May 14, 2013 / 5:00 am
In last week’s article we learned about the value of a good multivitamin for your infant or toddler. We learned that the most important aspect of a multi is its purity. Only use multivitamins that are free of artificial binders, filler, colours, and flavours. In this week’s column we will discuss the use of good bacteria/probiotics to treat various conditions affecting infants, toddlers, and children.
The gastrointestinal tract is lined with trillions of cells of bacteria. In fact, there are more bacterial cells than human cells in our digestive systems. Our human cells have a symbiotic relationship with hundreds of species of bacteria, and everyone gets along just fine when things are going well. We provide these friendly bacteria with a place to reside and, in return, they keep the digestive tract neat, tidy, clean, and disease-free.
At the very beginning of life we do not have this relationship established with bacteria. In fact, babies are born with a sterile digestive tract. Their first exposure to good bacteria comes if they are born through a vaginal delivery. Their second exposure comes as they feed, especially through breast milk. Basically, babies are born with a blank canvas in the digestive tract and slowly acquire and cultivate good bacteria from the above sources.
If your baby was born via C-section or unable to breast feed they will not be naturally acquiring the good bacteria in desired amounts. Several studies have shown that breast fed babies have decreased risk for several digestive system disorders and allergy/atopic disorders. We believe this has a lot to do with the balance of good bacteria in their digestive tracts.
Probiotics are one of the safest forms of treatments you can use for infants, toddlers, and children. Probiotics provide the beneficial bacteria that normally reside in the GI tract and typically do not have negative side effects or negative interaction with most medications or supplements.
When picking a probiotic I recommend selecting one that is free of dairy, wheat, yeast, and artificial ingredients. You want the supplement to be as pure as possible. A liquid or powder form is best because the child doesn’t need to swallow capsules and they tend to be more cost effective. Always consult your naturopathic physician or medical doctor before starting any treatment for your child but consider the use of probiotics if your child is experiencing a health concern.
If you would like to learn more about probiotics or naturopathic healthcare you can contact me at my office at 250-448-5610 or visit my website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com.
May 7, 2013 / 5:00 am
All parents want their children to be as healthy as possible and most parents do whatever they can to support their children. Many parents bring their children into see me not necessarily to treat specific medical conditions but to determine what they can do to support the health of their children. One of the most common questions they ask is, “Should my child take vitamin supplements?”
I typically recommend most infants and toddlers under the age of 2 get the majority of their vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other essential nutrients through breast milk and dietary intake. These are the most natural and pure sources of the essential nutrients. The exception to this is vitamin D, which all infants should get 400IU/day. I typically recommend most children over the age of two take a daily multivitamin to enhance their nutritional intake.
Mom’s nutrition is especially important for the breast feeding child because a great deal of essential nutrients are passed to the child through mother’s milk. At this stage, it is often more important to support mom with nutritional advice and supplementation than the child.
For children who are not breast feeding, their dietary intake is extremely important. I always work with parents to help them devise a healthy eating strategy to ensure optimal dietary intake of the essential nutrients. However, if the child has a limited diet, digestive disorder, or another medical condition requiring higher doses of an essential nutrient I usually look at supplementing their diet with the lacking nutrient(s).
The most common supplement I prescribe to children both over and under the age of 2 is a multivitamin. A multi is such an important supplement because it gently supplements the deficiency of any of the most essential vitamins and minerals. The most important aspect of a multivitamin for children is its purity. I recommend avoiding any multi containing artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners, binders, and fillers. There is no need for these harmful nutrients and these products may do more harm than good for young children.
I recommend multivitamins that are free of these unwanted artificial ingredients, contain age-appropriate doses, and come in a liquid or chewable form for optimal digestion and absorption. There are a plethora of vitamin products for children at pharmacies, health food stores, and big box stores. When deciding on whether your young child should supplement I recommend you speak with your naturopathic doctor or a healthcare professional well versed in natural health. If supplementation is deemed beneficial I recommend using the most pure products available and avoiding the artificial products we most often see on the shelves.
For more information on vitamins for your child or to schedule a consultation contact Dr. Barlow’s office at 250-448-5610 or visit his website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com.
Apr 30, 2013 / 5:00 am
Skin conditions like eczema are amongst the most common reasons parents bring their children to see a physician. In fact, next to constipation, eczema is the most common childhood condition I see in my practice. In this article, we will discuss the possible causes of eczema and highlight the most effective treatments.
Eczema can affect infants, toddlers, and children of any age and can present in a number of different ways. Eczema typically affects the front side of the body especially the elbow creases, hands, and face but can occur anywhere. Sometimes eczema develops very early in life and continues until the cause is identified and treated. Sometimes eczema develops later in life after known exposures and triggers. Although eczema can appear at different stages of life in different locations on the body the causes and triggers always need to be identified and treated to have long-term success.
