Inflammation of the gut is linked to chronic problems throughout the entire body, including neurological and autoimmune disorders. While we continue to wait for the science to catch up to what so many of us have already concluded, we can begin to take charge of our lives, and almost more importantly, our children’s lives.
I’m creating a three-part series on the topic of elimination diets because there are generally three types of individuals who are looking to learn more about them. Adults who are tired of band-aid solutions that cover symptoms, mothers who are exhausted and frustrated with colicky, cranky, diaper-rash-butt babies, and parents who want to figure out what is happening with their children. All three of these people have walked through my office doors. Some find it amazing that something as simply difficult as an elimination diet can change all of their lives.
I’m starting the series with elimination diets for kids because this generation is struggling with gut-inflammation like no generation before them.
Look around and you can see the ever-growing number of children suffering from ADHD, ADD, Autism, Type 1 Diabetes, IBS, Obesity, Cancer, Depression, Anxiety, Sensory and Mood Disorders. While some of these disorders cannot be fully recovered from, they are all linked to a leaky or inflamed gut. As the gut is truly the ‘brain’ of the body, it feeds the real brain and cannot do as intended when it is inflamed and not functioning properly.
One (not so) small example: Researchers have found that putting ADDHD children on a restrictive diet to eliminate possible, previously unknown food sensitivities decreased hyperactivity for 64% of kids.
Children have age on their side, but their young guts may not even know how to be healthy or function correctly. If your child struggles with food allergies/sensitivities, rashes/skin issues, extreme emotions, tantrums, sleep troubles, lack of control, or any of the above mentioned issues, I highly recommend beginning an elimination diet to heal the gut and learn what specifically effects your child.
I am a huge proponent for daily probiotics and utilizing digestive enzymes, but you should get to the root of the issues. We cannot eliminate the environmental toxins from our children’s lives, but we can work to restore gut health and possibly ease their chronic ailments.
What is an Elimination Diet?
It is exactly as it sounds. A diet that takes out foods from the typical diet. Generally all chosen foods are eliminated together and left out until the person begins to feel/act/achieve a ‘normal’ state for a period of time. Once this occurs, foods are very slowly reintroduced, taking extreme note on behaviors, sleep, moods, skin appearance, and overall health. Through the reintroduction stage, you will discover what foods ‘trigger’ or intensify your child’s ailments, symptoms, and disorders.
What Elimination Diet is Right for My Child?
This is where things get hard. There are several diets you can choose from, but there is not a one-size-fits-all magic trick diet. Well, there might be, but many parents opt to go for an easier introduction to the food-eliminating world. The GAPS diet will bring you back to the very root of foods and keep you there until the gut is healed. It then slowly reintroduces foods as you record the body’s reactions. It is a wonderful option, especially if things do not change after eliminating the basic foods.
There are three basic types of elimination diets:
The strict, limited foods “oligoantigenic diet” which eliminates nearly all foods except a limited number that generally cause no problems.
The multiple-food elimination diet removes foods that most commonly cause food sensitivities. Dairy, gluten, wheat, corn, soy, eggs, nuts, citrus, processed foods and artificial colors and flavors top the list of what should be first eliminated.
The single-food elimination diet removes only one or two foods at a time. It is most helpful if you are highly suspicious of one or two items your child is eating. However, this diet typically leads parents into a multiple elimination diet, as it is not as accurate.
You can learn more about diets geared specifically toward ADHD, Autism, and other ailments like the Feingold Diet. You can try a month of Whole30 and see if it leads you to any easy solutions. You can create your own diet if you feel comfortable doing so. However, a diet is not an overnight miracle. It takes 2 weeks or so for the body to detox from the foods it is used to. This detox period can be emotional and extreme, especially when a child is use to consuming food dyes, sugars, and processed items on the regular. Stay strong and committed, keeping other foods out of reach and sight. Once your child reaches ‘baseline’ or what you would consider ‘typical’ for a 3-week timeframe, you can add back in one thing at a time. Reactions (emotional, mental, or physical) can occur up to two days after eating something.
Puberty is a time of life that we don’t often sit and reflect on; however, there will be a time in which parenthood presents the chance to relive all of the acne, cramping, back pain, emotional rollercoasters, and slamming doors through the lives of our children. I’m not exactly looking forward to this time when my own daughter will go through it, but I plan to help her as much as possible.
There are several things to note before I dive into why seeing a chiropractor throughout the onset of puberty (and continuation of menstruation) is beneficial. The first being the average age of puberty is growing lower each year. This is a scary realization, when you see 10-year-old girls needing to grow up before they are ready. But this is the reality we are currently living in. Our hormone-injected, processed and sprayed food, vaccines, water supply, and pesticide-filled environment may be to blame, and other than living in a bubble, it can be very hard to avoid all of these possible exposures.
As one enters puberty, the body is experiencing a multitude of things:
The body is growing at a more rapid pace than normal, causing the muscles and spine to misalign which can add to already mounting emotional and physical stress during this trying time. The pain may come across as increased emotional outbursts, growing pains, or back pain.
Cartilage is hardening. Puberty is a crucial time for bone development, as the flexible cartilage that had allowed for growth in childhood hardens into true bone.
Hormones raging. There is no better way to describe the hormone distribution that is occurring throughout puberty. Hormones serve as messengers traveling through the bloodstream. Hormones can be responsible for:
- Sleep Patterns
- Sexual Arousal
When the body is out of alignment, hormones cannot travel from point A to point B efficiently.
