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Natural Approaches To Children


Carolyn Dean, MD, ND wrote in Kids’ Health: A Doctor’s Guide for Parents (a supplement for Better Nutrition magazine): “Children across America are developing chronic illnesses once reserved solely for adults. This trend has reached epidemic proportions.What we do know is that there is an unprecedented rise in asthma, allergies and immune reactions in children throughout the U.S. … Our children also suffer from increasing bowel disease, autoimmune disease, high cholesterol, hypertension— and the list goes on.” 

Further, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that between three and five percent of preschool and school-age children have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). That translates to about two million children in the U.S. In a class of 25 to 30 students, at least one child will have this condition.

For Erin Psota, ND, who practices at the King West Village Medical Center and the Evolve Complete Chiropractic Clinic, both in Toronto, ON, Canada, there’s no doubt that chronic conditions for children are on the rise, and that while the causes can be linked to genetics and lifestyle, an important factor is also environment. “I think we’re living in a sicker environment in terms of our air, water and food quality, and that impacts our health in a significant way, including gene expression,” she said.

In fact, in a study in the June 2010 issue of Pediatrics, researchers found that children with ADHD had higher amounts of pesticide metabolites in their urine than those without the condition, Dr. Dean wrote.

“One in 88 children in the U.S. are identified with an autism spectrum disorder (it was one in 110 in 2006), and childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years,” said Dr. Psota. “All of these conditions can benefit from natural therapies, where allopathic medicine often falls short. Certainly inhaled steroids are useful in an asthma attack, but they don’t really help in the long term to prevent future attacks. I think this is where natural therapies truly shine—investigating the cause of disease and supporting the body in healing.” 

Allopathic Concerns 

In 2008, the serious void in safely treating children’s pain and other issues was revealed, according to Lou Paradise, president and chief of research with New York-based Topical BioMedics, Inc.,manufacturer of patented homeopathic biomedicine topical pain relief creams including the children’s version, Topricin Junior.“This was the beginning of the largest series of recalls for children’s and infants’ versions of acetaminophen- based pain relief products in U.S. history. Eventually, a staggering 136 million bottles of children’s and infants’acetaminophen products were recalled,” he said. “If it was not bad enough that children 2- to 11-years-old were especially vulnerable, medical evidence also linked early dosing of children with acetaminophen to significant increases in their risk of developing asthma.” 

Topical BioMedics began an educational forum to address the dangers of OTC chemically based oral pain medicines for the public and health care Providers. “Even at the time there was evidence to support that these OTC chemical based pain killers caused serious and fatal side effects for all age groups, especially for children. Our educational forums have provided a necessary and effective platform to discuss children’s issues among parents, educators and doctors,” said Paradise.

Keri Marshall, MD, ND, chief medical officer with Nordic Naturals, a California-based fish oil supplement manufacturer, noted that anxiety, depression and attention disorders are three conditions that are impacting millions of children today. “There are so many pressures on children these days—keeping up with a level of academia that is significantly more than we faced as children, as well as after-school activities that keep kids going 24 hours a day,” she said. “And you can’t underestimate the anxiety kids are picking up from their parents’ economic distress— that anxiety will be projected onto the child depending on how it’s dealt with.” 

In response, Dr. Marshall said she has seen a staggering number of kids on daily medications, the side effects of which can be worse than what they’re intended to treat. “Often parents will turn to natural practitioners after their child has had a bad experience with these medications,” she added, noting the side effects can cause more depression, fits of rage, anger and even suicidal thoughts. “These children were suffering to begin with, and the drugs are only increasing that suffering.” 

Mary Bove, ND, author of the Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants who practices at Brattleboro Naturopathic Clinic in Vermont, agreed that children are Wrestling with considerably more complex conditions today, and that parents are rightfully worried about medication as a solution. “Parents have concerns about their child’s use of pharmaceutical drugs; particularly longterm use of drugs for mood and focus issues, long-term poor outcomes, over medication and antibiotic resistance,” said Dr. Bove, who is a member of North Carolina-based Gaia Herbs’ advisory board and formulator of the company’s children’s line of products. “In addition, parents are not feeling that traditional treatments are effective nor offering solutions for their child. Natural therapies offer multiple options for the parent including nutritional and dietary programs, lifestyle coaching, family participation, allergy, detoxification, functional testing that can evaluate physiological strengths and a multiple of other types of wellness tools.” 

