Natural and homeopathic remedies
Are you concerned about your child's emotional well-being or mood swings? Homeopathic remedies may offer a natural way to treat mild behaviour problems in kids.
Is your child moody? Is she aggressive on the playground? Maybe she is timid and shy, always choosing to remain in the background? Are these characteristics just part of what defines a child’s individuality—or do they represent a deeper concern?
Just a phase?
There is a range of emotional and behavioural issues and disorders in children, but almost every parent wonders if those emerging traits and behaviours may be a sign of something more serious down the road or “just a phase.”
For most kids, acute emotional turmoil is often just part of the maturing process. The awkward emotions and feelings that evolve before children eventually “find themselves” and become comfortable in their own skin is often no more than the growing pains we’re all familiar with as part of childhood.
In fact, psychologists agree that a range of emotional experiences help prepare us to manage the stresses we face throughout life. But for some children who aren’t as adaptable, emotional and behavioural issues can be debilitating.
How many children have problems?
Just how widespread are genuine emotional and behavioural issues in children? It depends on who you ask. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US published a 2006 study, “Estimating the Prevalence of Early Childhood Serious Emotional/Behavioral Disorders,” that included estimates ranging from 5 to 26 percent of children.
The study cited another figure from a 1999 US Surgeon General report that estimates one in five children and adolescents has a mental health disorder during childhood to adolescence. It also stated that at least 10 percent of people have a serious emotional disturbance at some point in their lives. The World Health Organization states that half of all mental illnesses that occur in a lifetime will begin by age 14.
The NIH study points to research that shows emotional and behavioural problems in young children are related to a number of health and social problems in adolescence, even leading to juvenile delinquency and dropping out of school.
So what can we do about this?
The first thing you can do as a parent or guardian is to be sensitive and aware, and to plan to talk to the experts if you suspect your child is having difficulty managing. Pay attention to how your child is interacting with others, both children and adults.
Talk to the child’s pediatrician or primary health care practitioner about their general health, share any concerns you have, and listen to their thoughts about your child’s mental health. If it is something you believe is serious, treat it the same way you would if your child had a serious physical ailment.
Treatments will vary depending on the degree of the issue or disorder.
How can homeopathy help?
Homeopathy can help, but often there are more superficial issues—what homeopaths often refer to as “obstacles to cure.” An obstacle is something in the way of health; once it is removed, health is almost instantly returned.
As an example, consider someone who has a serious vitamin C deficiency—known to cause scurvy where teeth fall out, skin ulcerates, and the immune system is fully compromised. Giving a homeopathic remedy such as the indicated Muriaticum acidum in the case of scurvy may help palliate some of the symptoms, but until someone afflicted with scurvy takes vitamin C (the obstacle to cure), the scurvy will prevail.
A true mood or emotional disorder almost always has an underlying biochemical basis, and more severe disorders may require specialist treatments. The most common treatments in the allopathic medicine chest work by altering the brain’s neurotransmitter signals and include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Like many aspects of integrative therapy, more study is needed into the role that these medications, diet, supplementation, and homeopathic therapies can play in the treatment of emotional and behavioural disorders in our children. But homeopathic remedies, when well matched, can play a helpful role.
Because homeopathy is a very individualized process of selecting a remedy that best fits the case history and clinical presentation of the patient in question, seeking the consultation of a qualified homeopath will always produce the best results.
As a first line approach, you may wish to consider these homeopathic remedies to try in instances that are relatively benign and self-limiting. Always speak to your child’s primary health care practitioner about your child’s status and what you’re doing about it as it relates to integrating natural therapies.
Attention and hyperactivity
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) requires a professional diagnosis but is often misdiagnosed in a child who is bright and often extremely active. The remedy Chamomilla is used by homeopaths to calm an extremely restless child who can’t sit still and often wears himself out to the point of tears. Stramonium is used for a severe case of hyperactivity in a child who is often violent.
Camomile is indicated for a child who is fussy and demonstrates an inconsolable anger. The remedy Natrum muriaticum is often used for the child who is very sensitive and gets angry and bursts into tears at any imagined slight.
Of course, children get sad for many reasons, but if a difficult time comes from a loss in the family, including the family pet, Aurum metallicum is often recommended. Pulsatilla may be given for grief and sadness that is displayed with incessant weeping.
Gelsemium is often given by a homeopath to a child who has poor confidence due to anticipatory anxiety, weakness, or fright, whereas Lycopodium is recommended for poor confidence due to fear of being in public, having been embarrassed in the past.
Many children express anxiety from acute anticipation, such as the first day of school. Aconite is used for this type of fear-based anxiety. The remedy Calcarea carbonicum is often given to children who overwork and overload themselves with tasks and anticipate problems (worry about the future).
Be cautious not to be too quick to disregard a change in behaviour or extreme emotions in your child as a fleeting phase.
Diet and nutrition for emotional health
Diet and nutrition play a key role in not only our physical health but in our mental and emotional health as well.
Found in protein-rich foods, amino acids are important to help keep us feeling emotionally balanced. Best sources are fish, lean meat, eggs, and legumes. The amino acid L-theanine helps to increase natural stores of dopamine (the feel-good brain chemical).
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants, found within a rainbow of fruits and veggies, may help reduce inflammation in the body, something that is known to trigger depression.
Found in cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, sea bass, halibut, mackerel, and sardines or in olive oil, flaxseeds, legumes, and nuts, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids have been demonstrated in studies to improve IQ, while other studies show essential fats, DHA in particular, may help with mood.
Vitamins and minerals
The vitamins with the biggest impact on mood are the B vitamins: B6, folic acid, and B12 are all important to maintain a positive attitude. Zinc has been shown in some studies to marginally reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity (but not improve attention) in children with ADHD.
Getting a good start is important for everyone, especially children. When kids regularly eat breakfast, they improve results on standardized tests, are better behaved, and are less hyperactive than those who skip breakfast.
Avoid artificial colours
Studies have shown that artificial food colouring added to foods may be associated with hyperactivity and other disruptive behaviour in children.
Did you know?
Choosing to replace a child’s prescribed medications with natural products should never be done without close consultation between the prescribing doctor and a qualified natural health practitioner.