Sports and physical activities intensify around this stage of life. As the competition increases, the physical toll on the body does too. Many teenagers begin lifting weights, increasing work outs, hitting harder on the field, and taking harder hits themselves. Even when not competing, the feeling of invisibility seems to soar throughout puberty, inviting daring jumps, awkward landings, and crazy stunts. All of which can cause misalignments of the spine.
Books are heavier. Chiropractors everywhere have a bone to pick with our school system and the amount of weight our children are supposed to carry around each day. As the grade levels increase, the weight and number of books seem to increase as well. Carrying this amount of weight around is bound to leave a body needing adjustment. When you add in the overall changes occurring throughout puberty, it’s a recipe for extreme discomfort.
Gentle adjustments by a chiropractor can help a child throughout the transition of puberty. By keeping the body aligned, there is a higher probability that hormones can quickly rebalance, neurons can properly fire and be received, the body can handle greater impacts, and the symptoms of puberty remain calm and mild. For girls, what they think may just be back problems may actually be displaced pain from the reproductive organs. These organs depend upon a healthy nervous supply from the lower spinal column. If these nerves going between the reproductive organs and the spine are somehow blocked, it can lead to menstrual pain, cramping, and irregularities. Putting the lower spine back into proper alignment with chiropractic adjustments will relieve the pressure on these nerves going to the reproductive organs, relieving both menstrual and lower back pain.
Regular chiropractic care aids in all of the stages of life and should not be overlooked throughout puberty.
By Dr. Skylar Kulbacki
MiraLAX is a commonly prescribed over the counter (OTC) medication that is becoming more popular among pediatricians for the treatment of constipation in their young patients. A laxative intended for adults, MiraLAX is now being prescribed to children and infants as young as a few weeks old.
The effectiveness and safety of MiraLAX and its active ingredient polyethylene glycol 3350 (PEG) has not been tested in children.
“Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients has not been established.” 
Even though there have not been any studies to confirm the safety of the use of MiraLAX in the pediatric population, it does not stop many pediatricians from suggesting to parents to put their children on long term regimes using this potent drug. There have even been protocols created by The Seattle Children’s Hospital for long term use of MiraLAX, up to 12 months , even though it states directly on the label to not use the medication for longer than 7 days.
The cutout from the MraLAX product label .
What is this dosage doing to our children? Is it necessary?
How does MiraLAX work?
• PEG, the active ingredient in MiraLAX, is an osmotic laxative. This means that it acts by stimulating the intestines to pull in water from the body, softening the stool and allowing for an easier bowel movement. By pulling this water from the body and into the intestines, the risk for becoming severely dehydrated and experiencing electrolyte disturbances is greatly increased.
What does this mean for my child?
• By treating the symptom and not the source of constipation, a child may be at risk for developing long term complications due to chronic constipation and/or laxative use.
• The effects of prolonged and habitual use of MiraLAX is unknown, but due to its properties, this drug can at the very least cause dehydration, malnutrition, and Gastrointestinal dysfunction in a child.
• The body becomes accustomed to the stimulation provided by the medication, and constipation is likely to persist in the absence of laxative use. This creates a physical dependency upon laxatives to create a bowel movement at all.
How to help your child suffering with constipation:
• If your child is currently being treated for constipation using MiraLAX or another laxative, speak to your pediatrician about weaning your child off these medications safely.
• Try to figure out why your child may be suffering from constipation:
o Is your child drinking enough water throughout the day?
Kids Total Daily Beverage and Drinking Water Requirements:
4 to 8 year old Girls and Boys need 5 cups a day
9 to 13 year Girls need 7 cups a day
9 to 13 year old Boys need 8 cups a day
14 to 18 year old Girls need 8 cups a day
14 to 18 year old Boys need 11 cups a day
o Is your child eating a diet consisting of naturally binding foods?
o Does your child eat enough fiber each day?
o Does your child get enough physical activity throughout the day?
Daily physical activity and exercised helps to keep the bowels healthy and regular.
• If your child is still suffering from constipation after a change in diet, increased water consumption, and daily physical activity there are safe and effective options for promoting a healthy GI and regular bowel movements.
o A daily probiotic will help to feed the GI and creates an environment for regularity.
o Chiropractic care can remove any restrictions the body may have creating improper nervous system communication that directly regulate the bowel and GI tract.
o A gentle belly massage using lavender oil can help to stimulate a bowel movement. Working from the child’s right lower belly and massaging little circles with your hands in a clockwise motion in an upside-down U will help to ease discomfort and encourage a bowel movement.
Children should be having a bowel movement every day at the very least. For infants, it is more, at least 2-3 times each day. Feces are filled with toxins and it is vital to health that bowel movement are occurring daily.
1. Breckenridge Pharmaceutical Company. “Polyethylene Glycol,” Drugs.com, last revised Februaray 2016, [link].
2. Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation. “Constipation Treatment Recommendations When Child is Over One Year of Age, for New Diagnosis or Recurrence of Symptoms. [link]
3. “Stop use and ask a doctor if you need to use a laxative for longer than 1 week,” MSD Consumer Care, Inc., “Directions,” “Warnings,” MiraLAX product label, [PDF file].
4. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Water: How Much Do Kids Need?”, eatright.org, last revised May 2015, [link].
Few people know if their child is right or left brain dominant. Few people understand why it is important to know such a thing. Not only does brain hemisphere domination relate to how a child learns and absorbs information, but their thought process, emotions, and conflict management are all tied to it as well. As a chiropractor, knowing this detail about a child, which brain hemisphere dominates, is a wonderful tool to aiding an adjustment.
The brain is made up of two halves – hemispheres – with each one controlling the opposite side of the body. This means that the right half processes what the left eye sees, and it controls the left side of the body. The opposite is true for the left hemisphere.
