Focus on Family Health-Using Natural Therapies


 Naturopath,  STUART MORICK discusses common health concerns of families that can be assisted by natural therapies.

Allergies, food intolerances

We can become allergic to particles in the air, substances that contact our skin or food we eat. Symptoms may be associated with the eyes, nose, sinuses, ears, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, skin or joints. Allergies can make life a misery, particularly for young children. For them, it can all seem completely unfair – especially when all the other kids can seemingly have and do whatever they want.  Allergies can have a range of causes. Essentially, they are thought be an inappropriate immune system response to substances the body normally regards as safe. Behind this may be an underlying imbalance in the body’s white blood cell production. From a natural medicine point of view, we attempt to establish balance in the white blood cell population and then desensitise the body to whatever was causing the reaction. Food intolerances involve a different group of molecules to the immune system and may respond to naturopathic treatment. A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is a life threatening medical emergency and must be treated with the appropriate medicines (such as an Epipen®). Hospitalisation may also be necessary.

Optimising gut bacteria

Some scientific studies have shown that keeping the balance of good bacteria in the gut at optimum levels may have a beneficial effect on reducing allergic symptoms. If you are non-reactive to foods that offer a natural source of probiotics – such as yoghurt, buttermilk, sauerkraut, dill pickles or kim-chee – it may be beneficial to add them to your diet. Interestingly, in an article published in the May 2013 edition of Paediatrics journal, European researchers determined that parents who suck their baby’s dummy to clean it reduce the likelihood of allergy development because the microbes in their saliva have a positive effect on the infant’s immune system.

Pregnancy health concerns

This is an amazing time for both partners. The growth and development of the infant, delivery and then breastfeeding are all part of this life-changing experience.  Health concerns may present throughout pregnancy. Mothers-to-be may suffer from muscular aches and pains, reflux, high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia/eclampsia), low iron (anaemia) and gestational diabetes, or other issues associated with birthing and breastfeeding. The muscular aches and pains of pregnancy are often caused by the added weight the growing foetus places on the mother’s frame. Massaging targeted areas of pain, such as the lower back, hips or legs, may provide much-needed relief. Using magnesium oil for massage may be beneficial, since the mother’s own magnesium stores may be depleted by the demands of the growing foetus.  Reflux may be caused by nutritional deficiencies as well as the mass of the growing child pressing on the stomach. Unfortunately, little can be done about the latter, but nutritional deficiencies can be fairly easily addressed. B-group vitamins and iron may be required to restore stomach acid balance, and digestives such as horseradish, mustard or freshly ground pepper may help the digestive process. Peppermint tea, several cups per day, may also be worth trying. Some also find that three to four cups daily of mint tea (one teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint to one cup of boiling water with a pinch of either powdered or finely grated fresh ginger) is helpful.Pre-eclampsia may respond to an increase in magnesium intake combined with careful doses of mercury-free fish oil. Eclampsia, however, is a life-threatening medical emergency and hospital-based care is vital.Low iron issues can be tricky to resolve. In my experience, not all iron supplements have the same effect on every pregnancy. As such, it may be necessary to work with several different supplements to find the one that avoids constipation and is most effective at returning iron levels to an acceptable level.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed when high levels of glucose are observed in the blood because the body is having trouble metabolising it. It can occur anywhere between late in the second trimester and early in the third and there may be a myriad of underlying causes. A simple option worth trying is to reduce dietary carbohydrates (which are metabolised into glucose) and increase physical activity (which helps the body “burn” glucose). There may be other more complex scenarios, such as how well the liver and pancreas are working together, whether the body is producing adequate enzymes and if there is any influence from toxin accumulation. These issues require an individualized treatment response.Acupuncture may be very beneficial for birth, particularly to help induce labour. Raspberry leaf is popular to help improve the quality of contractions and up to three cups of raspberry leaf tea can safely be drunk daily throughout pregnancy. Many birthing issues may be improved or alleviated with homoeopathics, which do not interact with standard modern pharmaceuticals. A useful course of action could be to pack a homoeopathic birthing kit as part of your labour preparations. Wherever possible, try to relax and breathe, breathe, breathe. Many women say that focusing on their own breath was the most effective pain relief of all.Breastfeeding issues may respond well to herbs and homoeopathy. To increase milk flow, make a tea out of goat’s rue, fennel, fenugreek, horsetail, shatavari and chaste tree berries. Blend them in equal parts and drink up to three cups daily.

Children’s behavioural issues

Many parents who visit me are frustrated and exhausted by ongoing behavioural issues exhibited by a child or children. Because there may be a lot of complexity behind behavioural concerns, I look for key influences, including diet, sleep cycles, stress, exercise and play habits, as well as levels and types of regular stimulation. Equally important are a history of the pregnancy, family health history (back several generations), the child’s own health and prescription history, and even vaccination history. Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are becoming increasingly common and require specific, individualised attention. However, a number of effective natural interventions may prove helpful.The good news is that behavioural issues may respond well to nutritional and homoeopathic treatment. Getting your child’s nutritional balance correct is important, because vitamins and minerals are needed in adequate levels and appropriate ratios for the body and brain to function most effectively. Clinical testing may be necessary to determine the child’s nutritional status, toxic load and protein metabolism. Determining whether any allergies are present is also wise.

Food and symptom diary

Most parents notice an improvement if they take their child off of the usual food allergens such as dairy, soy, sugars and refined carbohydrates and gluten sources (not just wheat). It’s usually worth trying this, and your Naturopath can show you how to use a Food and Symptom Diary, which can highlight foods that may be affecting your child. This can be used to refine a diet specific to your child’s needs. The incorporation of a Child Psychologist into the treatment mix is highly recommended. Many parents have reported that this has helped them develop strategies to modify their child’s behaviour. As parents, they were able to cope better with this challenging situation, which resulted in improving the whole family’s quality of life.

There are a great many herbal and homoeopathic remedies traditionally used to help the body to cope with many conditions faced regularly by families. You may find it beneficial to have an appointment with a qualified Naturopath in order to determine the safest options for you to improve your family’s health

Further information:  STUART MORICK, Bachelor Health Science (Naturopathy), Member ANTA & AHA   

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