Cure? As a homeopath, I was hooked from the first page. Jo Marchant mentions chatting to another mum who spoke highly of how homeopathic remedies cured her child’s eczema. Marchant’s reaction was that ‘Homeopathy is effectively nothing more than water in fancy bottles’ to which the other mother’s retort was ‘nothing measurable.’ Those words were the turning point for Jo Marchant and the beginning of her research into what cure really is and the world of mind, body medicine for this book.
CURE A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body
The book begins with ‘the purest example of mind’s influence on the body – the placebo effect,’ apparently showing a cure for people of their complaints after treatments such as mock surgeries or medicines. Have you ever wondered why a child calms down after his or her injury is ‘kissed better’? How, when faced with an emergency, the rush of adrenalin can make a normal person, superhuman? Or how the mere thought of lemon juice will activate your salivary glands? Marchant covers many examples of how the mind, thoughts and emotions can produce a physical change. Is it cure? She also keeps in mind the power of the negative side of the placebo effect (nocebo), such as voodoo curses or limiting thoughts, which can be equally strong but destructive for the physical body.
Even if a person knows they are given placebo treatment, their brain responds by releasing the same chemicals as if they had taken the pharmaceutical medicine and consequently they feel better. ‘It is a physical mechanism, as concrete as the effects of any drug.’ It was interesting to read that pharmaceutical companies, when making decisions on the presentation of a new medicine, will look at the psychology behind how particular sizes and/or colours of pills or capsules will influence the perception of their effectiveness.
None of this is new. Many alternative modalities based on treating mind, body and soul have been around for thousands of years and supported by many, but also dismissed by many others. Jo Marchant travelled the world to meet with orthopaedic surgeons, neuroscientists, psychiatrists and medical professors, to name a few, who have set up clinical trials and studies of the placebo effect as well as a number of alternative treatments to show how they can be of clinical value.
She looks at acupuncture, spiritual healing, reiki, religion/faith, neuroplasticity, meditation, and eastern medicine, amongst others, which all relate to the body’s innate ability to heal itself. She also writes of the many inspiring people she met during her research who shared the story of their pain and the life altering changes, which came through the help of various therapies.
Jo Marchant has a Phd in Genetics and Medical Microbiology. She writes with one foot soundly placed in science whilst she explores the controversial subject of the connection between the mind, emotions, beliefs and the body.
Using her skills as a science journalist, she examines alternative therapies in a rational and thoughtful manner as she presents current research and trials that support the infinite potential of the mind’s influence on our health and healing. On the other hand, she also shows how stress can weaken the immune system making us potentially more vulnerable to illness and disease or accelerate aging. The book is easy to read, easy to understand and hard to put down.
My hope is that scientists and the medical fraternity read this book. They will relate to the science and be reminded of the importance of empathetic care, the careful use of language and to see patients as individuals and more than just a body of organs and parts.
To also consider that less invasive ‘alternative’ treatments and medicine can work together and support each other for the highest good of the patient and do no harm.
CURE A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant. Book review by Susie Bolton.
Weight Loss and Children
With so many weight loss programmes available on the market, how do you decide which one is right for your child? Because each young person is different, in our experience it’s best to seek professional practitioner advice to gain long-term results. A practitioner of naturopathy/ homeopathy will choose an individual homeopathic medicine, make suggestions for dietary changes, lifestyle modifications and advice on any necessary vitamin or mineral supplements.
Childhood Overweight Problems and Obesity
Apparently, Australia and New Zealand now have one of the highest rates of childhood obesity of all the developed nations, with approximately 25% of children currently overweight or obese. If your child is overweight or obese it is not only their future health that we need to be concerned about but also the state of their current health. Especially their emotional health. How do they feel about their current weight? Are they being teased at school? Are there some activities your child would like to do if they physically could or if they had more energy?
Practical ways to help children lose weight
- Encourage outdoor activities – 30 minutes/day
- Avoid fruit juices and carbonated drinks
- Opt for plain water
- Encourage active chores at home
- Reduce screen time to no more than one hour a day. Change the password every night so that your child has to do an active chore or an outdoor activity before being given the new password
- Encourage family time activities
- Encourage a team sport or active hobby
- You may choose to include a freedom meal once a week
- Makes changes achievable, don’t change too much at once
- Don’t use food as rewards for any of the family
- Avoid hunger and poor food choices by having good quality snacks
- Get your child to eat a substantial meal before going out to an event or a party
- Carry healthy snack options for your child while out and about (e.g.nuts and vege sticks)
- There has been a link found between glue ear, recurrent ear infections and childhood obesity. Perhaps due to altered taste function leading to a craving for sweeter and saltier foods. So make sure to use homeopathic medicine to correct the ear problems to help directly with weightloss.
