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As we rejoice (sometimes secretly) that the kids are back to school, this time of the year can also be an anxious time for parents who begin to anticipate the onslaught of coughs, colds, tummy bugs, lice, and other ailments that plague school age children. Caring for sick children can be very upsetting, exhausting and stressful, particularly for working parents trying to take time off or arrange for care by family members.
A holistic view is that common coughs and colds can provide an opportunity for children (and adults) to build and strengthen their immunities, especially when they last about a week and do not develop into a secondary infection such as an ear, sinus or chest infection. These ‘healthy’ colds may be a nuisance but they are considered (again in holistic philosophy) ‘healthy’ in that they come and go briefly and should only come on once or twice a year, although with school age children that may be four or five times a year.
When colds last longer and develop into infections (ear, nose, throat or chest) then the immune system is struggling and needs support. This is where complementary medicine can help by providing a constitutional boost to strengthen the overall immune system. To the professional Homeopath, these prescriptions are more comprehensive in that the remedy ‘matches’ the individual’s temperament, appetite and thirst patterns, sensitivities to the environment (heat, cold, draft, etc), and sleep patterns. Patients often report that after constitutional treatment they are stronger and more resilient, even when coughs and colds are going around the house or office.
Because the remedies are derived from highly diluted natural sources (plants, animals, minerals) there are no side effects and they are safe for pregnant women, children and babies. Prescribing for babies and small children is often based on observations of complexion, tongue and eyes, body temperature, sleep and feeding patterns as well as the pregnancy and birth experiences of the mother. In these cases a constitutional boost is needed because of an inherited susceptibility to allergies, illnesses that run in the family, and/or some birth trauma, among others. My son was born inhaling meconium, and needed medical intervention. As a result he had a chronic cough that lasted years, which conventional medicine and treatments couldn’t resolve. It was homeopathy that addressed the early trauma to his respiratory system and cleared his cough once and for all!
Homeopathy can also treat acute conditions from sinus infections to coughs and stomach aches. These prescriptions are different in that the symptoms are drawn with detail to give the body the support it needs to be able to heal and recover. In the case of a stomach ache, the details of nausea, vomiting, bowel movements, and any condition that gives the person any relief (sipping water, fresh air, eating any particular food, etc) are all taken during the consultation. The goal is to identify a remedy that will help the digestive tract to come through the ailment as quickly as possible, while also alleviating pain and discomfort.
For common school age complaints such as lice, worms, and parasites, homeopathic remedies can help children cope with the discomfort and help to reduce the likelihood of recurrence. When children are repeatedly getting these parasites, then a constitutional remedy will help address the susceptibility so that they don’t catch them again…and again…and again.
On that note, best wishes for the upcoming school year…
One of the most common complaints in the clinic is around mild to moderate digestive problems including chronic wind, bloating, acid reflux, irregular or incomplete bowel movements, food cravings or sensitivities, symptoms around hunger, and general feelings of being unwell or tired after eating.
When patients come to me with symptoms involving sensitivities to specific foods, the foods they respond to (wheat, dairy, eggs, fat or fried foods, etc) are often the indicators of remedies that will help to strengthen the digestive system and improve general assimilation and elimination. These are not food allergies, which are severe in nature and warrant conventional treatment and sometimes medication. Sensitivities to specific foods range from feeling full quickly, bloating, wind, cramping, and discomfort, loose stools, reflux, and generally feeling unwell after eating. The consultation will review details of the foods, the symptoms, general eating patterns including food cravings and aversions, as well as details of health history, sleep, moods, and any other chronic health complaints. The remedies prescribed will help to improve digestion and strengthen the immune response which often addresses chronic symptoms.
In treatment I often recommend that the patient consider pro-biotics for a minimum of 3 months to help strengthen the gut. Many people ask if they can resume the foods that cause the symptoms especially if the foods are dairy, wheat or soy, which are increasingly difficult to avoid as they are in many prepared foods. I recommend that they refrain from the foods in the early weeks/months of treatment and as the digestion improves, they try a small amount of the food to assess how their gut responds. Eating these foods on a regular basis may not suit them constitutionally but many find that they don’t experience the severity or intensity of the digestive symptoms as they did before – making going out to eat or holidays more enjoyable.
Another common issue for many is irregular or incomplete bowel movement where the person feels that their bowels are not emptying completely. On average a person should move their bowels at least once daily. Symptoms such as chronic constipation or loose stools, need to be checked by a GP to assess any underlying issue. If there is none, then homeopathy can help to improve the elimination process in conjunction with pro-biotics. A good book with general information on health and nutrition, such as Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis Balch or the Nutrition Almanac by John Kirschmann, can also provide support.
Patients often report that they notice mood changes when hungry or that they feel tired after eating. Mood changes when hungry can indicate a mild fluctuating blood sugar which can leave people feeling irritable, anxious or even depressed. This is not be confused with diabetes which again warrants conventional treatment and medication. Alongside homeopathic treatment, I will recommend a change in eating habits through eating small amount of food frequently, and while reaching for sweets can be convenient and tempting, a more stable source of energy can be a handful of nuts, seeds, or dried fruit. Again, a good book on nutrition, consulting informational websites, or meeting with a nutritionist or dietician can be helpful in establishing good lifestyle habits.
Feeling tired or heavy after eating meals can be caused by simply eating too much food, too quickly. Again, eating smaller portions or grazing on healthy foods is best for more balanced energy supply. Most of us eat on the go and find that we eat very quickly, so simply slowing down can be very helpful. A friend of mine once did an experiment by eating with chopsticks to force her to eat more slowly and mindfully!
Other common complaints include acid reflux, wind, and bloating that can leave a person feeling uncomfortably full after eating, with embarrassing symptoms that affect social situations and engagements. One woman came to me with wind and reflux that triggered a gag reflex, which was so severe that she was unable to leave the house, causing her to feel completely isolated. Her GP had prescribed medications that didn’t work in her case. After only a few days after taking the homeopathic remedies that I prescribed, her symptoms eased considerably. Within a few weeks she was completely free of the reflux, and now out of the house again with friends and family!
This again is a brilliant case where complementary medicine was able to provide a solution that conventional medicine could not.
Thanks to the current baby boom, expecting Mothers are ringing me looking for safe treatments for pregnancy-related symptoms. It is here that homeopathy can provide a safe, gentle and effective alternative to conventional medicines and treatments, which often have potentially dangerous side-effects, for anything from morning sickness to heartburn.
I recently treated a newly expecting Mother who had horrific nausea; she was constantly sick or feeling as if she was going to be sick. During the consultation, I asked her when her nausea was worse or better, what types of things gave her any relief, including vomiting, and about her general appetite and thirst. The remedy that emerged was Colchicum, which is made from meadow saffron. After only a few doses over a few days, this remedy gave her enormous relief and restored her appetite.
Another case was of a woman expecting her baby in February, who felt exhausted, irritable, and constipated. During the consultation I asked when her energy was at its best and worst, what types of coping mechanisms she had for her irritability, and her overall digestion. I prescribed a homeopathic preparation of Sepia, made from the ink of a cuttlefish. This remedy restored her energy levels, lightened her mood, and greatly improved her bowels.
Remedies are readily available at many chemists, health food stores, or through Nelson’s Homeopathic Dispensary on Duke Street. They are relatively inexpensive, approximately €6 to €8 per remedy, and can be repeated as frequently as needed with no danger of addiction or side effects.
This is some of my favourite work as a homeopath because remedies ‘fill the gap’ where conventional medicines leave off. They provide an effective alternative without endangering the safety of an unborn child.