavior during childhood and into adulthood. Inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity and anger can be some of the reactions when a child doesn’t feel safe and supported. A healthy family environment with positive role models ensures optimal health and development.
The health and wellbeing of our children is so important as it not only impacts them but the whole family. If we can improve the health of our children, it can potentially change the course of an entire lifetime, and also relieve some of the stressors placed on parents and carer’s of our children.