An excellent article written by the Asheville Citizen-Times about using alternative medicine for children. Dr. Eric Lewis was interviewed for this article.
Asheville-area parents turn to complementary medicine
Written by Paul Clark, April 9, 2012
When Chama Woydak’s children have a stomachache or other simple malady, the Weaverville mother can often do something about it herself.
Like a growing number of parents nationwide, Woydak augments the care her children get from the family physician by using complementary and alternative medicine. CAM, as it’s also known, can lessen pain and discomfort by using any of several natural remedies.
“I didn’t not want to know what to do when they got sick and (instead) have to run to the doctor’s every time,” said Woydak, who practiced natural medicine on herself before her children were born. “I wanted to be more involved in the decision-making process surrounding their health.”
Increasingly, parents are interested in natural remedies, said Dr. Steven Coward, a naturopathic doctor at Asheville Natural Health & Homeopathy. That’s especially true in Asheville, which tends to attract people who love the outdoors and believe in the healing power of nature.
The 2007 National Health Interview Survey cited by the National Institutes of Health concluded that 12 percent of the 9,000 children (younger than 18) whose families were surveyed used some form of CAM within the last 12 months. Among the most used therapies, in descending order, were natural products, chiropractic and osteopathic, deep breathing, yoga, homeopathic treatment, traditional healers, massage, meditation, diet-based therapies and progressive relaxation.
The most common conditions in which CAM was employed were, also in descending order, back and neck pain, head or chest colds, anxiety and stress, other musculoskeletal problems, ADHD and insomnia.
CAM therapies for children haven’t been studied extensively, according to the NIH. Parents should always tell their child’s care provider about any CAM treatment they’re considering for the child, the federal agency said.
“You want to combine the best of both worlds,” Coward said of conventional and CAM practices. “The benefits to having the complementary part is, you address more root causes of an illness, so that you can reduce the need for medication.
“Medicine is great if you can’t prevent an illness or get a situation under control by other means. But other things, like good nutrition, adequate sleep and homeopathic remedies to stimulate the immune system, a lot of times those things do work. And you avoid the need for antibiotics.”
Woydak has a family doctor for problems outside her knowledge of herbs, homeopathy and other CAM modalities.
“You’ve got to know when you’re outside your comfort zone (of treatment) or when your child is displaying signs and symptoms that are not OK,” she said. A good children’s health and wellness reference book can help. So can paying close attention to what illnesses and stresses your child is prone to, she said.
The effectiveness of CAM practices has been scientifically studied far less than mainstream practices, and herbal palliatives are not regulated by the FDA. It’s also important to realize that children are not little adults, the NIH said. Smaller doses of what may work for an adult could be detrimental to children.
To soothe an earache:An onion poultice. Cut an onion in half, warm it in a microwave for about 20 seconds, wrap it in cheesecloth and place it on a child’s ear for 10-15 minutes. • To ease congested breathing:Steam inhalation. Warm a bowl of water, have your child bend over it, cover the bowl and his or her head with a towel to confine the steam and have your child breath deeply. • For sore throats:The saltwater gargle. Mix salt in warm water and have your child gargle with it. • To clear nasal congestion:The warm and cool treatment. Put your child’s feet in a tub of warm water, then put a cool washcloth on his or her forehead. The coolness drives the congestion away, and the heat draws it downward. Do it before bed to have them get a good night’s sleep.Source: Dr. Eric Lewis, Lewis Family Natural Health in Asheville.
‘“Natural’ does not mean ‘safe,’” the NIH says in a CAM backgrounder. “CAM therapies can have side effects, and these may be different in children than in adults.”
That said, there are many benefits. Yoga and guided imagery can help calm and “center” children without prescription drugs. Reiki, a spiritual form of energy work, is said to reduce stress and aid relaxation. The antibacterial properties of onions and garlic help with ear infections, a common childhood malady. Teaching children to sit quietly when stressed or to sip a cup of ginger tea when their stomachs are upset can bring relief.
Many private health insurance companies have added coverage for CAM modalities such as chiropractic and acupuncture. As a result, the number of naturopathic clinics and private practices has increased nationwide. Asheville, which has one of the state’s largest medical communities, has a vibrant alternative medicine scene.
“Whether we’re talking about nutritional supplement, diets, healthy lifestyles, there are a number of natural remedies,” said Dr. Eric Lewis a naturopathic physician for men, women and children at Lewis Family Natural Health in Asheville.
In instances where conventional doctors might not want to prescribe an antibiotic for something that’s causing a low-grade fever, a naturopathic doctor can suggest something to bring it down, Lewis said. Children who have colds, ear infections or the flu on a regular basis are those who will benefit from complementary care, he said.
“Job No. 1 is to find what the underlying cause is,” Lewis said. “The naturopath looks at health care from a holistic perspective. You look at 10 different kids with allergies, runny noses, itchy eyes, and you may have 10 different reasons why they feel that way.”
Because Woydak’s children know what it feels like to have their health in balance, they know what it’s like to be out of balance as well. That awareness is perhaps the most important aspect of CAM and something they’ll carry into their adult lives, their mother said.
“For them to understand how they can self-diagnose when they’re not feeling well, that’s what I’m hoping to instill in them,” she said. “It’s empowering to be able to work with your family’s health.”