Integrative Medicine in Pediatric Care

Integrative medicine is being practiced more and more regularly as a part of a holistic approach to medicine for adults, and recently it has begun making waves in pediatric care as well. 1 in 10 children receive integrative medicine, and more than 50% of children with a chronic illness partake. As I am not a pediatrician but internal medicine doc, and realize toddlers are not just little people I do respect the opinion of those that have been trained in this tender age group. Most recently our son came down with a cough which lasted a bit longer than a few days, and I was strongly recommended by the many women in our family to take our young son to the urgent care “just to make sure” there was nothing else making him ill given my limitations. I was nicely surprised when the pediatrician recommended tea with honey to relieve a post nasal drip cough which was the final diagnosis. Therefore, it is vital to understand how integrative medicine works and why it can be useful for parents to incorporate it. In order to understand the positive effects, let’s look at some examples.

Massage

Nobody is going to complain about getting a massage, but did you know massages do more for your body than simply make you feel good? Livestrong posted an article about the positive effects of massage therapy. Some of the most common include decreased stress, pain relief, increased circulation, and immune system function. All of these benefits are good for anyone at any age, but starting massage therapy at a young age can increase the benefits as time goes on.

Nutrition

Diet is an important part of everyone’s life, and instilling good diet habits early can set a child up for a healthy, happy life. It is shown that a poor diet has lasting negative consequences in children. This includes both physical and mental troubles, which can range from obesity to depression. Poor nutrition can also correlate to a number of eating disorders down the line, and studies have shown that eating disorders are popping up in younger children all the time. In order to combat diseases down the line, stick to a well-rounded nutritional plan.

Yoga

Exercise is good for everyone, but yoga is a specific type of exercise that incorporates flexibility, strength, and mental focus. The physical benefits of yoga can often be greater in children than in adults, as children are continuing to grow. Furthermore, yoga can be incorporated with meditation to provide an outlet for calm introspection, which children may not naturally have.

Art/Dance/Music

Art and music are some of the most popular forms of self-expression. There are numerous studies about the positive effects in children, at Arts.gov recently there was a published study linking art and music involvement to lower alcohol and marijuana consumption, higher optimism about attending college, and less engagement in delinquency. Dance is also lumped into the arts, and even better it has the added benefit of exercise.

Integrative medicine is a large topic that includes many categories. Not every category is right for every child, but exploring the possibilities can allow you to make the best decision on what is right for your family. At the end of the day, it is crucial to understand and acknowledge that integrative medicine is an important part of life and it is unlikely to go away.