Children are born right side dominant. Until the age of three, blood flow is significantly greater to the right hemisphere of the brain. Between ages 4-7 there is a huge shift, as the left half of the brain typically takes over. This aligns with most countries of the world delaying formal education until 7 years of age. The left side of the brain is responsible for the reading, writing, calculation, logistical thinking, verbal processes, analytical thinking, and ability to focus for extended periods of time. It is known as the “Digital Brain.” But for some children, this shift is much more gradual – or does not fully happen. These “Right-Brained Children” are known as ‘butterfly-chasers.’ The right hemisphere is visual. It processes information as a whole with an emotional product. Creativity, artistic ability, emotions, and all of the senses are tied to the right side.
Researchers want us to believe that there is a true balance that occurs in adolescence, but I fail to agree. While a child may pull from both hemispheres, it is far from equal. I have yet to meet a parent who wouldn’t agree.
Research shows that the frontal lobes of the brain are extensively involved with logical reasoning. The left hemisphere’s frontal lobe being the ‘rational voice.’ Therefore, left-brain children can handle social situations with little emotion but practicality instead. http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/127/4/783.abstract
That being said, the right frontal lobe is tied to divergent thinking. This means that things are never black and white. While a right-brained child sees things as a whole, they also see it as ‘gray,’ with so many emotions and details involved that the answer may never be exact. controls sensory processing and expression. Children who are right brain dominant are often very visual, spontaneous, emotional and intuitive but may struggle academically with memorizing facts and paying attention to details. This hemisphere also controls sensory processing and expressions. These children may struggle academically, as our curriculums tend to be left-brain driven. http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=shr and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107958/
Children diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, SPD, social, behavioral, or academic challenges may have an extreme imbalance in hemispheric communication. Although, I do believe that the gut plays a major role in feeding these issues, the brain itself may be aiding in the problem(s).
What does this have to do with chiropractic care?
A right-brained child needs to be adjusted throughout the left side of the body. This allows optimal blood flow to reach both sides of the brain as needed.
While our society is molded for left-brained children (and adults), I urge you not to try to fit your right-brained child into that mold. We need more creative, musically inclined, artistic, peace-seeking, compassionate, empathetic children in the world.
Right-Brained Children: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107958/
- Prefer group activities
- Organize things before they begin something (by color, size, product, etc)
- Are athletic
- Prefer to be shown rather than told
- Tend to lie down while reading or drawing
- Can find patterns and similarities while problem solving
- Read later and prefer drawing to writing
- Need to touch and physically handle objects
- Need to physically manipulate items to problem solve
- Want to discuss and air feelings
- See information as a whole
- Reach beyond the reflexive action of a situation and expand farther to include past experiences adaptive behaviors, and needs
If this is your child, chiropractic care may help her adapt to our society’s educational system by feeding the left hemisphere of the brain, along with:
- Using visual cues like picture stories to stimulate the brain to remember facts
- Using colors and images for mathematical reasoning
- Role playing lessons to increase memory
- Working in small groups instead of alone
While there are strengths and weaknesses to both hemisphere-dominant sides, right-brained children seem to struggle in our culture’s expectations. Instead of allowing this, support your child’s creativity and passions and aide them in conquering their goals. These are the children who will change the world.
As a chiropractor, I see many children who are experiencing growing pains. This is one of those diagnosis that seems to umbrella many unknown issues in the medical world. The biggest misconception is that everyone assumes the pains are caused from a sudden growth spurt. In all actuality, science cannot seem to find the cause of growing pains. That is, if there is one cause. It seems more probable that many causes may exist.
Chiropractic care is extremely beneficial for everyone, children experiencing growing pains are no exception.
Let’s break down everything known about growing pains.
The good news is that science does acknowledge that these pains exist.
A South Australian study published in the August 2004 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics found that approximately 36.9% of children 4–6 years of age experienced growing pains.
It has been found that up to 40% of children will experience these pains between ages 3 and 12.
A throbbing or sharp pain typically occurs in the legs (thighs, knees, calves, and feet) but may be felt in the arms as well. It begins in the evenings or wakes a child at night and may cause intense emotional reactions. It tends to be worse after an overactive day of sports or running.
How to Help
Parents are given few to no options for treatment. Typically, massaging the legs and the use of pain killers are the only suggestions. Parents are told this is normal during the growth process and it will pass. This is not the answer.
In the moment, massaging may be the only form of comfort, but (as I have previously discussed) pain killers such as Tylenol should be adamantly avoided.
Arnica gel and pellets: Arnica Montana, a plant native to mountainous areas of Europe and North America, has been used for centuries to treat a variety of pain. In 2007, research proved that arnica worked as well as ibuprofen.
Chiropractic Care: Improving the alignment and mobility of the joints of the pelvis and lower extremities can eliminate growing pains. Many times growing pains can be attributed to biomechanical issues early in development. Vertebral Subluxations may be behind the pain. Research shows that Spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) has been an effective way to eliminate growing pains!
Vitamin D: A recent study found that only 6% of children who suffered from growing pains had adequate levels of vitamin D. Another study examined the relationship of supplementing affected children with Vitamin D over a three month timeframe. Amazingly, the pain resolved completely in most of the children, while others experienced a significant reduction in symptoms.
Vitamin B6: According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, growing pains may eb a sign of Vitamin B deficiency.
Diet Changes: An anti-inflammatory diet, or more specifically, finding your child’s trigger foods, may end the pains. The gut is linked to the brain, the skin, the nervous system, etc. Inflammatory foods such as diary and gluten, as well as anything processed or containing chemicals should be avoided.
