Kids Health: Natural Home Remedies for Bedwetting

ohdeedoh_buckwheatpillowBedwetting rarely represents a problem requiring medical intervention; it is, however, one of the major reasons that parents will explore natural remedies and complementary medicines for their children. After ruling out any medical causes with a primary care provider, there seems little left to offer the children who wet their beds – which is unfortunate, since self-esteem and sleep can suffer.

Bedwetting is more common in boys than in girls. An estimated 6-7 million children wet their beds during the night. It is generally not even considered to be a medical condition until the age of five, as children’s development of neuromuscular control and bladder size varies. A typical question your care provider may ask is, ‘has your child ever had a dry night?’ If the answer is no, your child is considered to have primary enuresis (a fancy word for bedwetting). If the answer is yes, and your child has been dry at night for at least one six month stretch, your child is considered to have secondary enuresis. Either way, the following remedies can be useful for strengthening your child’s bladder and eliminating possible causative factors.

If your child’s bedwetting came on quickly, a bladder infection or other illness may be the culprit. When my son wets his bed, it is often a symptom of the onset of a viral or bacterial infection. The illness may or may not be a bladder infection specifically, although it may be – signs of a bladder infection include cloudy pink urine, or a burning sensation while urinating. If your child’s bedwetting seems to come on spontaneously, and/or your child seems to be sleeping either more deeply or fitfully than usual, it may be the hallmark of an unwanted pathogenic invader. In these cases, treatment options, whether western or complementary, will be aimed at bolstering the immune system and creating a hostile environment for the bacteria or virus. Bladder infections are a good time to check in with your child’s primary care giver. There are also many great home remedies to complement your child’s care during an infection – please refer to our article on UTIs/bladder infections at mommyser.com.

If your child wets his or her bed habitually, the first thing to notice is whether your child runs hot or cold in temperature, and whether s/he seems emotional, irritable or nervous during the day. Also note if your child sleeps deeply, is difficult to awaken, is having fitful dream cycles. Does your child have dark circles under his/her eyes? Is there a family history (especially on father’s side) of bedwetting as a child?

Eastern medicine asks many of these questions as a means of ascertaining the underlying causative factor of the bedwetting, making for more effective treatment. If your child tends to get cold easily or feel cold to touch, seems pale, fatigued, low in appetite and/or sleeps deeply, this usually signifies what is referred to as a ‘kidney’ imbalance (a diagnosis that does not suggest anything wrong with the kidney organ, but refers more to a functional imbalance). Make sure that your child is well-dressed and well-covered during the night – children with this constitution may wet their beds more frequently when they get cold during sleep. Children who tend toward these symptoms can also find relief in consistent acupressure to strengthen the kidney system, and warming therapies directed at the lower abdomen.

– An excellent acupressure point to strengthen the kidneys is found at the ankle, on the inside of both legs, between the medial malleolus (the ankle bone which sticks out and the back of the ankle at the Achilles tendon. You’ll generally find a depression here. Apply gentle but firm pressure with your thumb here (this may feel tender, but should not feel uncomfortable to your child when you press – if it does, apply less pressure). Massage on each side for 1-3 minutes before bed.

– Before bed, apply a hot water bottle or warmed buckwheat pillow to the mid-sacral area (on the lower back toward the base of the spine) and to the lower abdominal area below your child’s navel. Leave on for 3-5 minutes each side or until the area is feeling pleasantly warm but not uncomfortably hot. You can read to talk to your child while they relax.

– If your child sleeps so deeply that they cannot seem to wake themselves in response to bladder cues, try massaging the very top-back crown of the head, (right where many children have cow-licks, about two child-size hand-breadths back from the forehead), before bed each night, for 1-2 minutes.

Food allergies may also be a culprit in repeated bedwetting. If your child wets his/her bed, and also has conditions such as asthma, frequent hives or rashes, eczema, digestive difficulties, food allergies may be an especially good place to start. If your child gets hot and sweaty at night, or tends toward hyperactivity, these could be signs that your child’s nervous system is being taxed or overstimulated by a food allergy. If your child tends to have dark circles under their eyes, this is another clue… either your child is not sleeping well, or these may be ‘allergy shiners’. Substances in allergenic foods may be irritating the bladder walls, causing it to be difficult to hold in urine. Foods most commonly implicated are milk and dairy products, and citrus foods. Caffeinated foods – chocolate and soda, are stimulants which can be frequently irritating to a sensitive bladder. Make a food chart, pay attention to what your child eats each day, and make a note of whether or not your child wet his/her bed that night. A correlation may emerge.