How Can You Tell If Your Child Is Overweight?
Apparently a lot of parents are getting so used to seeing overweight kids, they don’t recognise that their own children are obese. In 2004, a study from the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, revealed that three quarters of parents failed to recognise their child was overweight. 33 percent of mums and 57 percent of dads considered their child’s weight to be ‘about right’ when, in fact, they were clinically obese. They no longer recognise a healthy body shape for a child. At the same time, it should also be said that one in ten parents expressed some concern about their child being underweight when they were actually a normal, healthy weight.
At first, parents often blame puppy fat and it is sometimes hard to gauge whether kids have crossed the line into long-term weight gain. One clue is that even if your child is a bit chubby, they shouldn’t have rolls of flab on their arms, back or tummy. It’s true children do put on more fat when they’re about to go through a growth spurt. But as a rule, that’s more common with boys when they’re about to produce the hormones that turn fat into muscle.
Ask your doctor to weigh your child as part of a general check-up rather than weigh them yourself, as children can feel judged by their parents. If your child comes up as overweight, or is already in the obese range, you need to take action now. Despite parents’ fears, talking to kids about weight does not sentence them to an eating disorder. We need to be careful how we say it, at the same time children should know life isn’t simple and obesity is an issue they have to address.
Why Are Our Children Overwieght?
It’s pretty straight forward really! Quite simply, many children do little exercise and eat a diet that’s packed with junk food. But once the child is already overweight it’s not that simple or straightforward to make a change (or many changes). The problems start early in life. A survey by Mother & Baby magazine in 2004 revealed that nine out of 10 toddlers eat junk food, with chocolate, biscuits, crisps, fish fingers, chips, cake and chicken nuggets appearing in their top 10 favourite foods.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg – children’s diets generally get worse as they get older and more food is eaten outside the home. Unsurprisingly, most health experts agree one of the most important factors in the fight against childhood obesity is to encourage healthy eating habits from an early age.
Lack of Sleep and Overweight Children
Researchers in Canada, studied the sleeping habits and weights of children aged between five and 10 years. They discovered those who slept for 10 hours or less every night were three and a half times more likely to be overweight than those who had at least 12 hours sleep every night. Even more surprisingly, the scientists found that a lack of sleep was an even bigger risk factor for overweight and obesity than the amount of time spent in front of the TV or computer.
Staying up late often goes hand in hand with snacking – usually on sugary and fatty foods and drinks – which may help to explain why fewer hours in bed results in extra inches around the waistline.
Tired children are more likely to struggle getting out of bed in the morning and skip breakfast due to a lack of time. This means they’re more likely to overcompensate later in the morning by eating fatty and sugary snacks, which provide more calories than a normal breakfast would have.
Meanwhile, further research has suggested that a lack of sleep may affect the production of two hormones that regulate appetite so that tired children are more likely to feel hungry – and therefore eat. Sleep deprivation appears to be linked to lower levels of the hormone leptin, which reduces hunger, and higher levels of the hormone ghrelin, which makes us feel hungry.
Portion Size – Weight Loss and Children
Young children can find it as difficult as adults to regulate how much they eat in the food-filled society we live in, according to a study from the University of Cornell, USA. The researchers found that by far the most powerful predictor of how much food a young child eats is how much is put on their plate. Earlier studies had suggested that young children (pre-school age in this case) were naturally much better at regulating their appetite and food intake and ate pretty much to satisfy their hunger.
Dr David Levitsky who led the research said “We found that the more children are served, the more they eat, regardless of what they have eaten or had to drink previously in the day, including how big their breakfast was. We also found that the more snacks children are offered, the greater their daily food and calorie intake.” He added “these findings suggest that the onus for controlling young children’s weight must rest in the hands of parents and other caregivers.
It has often been said that young children are better than adults at automatically regulating how much they eat. But this belief was based on studies that were carried out in more controlled laboratory settings, not at home and at play centres, like this study. This meant that the children were more influenced by the factors that can make weight control tricky for everyone, such as big portion sizes, easy access to high calorie snacks and habit eating.
