What is Holistic Pediatrics and When It's Time To Find It
I love this question. Why? It means you’re asking a necessary and productive question on your way to finding health and healing for your child or teen. This question might have been spurred by not getting the care your child deserves from their pediatrician. It might mean that you are feeling dismissed, brushed aside, or condescended to in your pediatrician’s office. Or, for others, your child or teen’s physical and/or mental health challenges are not responding to the meds they’re being prescribed. In comes the search for something different: Holistic Pediatrics.
Holistic Pediatrics Doesn’t Cut You Up Into Pieces
I’m starting from the negative, because it’s what most of our experiences are with Western Medicine. You’ve got a skin problem? Dermatologist (and usually some kind of steroid cream that breaks down the skin barrier). You have a migraine that isn’t responding to meds? Go get an MRI of your head and see a headache specialist who mostly prescribes meds and doesn’t ask about your mental health. Your digestion is all over the place? Sometimes constipated, and others, diarrhea? Go see a GI specialist and take a stool softener that is habit-forming.
But you might be thinking, “What about the incontrovertible fact that my head, my gut, my mental health, and my skin are all connected?” This is THE question that leads many parents to seek out holistic pediatric care for their children. Because you know after a long, stressful week at school or in a life transition, your child or teen gets diarrhea, loses their appetite, and acts withdrawn or not themselves. Some might even see a correlation between their child’s eczema, sleep issues, or repeated illnesses and their mental health. And when parents seek help from a medical system that is built on seeing your child as parts, not as an interconnected collection of systems that impact one another, your child can be left without the relief they deserve.
A Holistic Pediatric Practitioner Understands The Body-Mind Connection
Children and teens are so much more influenced by changes in their environment, and even by their own emotions than most parents realize. A practitioner who is trained in a Holistic Pediatric modality (more below on that), has a system of medicine that allows them to 1) understand the intricate connections between body and mind and 2) address that connection. Western medicine is built upon the incorrect hypothesis that what happens in the brain (emotions, thoughts, habits) have no bearing on the body. How can you treat a child or teen properly if you believe this false dichotomy? You treat symptoms, create dependencies and side effects, and the root problem usually worsens.
Any truly holistic practitioner dedicates time to dig into what is going on for your child or teen. They will listen intently, ask clarifying questions, and never, ever dismiss you. In this way of understanding the body, relationship is primary. You will get to see your practitioner more than every few months (!) In fact, in the beginning of working together, you may meet weekly to ensure the treatment is working and that both you (the parent) and your child or teen has space to offer feedback and become a partner in their own health.
Chinese Medicine As A Thousands Year Old Holistic Pediatric Modality
In Chinese Medicine, each and every organ system is in charge of a specific set of emotions. Notice, I didn’t say “organ”, I said “organ system”. Meaning, East Asian Medicine has understood, for 5,000 years, that the organs are connected with one another in an complex interplay. There is no “body” and “mind” in this medicine because they simply aren’t separated-out in this way. So back to the emotions associated with each organ.
For example, let’s take a very common experience amongst children and teens. Your kid is sitting at the dinner table the night before a big game, audition, social event or test. They appear anxious, ruminating on something, and the only thing that they seem to want to talk about is the future event they're worried about. They haven’t touched their dinner and say they have no appetite. In the morning, they report being nauseous and tell you in a whisper that they had a bout of diarrhea in the middle of the night. And some bad dreams about failing the test or embarrassing themselves in front of "everyone".
What I’ve described above is a very common and an easily addressed pattern in Chinese Medicine. Here at Spectrum Chinese Medicine we utilize painless, self-administered phototherapy patches, herbs, and Health At Every Size movement and food guidance to help relieve these symptoms, from the root cause. We understand that emotional strain can impact the digestive system, causing symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, alternating constipation/diarrhea, and stomachaches. This kiddo doesn’t need to be forced to eat or given a med to bind their stool, they need help regulating their nervous system so that their appetite can reappear, they can feel calmer, and so their bowels regulate naturally.
Top 2 Reasons To Seek Out A Holistic Pediatric Practitioner
You might be wondering when it's time to make the jump. Adding another practitioner to your child or teen's care team can feel overwhelming at first, but once you find the right fit, the results can be life-changing.
#1) You Want To Avoid Giving Your Child Or Teen Meds, Or Are Trying To Get Them Off Meds
There is a time and a place for pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics and antidepressants like SSRIs. What a lot of parents seem to misunderstand is that you have a responsibility to try the safest interventions first, only opting for pharmaceuticals with potentially serious effects if lower-risk interventions are ineffective.
(Now, don’t get me wrong, not everyone can rearrange their finances to prioritize high-quality holistic pediatric care. I understand the realities of systemic oppression and how they continue to impact BIPOC communities’ access to their own plant and energetic-based healing systems and access to practitioners trained in acupuncture, herbal medicine, craniosacral, chiropractic, and pediatric naturopathy just to name a few. If you self-identity as BIPOC and need a Reparations Rate in order to seek holistic pediatric care for your child, reach out.)
What I’m talking about here is those of you who can financially prioritize investing in holistic pediatric care. You already know that antidepressants, SSRIs, anxiety meds, frequent laxative use, multiple rounds of antibiotics or steroid creams, and on and on, can have serious, life-long side effects for your child or teen. The beauty (and opportunity!) in addressing:
- Pediatric anxiety,
- Depression in teens,
- Repeated illness,
- Digestive distress,
- Sleep issues,
- Behavioral challenges, and;
- Nervous system support for kids with ADHD and ASD
...is that children and teens typically respond very well to non-pharmaceutical interventions like acu-phototherapy (painless patches that you place on your body or clothes at home!) and herbs. And if you heal the root cause of these issues during childhood or adolescence, you’re setting your kid up for an easier, happier, and healthier childhood AND adult life.
#2) Your Regular Pediatrician Is Stumped
You might love your regular pediatrician. There are a lot of kind, well-trained, client-centered (holistic) pediatricians – and I hope that you’re one of those lucky families that has one! Liking and trusting your pediatrician is wonderful, AND, it doesn’t mean that they have every single tool necessary to treat your child or teen. You may have already gone to specialists, done more imaging, tried OT, PT, or therapy and it's just not working.
It's a sad reality that the western medicine system is based on a disease model. What does that mean? It means that your pediatrician (and the specialists they've been sending you to) spent the majority of their time in medical school focused on treating disease, not preventing it, or even identifying it very early-on before it’s bad enough to "warrant" a diagnosis. Meaning, most western medicine doctors simply lack the tools to identify and treat symptoms that don’t fit neatly into a specific diagnose and that generally, early signs of disease get missed. It's not about good intentions, it's about a lack of tools and training.
As a result, your child or teen might be slipping between the cracks. While the pediatrician and specialists are saying “there’s nothing wrong'' or “the test came back negative”, your child or teen is suffering and missing-out on important opportunities for social, emotional, or mental growth. It’s time to find an alternative holistic pediatric practitioner who is trained to offer a plan to relieve the exact symptoms your kid is having. To learn more about Holistic Pediatrics, click here.