If there seems to be no easy connection between a particular food and bedwetting, a food allergy may still be a possibility – it may be a food that your child eats regularly (and many foods can take up to 10 days to completely clear out of your system). Consider eliminating dairy products (or wheat or citrus, for example) for a week to 10 days, then resume eating them. See what happens. Just make sure you choose one food group at a time. While this may seem difficult at first, many of the families I have worked with have found this well worth the time and energy. Sometimes a simple food elimination will also eliminate the bedwetting. Even though it can be frightening to consider finding out ‘bad news’ (my son loves dairy, for example, but his body doesn’t), it’s good information to have. Many children grow out of both bedwetting and food allergies. There may also be ways to help support your child’s digestion – herbs, digestive enzymes, if you decide to keep certain allergenic foods as a part of their diet. A safe and easy way to soothe possible bladder irritation is to give your child 6 to 8 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice at least one hour before bed. (feel free to sweeten it yourself a little with agave nectar, or honey if your child is over 15 months old.)

Your child may seem nervous, anxious or irritable during the day, or, as their parent, you may know that they are going through a difficult or transitional time – at home or at school. If your child’s emotional environment is feeling unsteady, this may often take its toll at night in the form of bedwetting. If your child’s bedwetting begins unexpectedly, after having been ‘night-trained’, it is always good practice to check in with teachers and caregivers to see if something new is coming up for your child during the day. I sometimes have to remember that things that may seem like ‘no big deal’ from my perspective can seem like a very big deal to my son – someone not playing nice, friends not wanting to play his games – different kids respond differently and what may not phase one child may deeply affect another. Bedwetting may also be a cause of anxiety that builds on itself. Wetting the bed can be very stressful, especially to a child who has a sense s/he ‘should’ be getting to the toilet. It is for this reason that in almost every case of chronic bedwetting, I suggest calming remedies for your child’s nervous system. A tea of chamomile, catnip, lemon balm or any combination of the three can calm and relax your child before bed. Haw flakes, available like candy at many asian grocery stores, is a wonderful digestive aid that is also good for nervousness and anxiety. I also recommend rescue remedy in ointment form, rubbed at the temples and on the inside of the wrists. Supplemental calcium and magnesium, formulated for children and taken in divided doses – one dose in the morning, one at night can help as well, especially if bedwetting seems related to nervousness. (as with all supplements, check with your health provider and reputable health food store or pharmacy for suggestions on which brand and form can be most easily absorbed by your child.)

There are many herbal remedies, homeopathics, massage and chiropractic techniques that parents report have worked wonders with their children. For most of these practices, I suggest consulting with a professional who specializes in holistic pediatrics: many herbal and homeopathic remedies in particular should be individually prescribed based on your child’s particular constitution for best results.

The most important thing to remember about bedwetting is that it is never ever the child’s fault. Your child undoubtedly does not like this situation any more than the parent (and I promise, I don’t love waking up in the middle of the night to do laundry). Be as calm, patient and reassuring as you can be. Nearly every case of bedwetting will be completely outgrown by the teenage years. It will not last forever. In the meantime, bedwetting presents a challenging, but sometimes wonderful opportunity to teach children and parents how to nurture and nourish their bodies, and make a space in the evening for healing time, teas and touch.

For more information on bedwetting, herbal remedies, and demonstrations of the techniques presented here and more, check out Mommy’s ER volume 2 section on bedwetting.

Everyday Remedies for Eczema: natural ways to stop the itch and discomfort

eczema handOf all the subjects I’ve tackled on Mommy’s ER, I’ve been reluctant to blog about eczema, in spite of the fact that eczema sufferers, especially young ones, have always made up a large portion of my practice. It saddens me that it is so debilitating, for everyone in the family, and many times the solutions are multi-pronged, and very personal, making it a big subject to tackle.

Still, there are some natural remedies for eczema that most sufferers agree eases the itching, scaling and oozing, so I start there with most children and grownups who enter my clinic. I’ll share these with you now, in hopes that if you or your child has eczema, that it brings relief, and hope.