Regular Stretching: A small study found that regular stretching appeases growing pains. Stretching the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves every morning and evening for 10 minutes eliminated reoccurring pains.
Magnesium Lotion: The skin is the largest organ and will absorb anything placed on it. Magnesium has amazing powers and a soothing lotion version rubbed over the legs may prevent the pain.
Epsom Salt Bath: The magnesium found in Epsom salt mixed with warm water will soak into the skin and replenish a slight magnesium deficiency that could be linked to the night time pains.
Did You Know?
Growing pains are bilateral. That means that they will not exist on only one side of the body. If the right foot hurts, the left foot is sure to follow. It may not be at the same time, but it will be within a few days.
A Reassuring Note:
One believed cause of growing pains is a low threshold for pain. Since adults with fibromyalgia also have low pain thresholds, it was thought that children who suffer growing pains may be at an increased risk of suffering from chronic pain syndromes later in life. However, in 2010, a 5-year study followed 44 children suffering from growing pains and found that when children stop having growing pains, their pain thresholds tend to normalize. None of the kids in his follow-up study had developed fibromyalgia.
When Is It NOT Growing Pains?
It is important to note that ‘Growing Pains’ do not suddenly appear at age 8,9, or 10, but rather they exist from a younger age and may continue through age 12. If pains suddenly occur at these later ages, it is not caused by growing pains.
Some children diagnosed with growing pains meet diagnostic criteria for Restless Leg Syndrome, and a family history of RLS is common in these children. In some cases, symptoms are severe enough to warrant treatment.
Talk to your chiropractor or doctor about other issues if:
- Pain is occurring in the joints
- Pain worsens when touched
- Pain is worse in the morning
- Pain interferes with activities
- Pain is associated with an injury
- Pain is accompanied by fever, rash, weakness, redness, swelling, limping, loss of appetite, or fatigue.
It is almost impossible to avoid interaction with technology today. Our children are exposed to smart phones, tv’s, laptops, smart watches, iPads, LeapPads, other pads, and gaming systems just about every awake hour of every day of their lives, starting from infancy. As parents, we know it is wrong, but yet, the blue light draws us all in.
Children between the ages of two and 18 spend an average of five-and-a-half hours (or more) a day at home watching television, playing video games, surfing the Web or using some other form of media.
Brain growth occurs at a rapid rate. From birth, an infant already has all of the neurons he will ever have, but the synapses are forming based on nourishment and environment. Synapses are the relays over which neurons communicate with each other and are the basis of the working motherboard of the brain. Already more plentiful than an adult’s at birth, synapses multiply rapidly in the first months of life. A 2-year-old has about half as many synapses as a grown adult. They continue to form throughout childhood, into the teenage years, and complete development around age 25.
A few facts we know to be true about the development of the brain:
- Environmental exposures influence brain development.
- As the brain develops, the fibers connecting nerve cells are wrapped in a protein that greatly increases the speed with which they can transmit impulses from cell to cell. The increase in connectivity shapes how well different parts of the brain work at the same time. Research is finding that the extent of connectivity is related to growth in intellectual capacities such as memory and reading ability.
- Many hormonal changes take place during puberty. Reproductive hormones play a role in behavior and stress hormones have compound effects on the brain.
- The part of the brain involved in emotional responses changes during the teen years.
- An adolescent brain peaks in its ability to absorb and learn well before adulthood. The amount of information it can hold will never be larger than this stage.
- Sleep, or lack of it, plays a huge role in brain development. Sleep deprivation and fatigue attributes to difficulty maintaining attention, irritability and depression. Studies of children and adolescents have found that sleep deprivation can increase impulsive behavior. Sleep is imperative for proper physical and emotional health.
Did You Know?
21% of children under the age of 2 have a television in their bedroom, by the age of 8, over 50% of children have one. This does not include other media devices.
The amount of time spent in front of blue-light media devices at 2 years of age is linked with academic, social and health problems by age 10:
- Less engagement in classroom activities
- Less exercise
- Less sleep, poorer sleep quality
- Increased bullying statistics
- Poor food consumption
- Increased obesity
The average amount of reported time a 2-year-old spends exposed to blue-light media each day averages around 90 minutes. Again, that is the reported average, not the actual. I would assume the numbers are much higher. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 watch no TV, and children over age 2 watch no more than 2 hours per day. For every hour beyond this mark, the rate of the above mentioned problems increases.
As children enter school, those who utilize the internet during class cannot recall the information being taught nor do they perform as well on a test of the material as those who are not exposed to media. Research proves that reading books, not screens, develops reflection, critical thinking, problem solving, and vocabulary.
Not only is increased screen time effecting learning and brain development, potentially stunting both, but exposure may be causing permanent eye damage. Unlike digital eye strain, the effects of blue light media add up over time and can lead to eye diseases like macular degeneration. Children are at a higher risk than adults because their eyes are still developing, and they don’t yet have the protective pigments in their eyes to help filter out some of this harmful blue light.
I know that this is all scary, and yet common sense at the same time. We live in a time of technology, and our children should be included so they are not surpassed, but there is so much to be aware of before handing over a device and walking away. Notice body positioning as devices are used. Joints can be effected by prolonged media usage, effecting posture and causing many chronic problems. I see it all too often in my practice!
The bottom line, follow the guidelines of zero exposure before age 2 and limit to under 2 hours a day afterward. It may be an easy babysitter. It may even provide educational purposes, but there are consequences to the exposure.