How Can I talk To My Child About being Overweight?
Under 9 years old – At this age, parents decide what kids eat so changes need to be made to the whole family eating habits. Start talking about making healthy choices as a part of everyday family life.
Age 10 to 12 – at this stage they’re more aware of body shape than we realise. The first question would be if anyone has teased them about anything at school. If so, acknowledge it by saying something like: ‘That hurts’. If your child has been bullied about their size, don’t deny there’s a problem. Parents first response is often to say there’s nothing wrong. But that just confuses the child. When you talk to your child about weight, choose your moment. Look for neutral times, like supermarket trips or the walk to school. Make it clear it is not their fault. It’s not a weakness, they’re not stupid and they haven’t failed. Make sure your child knows you love and support them and you want to help them to help themselves.
Age 12 and over – Be careful not to link being ‘thin’ with being successful and attractive. Make sure they understand that weight is simply a health issue. In our world healthy choices are difficult for everyone. Avoid words like ‘lazy’ or ‘greedy’ and ‘diet’- it’s better to talk about longer-term lifestyle changes than a quick-fix diet. It’s not about controlling what they eat. Point out the benefits of physical health, such as having more energy. It’s about making them part of the journey. Create an environment where a teenager can succeed in losing weight.
Unconventional View of Nutrition
The practice of Homeopathy views the eating, digestive and emotional issues of the child as one problem. Homeopathic remedies work on the whole body, so they are successfully used to automatically improve digestion in order for vitamins and minerals to be absorbed more efficiently. A child receiving a homeopathic remedy at the same time as introducing dietary changes will find their hot chips and junk cravings easier to deal with and parents will find the child or teenager is more compliant with introduced changes. When the homeopathic remedy has made some adjustments the parents find it easier to steer the child away from the old pattern of eating/ lack of exercise/ lack of motivation.
If dietary changes are begun along with a homeopathic remedy, they are easier to maintain in the long term, since the remedy itself will be helping to change habits and cravings.
DISCLAIMER In any long-term or chronic childhood illness, the advice of your medical healthcare professional should always be sought. When you decide to start putting into place some of these Practical Ways To Help Children With Weight Loss Including Homeopathy you are encouraged to ask many questions. Ask your healthcare professional about your child in a wholistic way to explore further your health management options.
For the parents of zippy, complex, independant, sometimes-celebrated but tricky kids it’s an often asked question, “Is there any help offered by homeopathy for childhood behaviour problems? Thankfully the answer is a big yes. Homeopathy gives options where the world of medicine may have few answers or few desirable answers. Using a natural medicine approach, the homeopath provides treatment which is supportive of the child and parents, and non-judgemental of both.
We start homeopathy for childhood behaviour problems with a treatment schedule
Any child who has a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, ADD, ADHD, aspergers or any child with a large medical history will benefit from starting with a treatment schedule. This involves having the first two appointments spread over a few days, for example:
- An initial one hour appointment with the parent or parents without the child present
- A one hour appointment which will focus on listening to the child (the amount of time will vary according to the age and capacity of each child)
The initial appointment with the parents is for discussion of delicate or upsetting subjects without the child present, including diagnosis, certain behaviours or events in the child’s past. This will avoid negative reinforcement and allow the focus of the second appointment to remain on listening to the child as much as possible. The remedy may not be given at the first or second appointment. A short third appointment may even be scheduled to finalise case taking and commence treatment.
We have an unconventional view of nutrition
During case taking during the first appointments, there will be an emphasis on the careful choosing of homeopathic remedies. Though of course, there is no point working out a great remedy and forgetting about what the child is eating. In our clinic, we view the eating, digestive and emotional issues of the child as one problem. Homeopathic remedies work on the whole body, so they are successfully used to automatically improve digestion in order for vitamins and minerals to be absorbed more efficiently. A child receiving (for example) Lycopodium will find their chocolate and lolly cravings, and abdominal bloating all reduce at the same time. This is a good example of the capacity of homeopathy to help a child to bounce back when their diet requires only a few changes.
On the next level when a child receives (for example) Sulphur, the remedy facilitates many changes. Children who will benefit from Sulphur are active, hot bodied ragamuffins who fill up on drinks and won’t eat their dinner. Under the action of the remedy their sweating, thirst, and great desire for sweets diminish. Concurrently, their appetite increases. When Sulphur has made some adjustments the parents find it easier to steer the child away from the additives to which they react.
