Keeping children healthy can be difficult, but a variety of holistic tools can help make the challenge easier to tackle.
Younger children have weaker immune systems, compared to that of teenagers and adults, due to the fact that their bodies are continuously developing. Besides this, they are exposed to a plethora of germs, especially when going to school and various after school activities.
However, as Newton’s Third Law states, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Holistic medicine, a practice that considers the whole person, including body, mind, spirit and emotions, functions under the belief that one malfunctioning part will impact the entire being (webmd.com). In other words, besides solely prescribing medications intended for a specific problem, holistic medicine practitioners consider other factors that could have caused the problem.
Although one’s traditional medication (prescription drugs, antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, etc.) also have an impact, doctors are beginning to embrace this practice, as it presents its share of positives, as a result of its beneficial ingredients and possibilities.
Holistic Medicine Options
As one might expect, the choices surrounding holistic medicine practices are plentiful. For that reason, a sense of direction may be necessary to steer patients down the proper path.
According to Courtney Nichols-Gould, co-founder and co-CEO of Calfornia-based vitamin company SmartyPants Vitamins, following a healthy path starts with the essentials.
“At SmartyPants, we believe the best natural way to stay well is to consistently follow a healthy lifestyle, which includes getting nutrients from whole, unprocessed foods, adequate sleep, and stress management,” said Nichols-Gould. “However, as parents ourselves, we know that busy schedules, picky eaters and other facts of modern life can sometimes get in the way of this ideal. We focus on creating products that include nutrients, which seem to be hardest to get through diet alone, and address the most chronic nutrient deficiencies we see in both the adult and child population, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, fiber, and omega-3 EPA and DHA. Additionally, we believe both probiotics and prebiotics are a key part of a preventative health regimen, with a focus on high survivability and CFU amounts that can have a meaningful impact. We recommend one billion CFU or higher.”
As Nichols-Gould added, vitamins D, B12 and omega-3s are beneficial toward brain health, heart health and immunity, specifically for individuals who are not receiving a suffice amount through diet alone.
Many of these vitamins can be found in various probiotic strains, while others can be derived elsewhere. For those who wish to utilize homeopathy, treatments are available and can be traced back centuries.
“Homeopathic medicines offer consumers a choice to conventional medications, as well as the benefits and features that they strongly desire. This genre of medicine, which was developed in Europe more than 200 years ago, has an extraordinary record of safety for any class of drug,” said Christophe Merville, DPharm, director of education and pharmacy development at Boiron USA, a homeopathic product manufacturer in Pennsylvania. “Homeopathic medicines above 4C have a low risk of side effects and no contraindications. They can be safely taken with other conventional medications, herbs, etc., and are sometimes recommended to complement other treatments.
“The principle behind homeopathic medicines is that the active ingredients are highly diluted plants, animals and/or minerals that relieve the same symptoms they cause at full strength. For example, chopping a red onion might cause burning tears, a runny nose and sneezing—all of which would improve with fresh air. Conversely, a micro-dose of a red onion (or Allium cepa in Latin) relieves itchy eyes, watery nasal discharge, and spasmodic sneezing—due to either colds or allergies.”
Depending on the illness, multiple tactics are available as solutions—the same can even be said in regards to delivery methods.
Common Illnesses and Delivery Methods
As previously mentioned, younger children find themselves becoming sick due to a weak, compromised immune system that is not developed enough to fight various sicknesses.
Of course, this does improve as one approaches adulthood, but in the stages prior to this, germ-exposure is at a high.
As noted by Claire Barnes, technical advisor with Florida-based Protexin, Inc., a probiotics manufacturer (Probiotics International), parents are concerned about infant digestive health, such as when babies receive abdominal cramps from being unable to pass a bowel movement. As children meet other children in different environments, the bacteria exposure continues.
“As children start to socialize with groups of other children in kindergarten and school settings, they will become exposed to new germs, viruses and bacteria that will interact with their immune systems,” added Barnes. “This often results in respiratory tract infections, such as colds and flu. While it is important for children to gain this exposure and build their natural immune defenses, studies show many children experience less severe symptoms and reduced recovery time if they receive probiotics at these times.”
Such exposure is due to a child’s disease-fighting antibodies being wiped out alongside the negative ones.
Heather Nangle, director of marketing at Hyperbiotics, a probiotics company located in Nevada, expanded on this idea, stating that “as most parents know, kids can be especially susceptible to stubborn ear, nose, throat (ENT) and upper respiratory issues that often lead to a cycle of antibiotic use that can be hard to break. Once a child takes antibiotics for a common ENT issue, the antibiotics indiscriminately wipe out both the bad and good bacteria—bacteria that are critical for optimal immune function. With a depleted microbiome, kids are then even more susceptible to inhospitable microbes that can work their way in (where the good bacteria used to live) and make them feel under the weather.”
Although the benefits that exist to combat children’s abundance of illnesses are promising, one challenge remains: having them consume these medications. Over the years, new innovations have come along with the hopes of making this task a more practical one.
“There is a trend in offering children a lot more options when it comes to vitamins, supplements and nutrition,” said Dr. Suzanne Goh, MD, MBA, medical director at MitoMedical, LLC in New Jersey, a company with items that support healthy mitochondrial function. “There are also many more ways children can take nutritional supplements, from gummies, to powders, liquids, nutrient enriched foods and beverages, and even topical applications. Likewise, there is more overlap between supplements and foods that are enriched with specific beneficial nutrients. Overall, efforts to make edible nutritional products more palatable are often most effective.”