1) Use a food/activity log. Start logging your food and activities each day. At the end of the day, rank your eczema on a scale of 1-10 (1 being nonexistent, 10 being the worst, itchiest, reddest, it has ever been). food I start here with every client, even mamas of breastfeeding clients, because here is where personal patterns emerge. For one young client, dairy products increased the inflammation significantly. For another little boy, days he went swimming in a chlorinated pool made it worse. Finally for a third, the days he spent rolling around on the floor with grandma and grandpa’s dogs had an effect. Allergens – environmental especially, but sometimes food as well, can play a role in the severity of eczema. The log can help parents and children to start making connections that allow for informed choices. In the food arena, watch especially for correlations with highly allergenic foods such as citrus, chocolate, dairy, eggs and wheat.

2) Vitamin C may be good for nearly everything, but in particular, its natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effects make it beneficial for eczema. In children over 2 years old, try 250mg at least twice a day. (In children under two, start with 50-100mg and work up if digestion is not impacted). (Note: be careful to not give vitamin C in the form of citrus, unless you are certain your child has no sensitivities).

3) Get a good probiotic. Probiotics have been proven to be clinically effective at preventing eczema in infants and children who may be predisposed genetically. Probiotics have also been shown to reduce symptoms of eczema in infants and children with sensitivities to food allergens. Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium Lactis are all varieties that have appeared effective in the studies. A good broad-spectrum brand especially formulated for children should help. You can even try dropping an open capsule or two in your child’s bathwater (especially with young children). This is not, however, a good solution for children with auto-immune disorders or pancreatitis, except under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.

4) Burdock root, either ground into a paste and applied topically, or taken as a tincture or tea, is known among western and eastern herbalists for it’s blood-purifying capabilities. burdock-root-shavings A natural antiseptic, it can help to both detoxify and heal the skin. In children under 10 years old, I recommend it topically. In children over 10, take it internally as well, 1-2 times a day as directed for at least a month. Herbalists often combine burdock with red clover and nettle (nettle can cause a stomach upset in some children, if this happens, you can either add ginger, or remove it entirely from your child’s eczema ‘tea’.) Burdock root can also be cut thinly and steamed or sauteed with carrots, at any age, once your child is eating solid foods. The beta-carotene in the carrots is also great for skin conditions.

5) If your child has dry eczema, try a natural lotion with calendula, or make your own with olive oil or hypoallergenic lotion and calendula essential oil (up to 7 drops per cup of oil or lotion). Rescue Remedy in ointment form can also be applied directly to patches of dry eczema. Herbal creams made with licorice have also been shown to have a positive effect on eczema.

6) Bathe your child — in warm, not hot water, and with alternatives to soap. Lots of people report diluted bleach baths reduce eczema. To me, the toxic detriments of bleach would make this a very last resort. Instead, try mineral sea salt baths. These salts are full of beneficial minerals, moisturize, and act antiseptically to cleanse the sensitive wounds and fragile skin at eczema sites. This is even safe for infants. You can also try oatmeal baths — 1 cup of oatmeal wrapped in cheesecloth can be placed in bathwater, and even placed on eczema patches as a compress for quick relief.

7) Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free tea that is chalk full of antioxidants, flavonoids and phenolic acids, all beneficial. In particular, rooibos contains aspalathin, an antioxidant that, to my knowledge is unique to rooibos. Anecdotal reports of success have come by placing 2-3 rooibos tea bags in the bath to reduce eczema symptoms. Or take it internally as a tea.

8) Check in with a qualified Chinese herbalist. I know — this is my first love — but it also can be incredibly effective. Two studies out of Great Britain showed a Chinese formula known as Luo’s Mixture to be effective even in cases of severe, resistant eczema. It is suspected that herbs suppress inflammatory responses and mildly suppress inappropriate immune response. The beauty of Chinese herbs is that they are customizable for your child’s particular condition. The bad news is — they can taste pretty unpleasant. It’s worth persisting, my son will now take them easily — more easily in fact than any over-the-counter remedy we’ve ever resorted to giving him.

9) Finally, and this is especially difficult and especially important in small children — do whatever you can to help your little one avoid scratching. Keep their nails short, and, in infants, it is even worth it to invest in pajamas with hand covers (to keep baby from scratching at night). As relieving as it is in the moment, scratching can cause skin cells to produce more quickly, and patches of eczema to widen. Encourage compresses instead – such as oatmeal in cheesecloth, rooibos tea bags, or just a wet washcloth – to provide immediate relief.