Please take the time to watch this TedTalks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoT7qH_uVNo
October is Sensory Awareness Month. Sensory processing disorder is becoming a more well-known diagnosis among children, those on and off of the autism spectrum. The label is still not recognized by many medical professionals, but I can tell you that SPD exists. As a chiropractor, I work with many children (and adults) who struggle with processing their emotions. That is what SPD comes down to: sensory triggers that cause a spiral of emotions in which the individual cannot control.
Sensory Processing Disorder in simple terms is a misinterpretation of sensory information. We have 5 main senses: touch, taste, sound, smell, and sight. While any of these senses can become overwhelmed within the brain, an SPD child cannot figure out how to let go of the situation. The proprioceptive and vestibular systems play a huge role in regulating the incoming sensory information. The vestibular system is located from the base of the brain to the upper neck and inner ear. The proprioceptive system calls the entire spine and joints of the body home. This is why, when a sensory child is caught in an episode, he may seem to be in pain. His joints may hurt. His ears may ring. He may feel itchy like his skin is crawling. Even when not triggered, a child with SPD may feel constantly ‘off.’ They may not actually know ‘normal.’ This is why so many children may be misdiagnosed with ADD, ADHD, learning disabilities, etc.
A sensory child does not fit in a mold. A few common signs parents notice (this is not an exhaustive list by any means) include:
- Not handling things such as loud noises, being dirty, getting wet, wearing structured clothing, wearing loose clothing, wearing tight clothing, bright light, crowded spaces, having hair washed/brushed, getting fingernails or toenails cut, receiving an unexpected hug; walking barefoot, wearing shoes, getting buckled, or certain textures.
- Doesn’t notice when touched; almost always prefers sedentary activities to active ones; seems unaware of bodily sensations such as heat, cold, or hunger
- Needs to be touching someone, something, or everything he passes. Hugs too strongly and doesn’t know his own strength.
- Dislikes foods with certain textures.
- Cannot be anywhere without his primary caregiver.
- Often struggles with speech.
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Is passive, quiet, slow to respond to directions.
- Is excessively cautious and afraid to try new things.
- Is upset by transitions or unexpected changes.
- Avoids group activities.
- Wants to spin, slide or swing excessiely, and is constantly moving.
- Is accident-prone and has difficulty with physical skills such as catching a ball.
Children with SPD experience their meltdowns due to one of three reasons:
- The brain not receiving messages due to a disconnection in the nerve cells
- Sensory messages received inconsistently
- Sensory messages received consistently, but not connecting properly with other sensory messages.
Enabling a functioning vestibular and proprioceptive systems are key to aiding a healthy sensory connection. Vertebral subluxations (misalignments) of the spine may cause a disconnect between the brain and these sensory systems. An irritation can cause this misalignments – birth position, birth trauma, a fall, stress, etc. Chiropractic care removes neurological imbalances by realigning the spine. Within weeks of proper adjustments, a SPD child’s spine may begin to heal. Improvements with sensory triggers should occur, meaning the meltdowns should improve quite a bit. Motor skills, social skills, even speech may see vast improvements throughout chiropractic care.
Along with seeing a chiropractor, a diet free of processed foods, dyes, and gluten will greatly benefit a child suffering with sensory processing disorder. There may be more specific foods that a child reacts to, and an elimination diet (such as the Feingold diet) can help pinpoint the exact triggers.
It is not easy parenting a child with sensory processing disorder. Many pass judgement and try to blame the behavior on parenting styles of lifestyle choices, but the truth is that SPD is real. Occupational therapy, chiropractic care, dietary and lifestyle changes will all improve a family’s daily happiness.
Bedwetting may be a common occurrence in households across the country, but common does not mean normal.
The biggest thing you need to know is that a child does not purposefully wet the bed. You cannot punish orscare your child, but it may worsen the problem.
The next thing to know is that the most common reason children wet the bed at night is due to what they are eating and drinking.
Diet is Linked to Bedwetting
“Nocturnal enuresis may be linked to dietary allergies that provoke bladder instability.” –Dr. Douglas N.Tietjen, M.D., and Douglas A.Husmann, M.D. from the Department of Urology at the Mayo Clinic.
Their study concluded that all stopped bed-wetting when they began food-restricted diets, and the wetting re-occurred when they resumed regular diets.
Could Your Child’s Diet be the Problem?
- digestive problems
- bloated belly
- skin rashes or hives
- stuffy or runny nose
- dark circles under the eyes
- night sweats
- red ears
- red cheeks
- bumps on the back of the arms
- frequent colds/illnesses
All of these ailments are linked to food sensitivities (or allergies), and they may be to blame for the bedwetting. Typically, the foods your child reaches for the most (processed foods, sugar, gluten, dairy) are to blame, but not always. Talk to your doctor about IgE and IgG testing to find out specifically what’s triggering issues or follow an elimination diet like Feingold or GAPS. Make sure to keep a food journal to link any reactions to specific foods!
Other Possible Bedwetting Causes
Enuresis is a condition in which the child has the loss of bladder control. Nocturnal Enuresis is known as “bed-wetting” because it happens during the night. Approximately 5 to 7 million children wet the bed, with boys more so than girls.
The most important thing to note is that there is a cause to bedwetting. While there is more than one possibility, there is a specific reason your child is wetting the bed; and stubbornness or defiance are not options.
Most research has proven that bed-wetting isn’t caused by drinking too much liquid before bedtime. It’s not a psychological problem. It’s not because the child is too lazy to get out of bed to go to the bathroom.
According to Research, Possible Causes Include:
- Genetics: Bedwetting tends to run in families
- Overactive Bladder Syndrome: When the muscles that control the bladder spasm and trigger urine to leak out.