Dr. Goh added that many more manufacturers of these products are looking for ways to make their products with all-natural ingredients—as a result, products that have done otherwise have recently lost popularity.
State of the Market
Many consumers and medical professionals alike may argue that natural children’s health medication is on the rise, while traditional treatments are on the decline. As Merville illustrated, this shift in thinking is becoming apparent in mainstream stores.
“There is a shift toward natural options, as consumers strongly desire to minimize their usage of conventional OTC (over-the-counter) medications because of safety and purity concerns,” noted Merville. “Retailers have fully recognized this and are now migrating toward providing natural and organic options. Examples included Walmart’s much highlighted interest in offering natural products. Target’s “Made to Matter” items range from medicine to cleaning products. CVS is focusing more on the natural consumer.”
In general, vitamins and supplements are both highly demanded by individuals of all ages, resulting in an industry with enormous revenues. This has even resulted in children taking them via the various delivery methods.
Nangle pointed out product activity on the macro level, as it relates to the supplement industry as a whole and its pediatric supplement counterpart.
“The United States drove new-product activity in supplements in 2015, with North America accounting for over 40 percent of global children’s supplement launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2015, reflecting the highly developed nature of the market,” said Nangle. “Europe came next with just under 30 percent of global launches, trailing the United States despite Europe’s large number of countries. The United States was responsible for over 34 percent of supplements targeted at children aged 5 to 12 years. (This 34 percent, however, equates to just 2.6 percent of total U.S. dietary supplement introductions over the same period.)
“Dietary supplements are a $26 billion industry that has grown by 27 percent just in the last five years. Pediatric supplements are a $573 million portion of that, according to Euromonitor International, a market research firm. The most popular supplement is the vitamin category. Researchers at UC (University of California) Davis Children’s Hospital have estimated that one-third of U.S. children take some sort of daily vitamin.”
It leaves room to ponder, how will the markets for traditional and natural children’s health medication shape out moving forward? Will natural medication’s current momentum propel it forward, or will it plateau?
Essentially, the answers to these questions are dependent on the findings of current and future research.
Research Surrounding Children’s Health
Being that scientific research is an ongoing process, manufacturers each have particular objectives that they wish to accomplish through studies. Nonetheless, they share a common ground regarding their overall goals for the industry.
One example of this ideal is Probiotics International (which produces Bio-Kult), who has utilized multiple strains for human trials surrounding children of different ages.
“Bio-Kult has numerous studies on the bacterial strains used within its supplements and children’s health. We have and continue to develop human trials into the digestive health of children, including colic in infants, H. pylori infection in children, as well as diarrhea and constipation as childhood illnesses,” said Barnes. “We have also conducted trials looking at more specific conditions outside of the digestive tract, such as atopic dermatitis and neonatal pneumonia. We believe conducting human trials will provide better evidence for how multi-strain probiotics have an effect on overall health and continue to develop further studies in this area.”
Research also includes developing products to support healthy mitochondrial function. As Michelle Hasson, CEO of MitoMedical noted, “the company’s research and development focuses on the biological correlation between mitochondrial dysfunction and neurological disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and others.”
Indeed, practitioners and medical professionals can agree that conducting excessive human trials does not exist—a greater amount of clinical studies could potentially result in scientists discovering a trend or new discovery.
Current research provides promise, while future steps, though quite involved, provide optimism.
“Knowledge of the microbiome continues to improve and evolve,” added Barnes. “As our understanding of a balanced and diverse gut flora develops, we are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits these bacteria can have on our overall health.”
As one takes a step back to contemplate next moves, Dr. Goh provided a scene setter for what could be to come.
“Research into children’s health is going in the direction of recognizing that there are a lot of holistic, integrative and nutritional-based approaches that have profound impact,” mentioned Dr. Goh. “Even in children with very specific disease states, steps must also be taken to promote overall health and well being in order to maximize treatment results. This shift could very well be due to a lack of nutritional value in many people’s diets in the U.S. and abroad. In research, we are seeing a lot of studies adjusting multiple factors at a time rather than focusing on just one treatment option. So, generally speaking, this is very positive direction for both general public nutrition and medicine.”
Helping to Heal Helps Parents Cope with Children’s Diagnoses
The Helping to Heal Foundation, a non-profit based in New York, and its project manager, Nancy Sirianni, announced the publication of Patti Wood’s Helping to Heal, which is the third edition.
The work was written with the goal of providing parents with advice to comfort and help their child overcome being diagnosed with a serious illness, along with the process that comes afterwards.
“This is a time when a parent’s instinct is to nurture and protect, but many parents have feelings of helplessness and frustration while doctors and other health care professionals manage their child’s illness,” said Wood. “My goal with Helping to Heal is to give parents some ideas and tools that can help them truly make a difference.”
John Wargo, PhD, professor of environmental risk analysis at Yale University, described Helping to Heal as “a common sense guide that explains how to navigate among chemical dangers in food, water and consumer products that may be present in everyday environments. This is a terrific resource for parents, physicians, and others responsible for managing the recovery of our youngest and most vulnerable.”
For more information, call (516) 883-0887 or visit www.helping2heal.org.
For More Information:
Boiron USA, www.boironusa.com
Hyperbiotics, Inc., www.hyperbiotics.com
Probiotics International, Ltd, www.protexin.com
SmartyPants Inc., www.smartypantsvitamins.com
Spectrum Supplements (Master Distributor for MitoMedical, LLC), www.mitomedical.com