Children and Alt Med


by By Jeanne Faulkner /

Posted on May 1, 2009 at 12:48 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 12 at 1:52 PM

About the Author

Jeanne Faulkner is a freelance writer and registered nurse in Portland, Ore. Her work appears regularly in Pregnancy and Fit Pregnancy, and she has contributed articles to the Oregonian, Better Homes & Gardens, Shape and other publications.

Children's healthcare isn't one-size-fits-all. While many parents are happy doing just what the traditional doctor orders, many others prefer alternatives--treatments that involve less intervention and fewer pharmacy-based solutions. Still others custom-blend their children's healthcare, combining traditional and alternative therapies. Discover which treatments are commonly used for kids, and learn from the practitioners how to find the right alternative medicine therapies for your children.

Naturopathy and Body Talk Laura Washington, ND, naturopathic physician at Art Health in Portland, Ore., says that naturopathy, like most non-traditional disciplines, operates on the concept that the body is self-healing and knows best how to establish balance for itself. "Children are generally more responsive than adults because their bodies are more intact. We diagnose what interference they're getting from the environment, whether that's trauma, allergies, stress or something else getting in their way. Then we support the body to heal using the least invasive procedures possible." 

Focused on preventative care, naturopathy uses heat, water, light, air, herbal remedies, pharmaceuticals, and massage as primary therapies. Like medical doctors, naturopaths attend four years of medical school and use the same lab and diagnostic techniques. Washington says, "Naturopathy is particularly useful for children with digestive, allergic and behavioral issues." Washington often finds that nutritional or environmental toxins are responsible for "kicking the child out of balance." By eliminating allergens and supporting wellness, she's had "amazing successes."

Washington also practices "Body Talk," a form of energy medicine that uses neuromuscular feedback and a system of sequentially tapping the body to create communication between different areas. The International Body Talk Association website explains that each system, cell and atom is in constant communication with each other, but that exposure to day-to-day stresses can compromise communication and cause a decline in well-being. Reconnecting these lines of communication enables the body to function at optimal levels, prevent disease and accelerate healing.

For every malfunctioning energy circuit found, the practitioner contacts the corresponding "points" with her or his hands, lightly tapping on top of the head. This stimulates the brain center, causes it to re-evaluate the body's health and improve its general energy balance. Washington says: "I had a 4-year-old with chronic rashes and constipation. No medical therapy worked, and he was dependent on laxatives. We started by eliminating wheat, but there was no improvement. Next I tried Body Talk, and he improved rapidly after that."

AcupunctureClarissa Smith, LAC, acupuncturist at Jade Acupuncture in Portland, Ore., treats children both with and without needles. Acupuncture works on the premise that energy runs along currents or meridians in the body. When these meridians are blocked, they cause disease. Acupuncture releases the flow of energy, allowing the body to heal. It's used to treat a variety of illnesses, including ADHD, asthma, stomach upset and pain.

Smith says: "Children's imbalances are less complicated than adults'. Most children are open [to] and curious about energetic medicine. If they're willing to have acupuncture needles placed, very few are needed and for a shorter amount of time. For those who don't want needles, acupressure (finger pressure) or microcurrent (a low level of current) placed on the points can be just as effective." A study conducted at Children's Hospital in Boston reported 70 percent of children who had acupuncture felt it helped their symptoms, and 59 percent of their parents agreed.

HomeopathyThe Holistic Pediatric Association describes homeopathy as a method of treatment with remedies that, in large doses, would produce symptoms similar to the disease they're treating. Homeopathic remedies are minute, essential doses from natural sources, prepared so they have no chemical toxicity. In conventional medicine, drugs are generally given for their effects on the organism; in homeopathy, remedies provoke a reaction from the organism. The idea is that only the living organism can heal itself, and homeopathic merely influences a reaction to bring about recovery.

Katherine Dahlke, MD, of Fulcrum Heathcare in Portland, Ore. sees children for common ailments like ear infections, injuries, and behavior issues and uses all her expertise as a medical doctor, homeopathist and osteopathist. She became convinced that homeopathy was a powerful healing practice when patients recovered from health issues that traditional medicine was less successful at treating.

"Homeopathic remedies are often viewed as a placebo, though that's not an accurate perception," says Dahlke. "I figure if a placebo could cure as well [as] or better than a stronger pharmaceutical, then let's use that." Dahlke also practices craniosacral therapy (CST), and believes that every newborn could benefit from evaluation by a trained CST practitioner.

Christine White, LMP, CCST, a licensed massage and CST therapist at Integral Balance Bodywork in Seattle, Wash., describes craniosacral therapy as a gentle, non-invasive manipulative technique that tests for movement in the membranes of the brain, bones of the skull, spine, pelvis, and cerebral spinal fluids, and corrects misalignments. "It's often beneficial for children with self-regulatory and modulation problems like colic, seizures, ear infections, dyslexia, Down syndrome, autism and others. "One child I worked with decreased his anxiety and panic attacks," she says. "Infants can nurse better after a few treatments. I've seen children whose colic lessened with CST."

A Balanced ApproachDr. H. David Wu, MD, family practice physician at Providence Medical Group in Portland, Ore., says, "Alternative therapies can be great for children, though you have to be careful about who you seek treatment with, and what you see them for. You want to be reasonable and balanced. I wouldn't recommend acupuncture for pneumonia."

Wu advises parents to keep an open mind. "We get into trouble when parents say they'll only go with natural treatments or alternative therapies," he says. On the other hand, Wu acknowledges that children will sometimes have better results from alternative therapies like homeopathy or CST for problems such as sinusitis, rashes or allergies than Western medicine.

It's clear that traditional and alternative practitioners have become more open to working together to create an integrated approach to family healthcare. Its up to parents to find the right approach that works for their children--and to keep open lines of communication between any and all health care practitioners to ensure the best results.