- Small Bladder Capacity: A smaller bladder needs to be emptied more, but the child should wake to empty it.
- Medications: Certain medications cause frequent urination or a deeper sleep, meaning the child will not wake up to go to the bathroom.
- Hormones: Low levels of the hormone Vasopressin (which regulates urine production) cause the kidneys to produce too much urine for the bladder to hold – OR not enough antidiuretic hormone; this hormone reduces the amount of urine made by the kidneys.
- Nervous System: The nerves attached to the bladder may not be fully developed. This can cause a weakened signal to the brain causing the child not to wake up.
- Fears: Being scared of the dark or other nighttime fears may keep your child in bed and scared to leave for the bathroom.
- Urinary Tract Infection
- Abnormalities in the urethral valves in boys or in the ureter in girls or boys
- Abnormalities in the spinal cord
- Constipation: If the bowels become blocked, it places pressure on the bladder and triggers bedwetting.
- Stimulating Beverages: sodas, teas, and caffeinated beverages may stimulate an increase in urine.
How to Help
- Do not voice your frustration or place blame on your child. You may cause the problem to get worse.
- Make sure your child uses the bathroom before bed.
- Keep a small potty-training potty next to his bed so he knows he has something close by to use if the bathroom is too far, the hall is too dark, or he’s too tired to walk that far.
- Keep the mattresses protected with waterproof covers. Go one step forward and add another waterproof layer on top of the fitted sheet that can be removed in the middle of the night without having to strip the entire bed.
- Chiropractic Care: If the bedwetting is caused by nerve interference from the spine, chiropractic care will help. Several studies show that manipulating and adjusting the spine can eliminate bedwetting.
- Behavior therapy: A treatment that doesn’t use medicine.
- Motivational therapy: positive reinforcement and reward systems to help your child keep track of his progress.
- Behavior conditioning: This therapy uses an alarm. The alarm rings or vibrates when your child first begins to wet the bed.
- Diet Change: Following an elimination diet and removing trigger foods, typically processed items, those containing dyes and toxins, gmo’s, and/or general items that hurt your child’s gut may eliminate all bed wetting.
Note: Your doctor may offer medicine if your child is seven years old or older, and if behavior therapy and diet changes haven’t worked. But medicines aren’t a cure for bed-wetting! Remember that medicines may have side effects.
These medicines work in two ways:
- One kind of medicine helps the bladder hold more urine
- The other kind helps the kidneys make less urine.
Solving the root of the problem is a much better option.
It is becoming a more common site: babies wearing helmets, or babies without helmets, but with a noticeable flat portion to the back of their heads. You stare for a moment and look away, but you are wondering what the cause is and how you can avoid this with your infant. There is also the possibly that you are experiencing this right now and want answers. I’m going to break down the science of what has happened, or could happen, the history behind it all, how to prevent, and ways to treat the problem.
Let me start with this: Infants should not have flat heads.
Before I dive into cranial malformations, known as plagiocephaly, let me first brush upon Infantile Idiopathic Scoliosis (IIS). IIS is scoliosis in children under 3 years of age. While you may not think it has anything to do with plagiocephaly, there is a link. IIS was a rare phenomenon in past decades; however, in the last 15 years, authorities in the field of scoliosis have noticed a steady increase in children with this condition. Many researchers have taken this a step further and linked a relationship between IIS and cranial malformations. The link is this: an infant being laid in the supine sleeping position, on their backs. In 1993, Canada and many other countries around the world began recommending that infants be placed to sleep on their backs, and this was later reinforced with the “Back to Sleep” campaign. The incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in Canada subsequently declined by 50% between 1999 and 2004. Obviously, the reduction in SIDS is wonderful, and I am not advocating a return to the prone (belly) sleeping position. But within two years of the recommendation, there was a six-fold increase in the cases of plagiocephaly. This is research that needs to be noted, and there are changes that need to be made.
Interesting though, when babies spend time in the prone (belly) position, IIS and cranial malformations are significantly reduced. While this contradicts SIDS information, it does explain why, when babies are not asleep, they need to be held, worn, experience tummy time, or other options that do not include being on their backs. http://www.canadianchiropractor.ca/patient-care/the-rise-in-infantile-scoliosis-2301#sthash.uPlDTj0S.dpuf
Studies also show that 16% of babies, mostly male, are found to have torticollis. Congenital muscular torticollis can be present at birth or develops soon after. It is usually discovered in the first 6 to 8 weeks of life, when a newborn begins to gain more control over the head and neck. With tortocollis, the infant is unable to turn his head away from the affected area, which over time may cause mild facial asymmetry, range restriction of the neck, delayed development of postural control, and alteration in visual gaze to one side. Physical therapy involving stretching or deep neck massage may be needed. Prior to physical therapy, it is important to obtain cervical x-rays to rule out structural abnormalities. Surgical release of the sternocleidomastoid muscle is done only as a last resort if other therapy fails. Torticollis shows in the form of a shortened neck muscle, and can be seen easily by the parent or pediatrician. A specific cause is not known, but is assumed to be non-ideal positioning in the womb. Chiropractic care can also help greatly. The larger problem occurs when these newborns are then sleeping in a supine position (on the back), and are spending extra time throughout the day in this position. They are then at higher risk of developing deformational posterior plagiocephaly. Identification of affected infants may allow early implementation of positioning recommendations or physical therapy to prevent the secondary craniofacial deformations that are part of this increasing problem. http://adc.bmj.com/content/93/10/827.short and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595182/#citeref13
Historically, a dolichocephalic (elongated) head shape was always the norm. Currently the norm has changed to a more brachycephalic (shorter and broader) shape. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Back to Sleep Campaign,” the incidence of positional plagiocephaly has increased dramatically with a concurrent rise in the incidence of torticollis.