Diet & Exercise 

Dr.Marshall expressed that nutrition is a key part of her consultation with parents and children, and it all starts with breakfast. “A lot of kids skip breakfast, meaning the brain doesn’t have the nutrients it needs for the day. They get to school and are challenged by everything around them because they don’t have fuel to function at peak level,” she said.

Cathleen London, MD, an assistant professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and an assistant attending physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, is a diplomat of the American Board of Family Medicine and a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians that has been counseling children or adolescents for 21 years. She offered that while there isn’t any empirical data that has determined the cause of the rise in ADHD and ADD (attention deficit disorder) in children, she has seen benefits of nutritional modification, exercise, increased quality of sleep and talk therapy.

“As a doctor and parent, I feel there is a time and place for drug intervention, but with ADD and ADHD, the side effects of the drug options have some parents feeling like ‘they just changed seats on the Titanic,’” she said. “The starting point should always be diet modification, meaning getting the food with associations to behavior issues out Of their children’s diet (preservatives, artificial color and flavor, foods high in salicylates) and replacing them with a healthy balanced diet that the parents can benefit from also,” said Dr. London, noting that dietary changes can take up to one month to have a positive effect on behavior.

Her other note is to get their children moving. “Daily exercise is also very beneficial for the child who suffers from ADD or ADHD—parents should join their child as exercise helps the whole family and can help sleep patterns,” she said.

Botanicals & Homeopathy 

According to Dr. Psota, children really respond to botanical and homeopathic medicines, which are effective treatments for common ailments like ear and upper respiratory infections, conjunctivitis, allergies and asthma. “These therapies can be used alone, depending on both practitioner and parent comfort levels, or they can be combined with traditional treatments,” she said.

Hyland’s in California offers a full line of OTC homeopathic medicines for babies 6 months and over as well as a 4 Kids line for children between 2 and 12 years of age that provide symptomatic relief for colds, coughs, allergies, teething, colic, as well as other common childhood complaints. Most recently, it launched Hyland’s Baby Cough Syrup, a 100 percent natural, homeopathic formula that relieves symptoms for a variety of coughs without drowsy or stimulant side effects, in kids as young as 6 months old.

“Homeopathic medicines have no contraindications and do not interact with other medicines; they can be used complementary to more traditional OTC medicines when appropriate,” said Steve Snyder, national sales manager for Hyland’s professional division. “For instance, children that are on a prescription medicine that may result in unpleasant side effects such as wakefulness can take a homeopathic medicine to help with the wakefulness.” 

Sara Chana, IBCLC, RH (AHG), a member of the American Herbalist Guild and a classical homeopath, said she will often see a parent and child after they have seen many doctors and the child is still suffering from the same condition.

“Most moms and dads want to be really heard when it comes to their children. I include the parents in the detective work as we try to find the cause of the problem and then we come up with a plan together,” said Chana. “Besides the fact that herbal and homeopathic treatments are more gentle than conventional medicine, I believe that when parents feel involved with their child’s healing they feel more confident, and that confidence makes the child more confident. That self-assurance and safe feeling alone helps heal the child.” 

Chana explained that she uses classical homeopathy and/or herbal tinctures with her clients. “I find they really get better when we make the herbal mixes match their exact symptoms rather than just a general medication like ones that allopathic doctors give,” she said. “With herbal tinctures, I mix anywhere from three to 10 herbs depending on the patient’s specific symptoms.” 

Topical BioMedic’s Paradise noted that, in more than 50 percent of chronic Eustachian tube blockage, there are no bacteria present, so the allopathic treatment with antibiotics is inappropriate. “Whether over-prescribing or giving the wrong kind of antibiotic can actually cause a resistant strain of bacteria in the lining of Eustachian tube,” he said, noting that natural options can prove more effective for children. “Rather, using probiotics and eardrops containing mullein and garlic oil instead of antibiotics can provide relief and supports optimum immune function so the infection doesn’t return.

In addition, doctors continue to report that using Topricin Junior under the ear lobe at the lower jaw has done wonders for pain relief. When this is done in place of acetaminophen, the children are the winners,” Paradise added.

A popular product from Gaia Kids line is its Ear Oil, which includes herbs infused into organic olive oil providing soothing qualities and local immune support, as well as mullein leaf and flower, garlic, goldenseal, St. John’s wort and lobelia to support the healthy mucous membrane function of the ear.