All of these are results from which clients and friends have reported success (and my clients eczema has tended to be quite severe). I am very open to other possibilities and your own success stories in this arena. And please, if you choose to journal, share what you find! Lets keep this a forum where we can share our successes with this condition. My hope is that we can find a way to take eczema from difficult and debilitating to, at worst, a minor inconvenience.

5 Ways to Get your Kids to Eat Their Greens

 We’ve talked about why they should. We’ve shared a couple recipes on how they can. But there are 2 recipes and 365 days in a year. And, as we tour the amusement parks of Southern California this week, about a million food stands that don’t have a leafy green in the mix anywhere… Here are my five favorite ways to incorporate leafy greens into the fabric of our meals and our lives. In reality, it’s often easier to inspire kids than getting grownups to do it (no posing required in the pics, I promise:)).

1. Talk to your Kids about it. In our blog on why kids should eat their greens, I talk about the inspiration for this series — a conversation with my son that highlighted to me where I’ve failed as an educator and a mom… I never told him why to eat his greens. I modeled it and I provided it, but without the vital addition of information and dialogue, the greens on his plate ranged from yummy addition to his meal to the symbol of mama oppression — one more rule to follow in a world of rules — ‘just try them.’ Keep the conversation age-appropriate and honest. aidaneatingsaladWith the explanation that they help him to feel healthy, have energy, and grow, he eats them with relish. It actually empowers him to feel like he’s doing something good for his growing body, something that helps him run faster, play better, enjoy activities more. And the process of empowering him may be fundamentally more important than any food group.

2. Balance the Bitter. Sometimes the flavor of greens can be a bit bitter for young palates. Try chard, spinach and lacinato kale for something a little milder – mustard and dandelion aren’t great starter greens. Another way to rectify the bitterness of greens is to accessorize…Not into following recipes? Throw some peanut butter or almond butter together with a little bit of maple syrup and olive oil. It balances the bitter (and everything tastes better with nut butter!). Another option: steam your greens with a handful of currants and maybe some shredded carrot. This added sweetness delivers a little treat with each bite.

3. Juice it. Either juiced or blended (Mommy’s ER recipe HERE) whole in a high-powered blender, most kids we know will drink kale, cucumber, parsley, celery, spinach or all of the above when turned into a refreshing drink. blended-greens The trick here is to keep a sweet, watery fruit in the mix — such as green apple, or coconut water. [The pic is of my older son drinking The Green Basic at The Plant in San Francisco: kale, apple, celery, parsley, lemon — with enough apple to keep it sweet, the celery and parsley make it mild and refreshing]. We just stopped at Bliss Cafe in San Luis Obispo that mixed up kale in a Vitamix with banana, green apple, protein powder and water. I couldn’t get my smoothie back from my son, honestly.

4. Eat Them Yourself. Everything I read and experience reminds me that, as parents, we lead by example. This point was driven home to me with uncomfortable clarity the other day when my son, in an uncustomarily bad mood announced that the reason was that he hadn’t been able to ‘work out’ that morning (where has he heard this before???) They are sponges, we all know this, and not just for the bad stuff. I may have gorged on PopTarts and Oreos at first as a Freshman in college, but after a startling 10 pounds, I was back to eating the balanced way my parents had modeled for me.

5. Keep it Consistent. Habits don’t change overnight. I’ve heard that it takes 3 exposures to anything to decide we really like it (whether its music or marketing). Advertisers use this to their advantage, why not parents? If your child is used to skipping the green veggies in favor of other fare, keep the message positive, but keep them coming. If one prep doesn’t work, try another. I’ve always thanked my father for respecting my inherent childhood dislike of lima beans and zucchini. He just presented me with other options — keeping me feeling healthy and empowered around my food choices. I carry that feeling with me as a grownup, and use it to guide the Mommy’s ER messages. Your child will learn from you how to eat and prepare greens, even she or he doesn’t take to them immediately. Sometimes, kids will eat the salad but not the cooked greens or vice versa. Allowing them to have their preferences keeps the association with veggies positive and nourishing. Allowing them to help you in the garden growing their own makes it even more appealing…I’m no green thumb, so that’s a different blog entirely – one that my husband or Maddie — or you, dear reader — will have to write.