Infants who require NICU care, and particularly premature infants, are more prone to positional plagiocephaly and dolichocephaly. This is because they spend days, weeks, or longer being laid on their backs. Both can be prevented or minimized by proper positioning. http://journals.lww.com/advancesinneonatalcare/Abstract/2005/12000/Impacting_Infant_Head_Shapes.11.aspx
Another interesting fact is that the incidence of cranial flattening is 13% in singletons and 56% in twins. Risk factors include: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595182/
- assisted forcep vaginal delivery
- prolonged labor
- unusual birth position
- male gender
It is important for parents to be informed about the importance of supervised prone (belly) playtime to enhance the development of early motor skills. Parents also need to be aware of their infant’s head position preference and remember to alternate head positions when putting the infant to sleep. This is even more important when cranial flattening is noticed immediately following the birth of an infant.
Preventativev measures include:
- Daily tummy time
- Limit the time in supine position in car seat, infant swing, and infant carriers.
- Encouraging increased head and neck movement.
- Hold your baby more often: Reduce the amount of time your child spends lying on her back or often being in a position where the head is resting against a flat surface (such as in car seats, strollers, swings, bouncy seats, and play yards).
Preventative Chiropractic Care: Cranial adjusting techniques can be done to prevent plagiocephaly.
If plagiocephaly is left untreated, the infant can have prolonged developmental delays. It can also cause abnormal occlusion, temporomandibular joint difficulties, and strabismus. Any altered physical appearance, without treatment, may be permanent as well.
In most cases of plagiocephaly, the condition is self-resolving. A study found plagiocephaly to be present in 20% of 8 month-old infants, but that by the age of two years, this number had decreased to 3%.
- 73% of infants suffering from plagiocephaly have the problem resolved with frequent head turning.
- 23% of infants are cured by use of helmet molding therapy
- 4% require surgery
A helmet called a thermoplastic orthotic device involves the use of thermoplastic materials that can be molded directly onto the infant’s head. The device is lined throughout, using a soft material to protect the skin of the infant. It is light, comfortable, and tolerated well by the infant This method of treatment is most effective if used between 4 and 12 months of age and involves the infant wearing the helmet for several months with weekly adjustments made by a technician. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595182/#citeref23
Again, chiropractic care can aid in the treatment of flat head syndrome, as well as in the prevention of it. Please do not hesitate to take action if you feel as though your infant is showing signs, as you do not want motor skills to be effected long term.
As if reading Parts 1, 2, 3 haven’t stressed you out enough, let’s go ahead and dive into how stress affects our children. I’d like to say that the point of researching and writing this series is not to stress anyone out, but instead to make you (and me) realize just how important it is to learn to handle our stress and include more relaxation in our lives.
Stress is positive when the person feels stimulated and able to manage the situation. This positive response prepares the body for action and activates the higher thinking centers of the brain. A positive response to stress can provide the energy to handle emergencies, meet challenges, and excel.
Stress is negative when a person feels threatened and not in control of the situation. These feelings instigate a powerful reaction – affecting both the brain and body in ways that can be destructive to physical and mental health.
Children are more stressed than ever these days. Young children living in poverty or those living wealthy but expected to know how to read by four years old. Stress does not discriminate. A baby, toddler, or child’s body also does not discriminate when it comes to stress. It’s all relative to each child’s environment, and (if you read how stress affects pregnancy) even the stress level of their mother while pregnant with them.
We now know that early life abuse and neglect have adverse effects upon the developing brain and body that can result in poor self-control and emotional regulation, impair cognitive development, and raise the risk of cardiovascular, metabolic and immune system diseases. http://www.dana.org/Publications/ReportOnProgress/Effects_ofStress_on_the_Developing_Brain/
Animal findings demonstrate that isolation from mother, decreased skin stimulation, and withholding of breastmilk (not feeding on demand) have biochemical and permanent brain consequences. Correlating these findings with human behavioral research suggests which events lead to chronic stress and its permanent consequences.
Common Sources of stress in Infants: http://www.parentingscience.com/stress-in-babies.html
- Being away from caregiver: Without regular closeness to a caregiver, an infant not only suffers from elevated stress hormones, but also receives less benefit from oxytocin surges and other positive biochemical influences. The biochemical environment imposed on an infant’s brain during critical development stages affects the anatomy and functioning of the brain permanently. A poor biochemical environment results in less desirable emotional, behavioral, and intellectual abilities for the rest of a child’s life.
- Allowing a child to “cry it out” without affection
- Not feeding the child when hungry
- Not offering comfort when the child is disturbed or distressed
- Limiting body contact during feeding, throughout the day, and during stressful parts of the night
- Low levels of human attention, stimulation, “conversation,” and play
While it is evident that genetic makeup and life experiences influence behavior, it has been demonstrated that experiences during infancy have the strongest and most persistent effect on adult hormone regulation, stress responses, and behavior. Research has demonstrated that high levels of early physical contact and maternal responsiveness can even mitigate genetic predisposition for more extreme stress reactions.
Common Sources of stress in children: http://www.networkofcare.org/library/childrenandstress.pdf
- being away from home
- being bullied
- fear of wetting themselves (ages 5 and older)
- fear of punishment
- worry about getting along with peers
- worry about school work
- fear of being chosen last on any team
- fear of being different from others
- worry about changing bodies (ages 10 to 12)
- divorce of parents
- move to new town or city
- being held back in school
- serious illness
The HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical) axis, a relationship between specific brain organs and the adrenal glands, is the chief regulator of stress reactions. During stress, stress hormones are released under control of the HPA axis to help the body cope. Cortisol can elevate the blood pressure and the heart rate, increase blood sugar, and interrupt digestive and kidney functions.