Eczema is an inflammatory condition where inflammatory molecules cause damage to the skin, resulting in red patches of inflamed skin. In most cases of eczema, the causes of the inflammation do not come from contact to the skin. In fact, the most common causes of inflammation that induce childhood eczema stem from the diet.
The two most common dietary problems are food allergies and poor nutrition. Food allergies occur when the immune system attacks certain food molecules in the digestive system. The type of food allergy most associated with eczema and other skin conditions is called a Type II Delayed Sensitivity Reaction. This type of allergy results in the production of immunoglobulin G (IgG), which induces inflammatory damage not only to the food molecules it attacks but also leads to systemic inflammation.
Testing for Type II food allergies is a simple lab procedure that can be done with a small blood sample drawn at the office and sent to a lab for analysis. This is the most common test I run in my office and often identifies the most significant causes and triggers of the patient’s eczema. Food allergy testing is the fastest and most accurate way to identify Type II allergies.
Poor nutrition can cause eczema by either contributing to inflammation in the digestive tract or resulting in nutrient deficiencies. The most common type of poor nutrition I see is the high sugar diet, where nutritional intake is comprised largely of refined sweetened foods. This type of diet often leads to digestive problems like constipation, which contributes to more inflammation. A high sugar diet also contributes to the inadequate intake of essentials nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, which are crucial for skin health.
In the conventional medical system, eczema is typically treated with topical applications of creams and ointments. The most common topical application is corticosteroid cream. Corticosteroids are designed to decrease inflammation at the applied site. Unfortunately, they typically provide temporary relief because they do not address the actual causes and triggers for the inflammation. In fact, repeated corticosteroid cream actually harms the skin by causing thinning. I recommend corticosteroid cream be the treatment of last resort for eczema, especially in children because of the consequences of repeated use.
The natural treatments for eczema are focused around treating the inflammatory causes of eczema. Food allergy testing, elimination diet, and optimal nutrition are often the most important treatments for eczema because they address the underlying inflammation. Topical treatments are often a part of the treatment but shouldn’t be relied on as the only therapy. There is no shortage of “miracle natural eczema creams” on the market. The only problem is that they don’t address the systemic causes of inflammation and typically give temporary relief like a corticosteroid cream without the side effects.
If your infant, toddler, or child has eczema I recommend you see a naturopathic physician to identify the causes and triggers of the inflammation causing their skin condition. For more information on naturopathic medicine or to schedule an appointment please visit my website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com or contact my office at 250-448-5610.
Apr 23, 2013 / 5:00 am
Many of the most common medical conditions affecting infants have some connection to the digestive system. Over the next several articles I will discuss many of these common medical conditions individually and provide treatment recommendations for them. However, because the digestive system plays such a crucial role with many of these conditions I feel it is very important to start this series with an investigation into the digestive system of an infant.
Baby’s have very delicate digestive systems. The tissues and organs of the digestive system are no different than any other tissue in the body. In utero, in infancy, and even during childhood these tissues and organs are immature and need time to develop to their full integrity. This means that during the early stages of life it is crucial to support and nurture the digestive system so that it develops to its full potential.
The stomach and intestines grow rapidly in size during the first 6-12 months of life. As the infant increases nutrient consumption the digestive tract expands to accommodate. This expansion of capacity is one of the main reasons infants become able to sleep for longer stretches as they mature.
The digestive system not only increases in size but also in integrity during the first 6-12 months of life. This means that the cells that make up the lining of the intestines form tighter and tighter bonds with each other. This is a very important concept because a mature digestive tract only allows nutrients it desires to be absorbed and incorporated into the body. The remaining unwanted nutrients/wastes continue down the intestinal tract to become stool.
If the digestive tract is somehow damaged during the first 6-12 months of life from infection, food allergies, physical trauma, or something else it may not mature optimally. A damaged digestive system can cause any number of symptoms including constipation, diarrhea, colic, skin conditions, poor growth rate, asthma, allergies, thrush, and diaper rash.
Think of the digestive system in a similar way you may think of your skin. Both are barriers to the outside world and prevent our insides from being harmed. The digestive tract prevents unwanted nutrients from being absorbed into the body as it selects the nutrients it wants to incorporate into the body.
The best thing you can do for your infant’s digestive tract is avoid exposure to food allergies and irritants that may damage the cells of the intestines. Most health experts agree that the digestive tract of an infant functions best during the first six months of life on a diet containing only breast milk. Solid foods introduction is typically recommended to start after 6 months.
However, every infant is different and not every infant can tolerate or has access to being fed exclusively by breast milk. In these situations, it is typically best to work with your naturopathic physician, pediatrician, and/or nutritionist to develop a nutritional plan for your infant. This plan should focus on recognizing and avoiding exposure to nutrients that irritate the digestive tract.
Over the next several articles I will discuss many of the most common health concerns that affect infants, toddlers, and children. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about naturopathic healthcare please check out my website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com or contact my office at 250-448-5610.
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