Bill Chioffi, director of herbal education for Gaia Herbs, pointed out that Dr. Bove developed the Gaia Kids line of herbal products specifically for children. “The ingredients, strengths and dosages have all been developed specifically for children ages 1 to 13 years,” he said, noting the products are delivered as alcohol free herbal extracts, syrups and two topical applications including a chest rub and ear oil.

Dr. Psota also shared that there’s significant evidence supporting the anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties of elderberry, which is great for children with upper respiratory tract infections or influenza.1 “Elderberry not only has an excellent safety profile, but it tastes pretty good, too—two essentials in a pediatric practice. It’s always helpful to reassure parents that a product has been proven safe and effective, and that getting the child to take it won’t be a fight.”


Counseling children with ADHD, Dr. London recommends a quality fish oil, a good multivitamin with a good mix of minerals like magnesium and amino acids like suntheanine to increase alpha wave activity to create a calm clear focus during the day and more REM sleep at night. “Keep in mind none of these are a replacement for consistently providing healthy food choices, daily exercise and organizational tools; they are a complement to a healthy diet and lifestyle.” 

When talking about allergies, removing foods such as nuts, gluten, dairy, etc., that cause the reactions is a first step, according to Nordic Naturals’ Dr. Marshall. Then one needs to tackle the inflammation, help children build up their immune systems and ensure they’re getting the nutrients that might be lacking.Where anxiety, depression and other attention issues are concerned, she offered that it’s important to provide nutrients essential for brain development. Omega-3s, particularly from fish oil, can be the answer on both fronts.

“Fish oil provides essential nutrients kids typically aren’t getting through their diets. If kids have an allergic component, then parents should supplement with an algal-based supplement,” she said. “When dealing with kids who have attention issues, anxiety or depression, they need nutrients for healthy brain tissue, and DHA is a fundamental part of the cell membrane specific to the brain.” 

Dr.Marshall added that Nordic Naturals has more than 150 different products in a variety of flavors, concentrations and delivery forms. The company’s website features all the clinical research done on its products; currently 20 studies have been done with another 40 plus with clinical trials underway. “Of those more than 40 studies, 25 percent of them are on children, from autism to allergies,” she said. “With supplements, it comes down to the individual child— what their deficiencies might be and what they’re capable of taking. Taste and delivery are important considerations.” 

Dr. Dean said that, over the years, she has challenged supplement companies to come up with a safe product that kids will actually take. “Currently only one company meets my criteria: Kids Natural Calm Multi from Natural Vitality,” she said. “It provides a good-tasting liquid supplement using organic flavors and organic non-sugar sweeteners. The multi includes Natural Calm magnesium, zinc, EFAs, methylated B vitamins (B6, B12), vitamin C and a trace mineral complex. Plus, the company added a blend of 24 organic vegetables and fruits most kids don’t get in their current diet,” she said.

“Our objective with Kids Natural Calm was to create a calm-focus formula that combined key nutrients in an easy-to-take daily liquid multi,” said Ken Whitman, president of Natural Vitality in Texas. “A very important distinguishing factor is that this multi contains omega-3s, so a separate EFA supplement is not required. Additionally, most children like the taste, but it can easily be added to juice or a smoothie.” 

Another standout for Dr. Psota is a quality probiotic due to the overwhelming amount of positive studies on their use in children. “They are safe in pregnancy and in infants, and have been shown to help prevent allergies, treat colic, thrush, gastrointestinal infections and promote healthy immune and digestive development. The list goes on and on,” she said.


1 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/21352539


Gaia Herbs, (800) 831-7780, www.gaiaherbs.com 

Hyland’s, (800) 624-9659, www.hylands.com 

National Institutes of Mental Health,(866) 615-6464, www.nimh.nih.gov 

Natural Vitality, (800) 446-7462, www.naturalvitality.com 

Nordic Naturals, (800) 662-2544 ext.1, www.nordicnaturals.com 

Topical BioMedics, Inc.,(845) 871-4900, www.topicalbiomedics.com

The NIMH estimates that between three and five percent of preschool and school-age children have ADHD. That translates to about two million children in the U.S. 

A recall of 136 million bottles of children’s and infants’ acetaminophen products after medical evidence linked early dosing to significant increases in their risk of developing asthma.

Botanical and homeopathic medicines are effective treatments for common ailments like ear and upper respiratory infections, conjunctivitis, allergies and asthma.

Doctors have seen the benefits of nutritional modification, exercise, increased quality of sleep and talk therapy for children with ADHD and ADD.