The hippocampus, a structure important in learning and memory, is one brain site where development is affected by stress and bonding hormone levels. The level of the stress hormones circulating in an infant affects the number and types of receptors here. It has also been demonstrated that nerve cells in the hippocampus are destroyed as a result of chronic stress and elevated stress hormone levels, producing intellectual deficits as a consequence. Children with the lowest scores on mental and motor ability tests have been shown to be the ones with the highest cortisol levels in their blood.
Continuously elevated stress hormone levels in infancy from a stressful environment are associated with permanent “negative” effects on brain development, causing heightened stress responses that can lead to aggressive behavior and early puberty. Early life stress has also been tied to depression, anxiety, heart disease, cancer, and a lack of educational and employment success.
Behavioral problems and increased cumulative life stress were also linked to smaller hippocampus and amygdala volumes. Why early life stress may lead to smaller brain structures is still unknown.
Studies have shown that infants who receive frequent physical affection have lower overall cortisol levels, while psychological attachment studies reveal higher levels in insecurely attached children. http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/strategies/topics/Keeping%20Fit%20for%20Learning/stress.html
Common Signs that your infant or child is experiencing stress: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/350/350-054/350-054.html and https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002059.htm
Physical symptoms can include:
- Decreased appetite, other changes in eating habits
- Accident proneness
- Hitting, Kicking, Biting
- Extreme Laziness
- Fingernail biting
- Grinding Teeth
- Pounding Heart
- Thumb Sucking
- New or recurrent bedwetting
- Sleep disturbances
- Upset stomach or vague stomach pain
- Other physical symptoms with no physical illness
Emotional or behavioral symptoms may include:
- Inability to relax
- New or recurring fears (fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of strangers)
- Clinging, unwilling to let you out of sight
- Questioning (may or may not ask questions)
- Inability to control emotions
- Aggressive behavior
- Stubborn behavior
- Regression to behaviors that are typical of an earlier developmental stage
- Unwillingness to participate in family or school activities
We need to lead by example with handling our own stresses, and give our children the tools to handle theirs. The younger the child, the easier it is to set a solid foundation. You can’t lead a life of stress but then effectively teach stress management, it’s just not possible.
Be aware of how you are disciplining your child(ren). If children fear their parents, they are constantly experiencing stress over their actions.
Ways to Help Our Children: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Pages/Helping-Children-Handle-Stress.aspx and http://handtohold.org/resources/helpful-articles/what-causes-children-stress-understanding-childrens-developmental-stages-and-common-stressors/ and http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/350/350-054/350-054.html
- Be with your infant and hear their cues: Hold her. Rock her. You will not spoil a baby by holding her. Listen and learn your infant’s specific cues of hunger, wetness, being uncomfortable or unhappy and tend to their needs.
- Stop Overscheduling: One of the biggest stressors for kids is being overscheduled. Today, kids are expected to pay attention and perform in school for seven hours, excel at extracurricular activities, come home, finish homework, and go to bed just to do it all over again the next day. Kids need downtime to rejuvenate. Their brains and bodies need to rest. And they might not realize this by themselves. So knowing when your child is overscheduled is important.
- Make time for play: Children of all ages process their emotions through play. They need many opportunities to “play out” their worries and concerns. For younger children this may be done through pretend play while older children may choose to express themselves through avenues such as art and music. No matter what their age, let them know that you want to hear what they have to say and that you will do your best to help them through this crisis. Make sure that play isn’t “pressured” and there is no lesson to learn, competition, or end goal. (Bike riding, imaginative play, hiking, exploring.)
- Make sleep a priority: Sleep is vital for everything from minimizing stress to boosting mood to improving school performance. Keep electronics out of the bedroom.
- Teach Body Awareness: Understanding stress and when the body feels stressed may need to be taught. Encourage children to listen to what their bodies are saying.
- Manage your own stress: Stress is contagious and your children will feel your own stress. If you slow down, they will follow.
- Make mornings calmer: Disorganization, constant hurry, and pressure to perform from the moment they wake up is a stressful trigger.
- Prepare them to make mistakes: Perfection is not and should not be attainable. You are not perfect and neither is your child. Striving for such a thing can set the rollercoaster of lifelong chronic stress. Making mistakes, even BIG ones, is normal. Making bad decisions is also normal. Teach them how to recover and be loved through these moments.
- Encourage your child to face her fears, not run: Avoidance of anxiety causes further anxiety. By facing fears, stress naturally lowers.
- Focus on the Positives: Many times anxious and stressed children can get lost in negative thoughts and self-criticism. They may focus on how the glass is half empty instead of half-full and worry about future events. The more that you are able to focus on your child’s positive attributes and the good aspects of a situation, the more that it will remind your child to focus on the positives.
- Encourage your child to express his anxiety: Avoid telling your child how they feel (“You’re fine”). Instead, use statements that prompt a response (“You seem scared. Are you worried?”). This will ignite a conversation.
- Practice relaxation exercises with your child: Sometimes really basic relaxation exercises are necessary to help your child to reduce their stress. This might mean telling your child to take a few slow, deep breaths (and you taking a few slow breaths with your child so your child can match your pace). You can also meditate or do yoga exercises together.
- Study on early life stress: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3913903/
- aacap.org— American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Anxiety Disorders Association of America:adaa.org
- OCDFoundation: ocfoundation.org
- Child Anxiety Network:http://www.childanxiety.net/