On the next level again, trying to get children to take a number of supplements and follow a casein/gluten free diet can be a battle: sometimes even self-defeating when it provokes defiant outbursts. If dietary changes are begun along with a homeopathic remedy, they are easier to maintain in the long term, since the remedy itself will be helping to change habits and cravings.
Gentle Starting Dose
All children respond to homeopathic remedies in different ways, so treatment will often be started in a gentle way to accommodate these differences. When a gentle starting dose or test dose is used, it is expected that definite improvement may not be noticed until after the next dose at the follow up appointment. Gentle starting doses ensure that any child whose body has a need for a spring clean, (or a de-tox, or aggravation) does so in a mild way.
After the starting dose has been given, treatment can be commenced and the child will then proceed with the expected ‘two steps forward and one step back’ response. There are some children who are generally very sensitive and their symptoms respond positively even after the gentle starting dose. They have a head start.
The Whole Family
In a family, the children are not the only ones suffering: the father might be working overtime; the mother feels like she is being a taxi driver; and the siblings are feeling jealous that all the attention is on the child with the diagnosis. Meals are happening in the backseat of the car. Nobody has time to talk to each other.
Exhausted parents easily forget to look after themselves or just have no time left in the day. Since children model how to look after themselves by copying their parents this has to involve more than just taking supplements and just directing treatment at the child. It is sound advice for the father to use homeopathy for his eczema which flares up in times of stress, the mother for her asthma and the sibling for their jealousy and bedwetting. In fact, in the work of John Meinychuk an American homeopath it was found that the healthier the whole family was through using homeopathy the quicker the individual child responds to treatment.
Parenting of Challenging Children
There is a lot written about strategies to help parents and their kids get along better. Well meaning advice sometimes makes it sound possible to steer a course over the years without raising your voice, without anger, without parents themselves becoming the four-year old. Some children are easier than others and being with them and guiding them, almost just comes naturally, as if any sensible parenting style would work. Some children take a lot more energy and determination. Guilt can become mixed up with frustration at becoming the kind of parent you never imagined you wanted to be.
With some children, it can feel as if there is no sensible parenting style that works, even after trying lots of them. Many strategies sound wonderful in textbooks, but of course are difficult in real life. It is commonly noticed when a homeopathic remedy has done its work and certain attitudes or behaviours have settled, that parenting strategies become easier to implement.
Environmental Influences on Childhood Behaviour Problems
Environmental toxins, such as lead, cadmium, and carbon monoxide, have been thought to be linked with ADHD etc. This goes hand in hand with the overuse of antibiotics, denatured food, and school pressures that damage our internal atmosphere. For each individual there may be a wide number of possible responses to external and internal stresses. Some resilient children seem to be relatively unaffected by these disturbances — their health and happiness stay in balance without major effort. It is this balance and resilience which homeopathy strives to achieve for every child.
Homeopaths have noticed an increased need to address some children’s health problems with more than homeopathy, nutrition and a good diet. At the Harbord Homeopathic Clinic we will sometimes advise the need for a hair analysis to determine the level of heavy metals and other nutrient minerals in the body.
When your baby keeps crying, try not to get caught up in a campaign to get your baby to sleep or to adjust to a rigid routine and there are some practical way to help a baby with colic.
Colic is the word used by parents to describe when their baby cries a lot or can’t settle for a lengthy period of time. It is now understood that ‘colic’ refers to the normal range of unsettled behaviour in many babies, which is really exhausting for parents. This crying and fussing can happen at any time of day, but often it is in the late afternoon and evening, especially between two weeks and four months of age. It is very common for young infants to have crying and unsettled times. This type of normal crying happens in babies all over the world, in all cultures, and resists the usual soothing techniques.
What are the causes of colic?
Sometimes there is a medical reason for the baby’s crying and this may need to be checked by a doctor. This can be very helpful because it is hard for parents to provide reassurance to their baby if they are worried there may be a medical problem. But in most babies no medical cause is found. Crying is a communication from the baby to their care giver that they are not comfortable or are distressed. This is a normal part of their growth and development.
Newborns have to adapt to a range of new experiences and differ in how sensitive they are to physical and emotional events inside and outside their bodies. Sometimes the causes of the discomfort may be a wet nappy, being too hot or cold, wind (gas in their tummy), hunger, tiredness, feeling anxious or unhappy or needing company. Over time, newborns learn to anticipate what will help them feel better. For example, a good feed makes hunger go away, tiredness is fixed by a sleep, a wish for comfort met by holding and talking and playing. This process seems to take longer for some infants who are crying persistently.
Individual differences in babies
Some babies are easily frightened by and struggle to cope with normal physical sensations such as digestion or normal reflux. Others take a long time to adapt to the world and cope with changes. Many babies are very tuned in to the emotional world of their family and can be affected by family distress. Some babies seem to cry more than others or to need more soothing than others. This does not mean there is anything wrong, rather that all babies respond differently.
Parents may also worry that crying is caused by something they have done and this can sometimes affect their confidence in handling and looking after their baby. Maternal or paternal depression, family stresses or losses or a difficult time in their own childhood can reduce parents’ confidence in interacting with their baby and make it hard to feel responsive or playful with their baby. Parents should be reassured that a number of things can help them with a difficult-to-soothe baby. The most important suggestion is to get support from the family and talk to a health professional, such as a maternal and child health nurse, homeopath or doctor.
Practical ways to help a baby with colic
- Try to stay calm (easier said than done). Although you may not be able to stop the crying, you can help your baby to cope with their distress. It is hard to think clearly or provide reassurance to your baby if you are feeling panicky.
- Let your baby suck at the breast or bottle or dummy. It may help them to settle for a short period. Your nurse or doctor can advise you on feeding and the amount of milk your baby needs.
- Try and adopt a ‘baby-centred’ approach and think from the baby’s point of view.
- Remember, you cannot spoil your baby by too much cuddling or feeding.
- Try to select some soothing strategies that are suited to your baby and use these regularly so that the baby learns to anticipate what happens when they are upset.
- Gently rock or hold your baby in your arms or in a baby carrier or sling.
- Continue to speak softly to your baby. Your voice and presence and even soft music may help soothe them.
- Try giving a warm bath.
- Try a nut-free baby massage oil. This may calm the baby and also help you to relax.
- NEVER shake a baby. Shaking babies even gently, can cause brain damage and life-long disability.
- The demanding evening time may be easier if you plan around it. For example, plan to eat dinner earlier if your baby is unsettled around then or plan to carry your baby in a sling at this time.
- Some babies seem to need to be with their mother all the time. Try not to battle this. As the baby develops their confidence, they will learn to self soothe. Keep separations to a minimum, try to remain in the baby’s view, carry the baby in a sling or move the baby from room to room in the pram.
- Introduce a doll or teddy, outside the bassinet or cot, that the baby can look at when they wake from a sleep. Have a photo of you and the baby on the wall at the height that the baby can see.
- Try not to get caught up in a campaign to get your baby to sleep or to adjust to a rigid routine. As babies get older they become more alert and awake for longer periods and their interest in you and the world can help them to be distracted from what is going on inside their bodies.
- If your baby is in a playful mood make the most of this time for some enjoyable interaction for you both.
- If possible try and GET SUPPORT from family and friends. Some mothers find it helpful to have a short break from the baby so that they can relax. For others, help with family chores is most helpful as then they can concentrate on comforting their baby. If help is not available, safely place your baby in the cot and have a few minutes to take some deep breaths and relax. If your baby is crying for most of the day, it is important to get support and talk to a health professional (MCHN, GP, paediatrician, homeopath, counsellor) during this difficult time.
- A great book to read is called Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering.
Medication for the treatment of colic
Medication is not recommended. It may mask illness, interfere with feeding or make your baby too sleepy. Medication should only be used on the advice of a doctor and only for a SHORT period of time.
When do you need to see a doctor about colic?
- You would like the doctor to check there is no medical cause for the crying.
- Your baby is refusing feeds or is having less than half their normal feeds.
When do you need to see a homeopath about colic?
- Your doctor has ruled out a medical reason.
- Your baby does not seem to settle with any of the things you are trying.
- Your baby continues to cry for long periods.
- You and your baby had a traumatic birth.
- You haven’t yet established an at-home kit of homeopathic remedies.
When do you need to see a chiropractor about colic?
We advise that every baby and mother should be checked by a chiropractor or osteopath, at least once after birth. This is especially important if you have a colicy, crying and unsettled baby.
Thank you for a large part of this information to the wonderful folk at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.