Understanding Food Allergies and Sensitivities

Have you noticed that more and more people are avoiding certain foods for health reasons?  It turns out that food allergies and intolerances are more common than we once thought. Identifying and eliminating food allergies can solve a broad range of health problems.  I have had hundreds of patients find that once they learn to eat a diet free of their triggering foods, they can get off prescription medications and enjoy much better health.  It turns out good scientific studies are backing up this treatment method.

The symptoms of food allergies can be obvious, such as when people have anaphylactic reactions to peanuts or shellfish.  These food allergies are usually easy to identify.  Other allergic reactions are much subtler and can be delayed, making it challenging to figure out which foods are causing symptoms.  For instance, acid reflux is commonly aggravated by eating certain foods, but the reaction may come the next day.  I have had many patients who determine that dairy causes their sinus congestion, but it may take two days for their sinus headache to set in.  Therefore, to identify most food allergies, careful testing and dietary experiments are necessary.  Food reactions can range from fatigue, depression, post nasal drip, ear infections, constipation, diarrhea, skin issues, headaches, joint pain and more.  In my twenty years of naturopathic medical practice, I have found that helping people eliminate food allergies has been one of the most successful interventions that we can make to help people feel better with less medication.   I am happy that medical science is confirming my clinical experience in several studies on food allergies.

Children who get ear infections often have food allergies that cause excess mucous in their middle ear, setting them up for infection.  A clinical study showed that 94% of ear infection prone children who avoided their food allergies had fewer ear infections.

Many factors can cause migraine headaches, and food allergies can be one of them.  In a study of chronic migraine sufferers who avoided food allergies, 85% became headache free.  In another study, patients with rheumatoid arthritis who avoided food triggers fared much better than the placebo group who ate normally.  In a follow-up study 10 years later, of the 100 rheumatoid arthritis patients who avoided food allergies, one-third were still well on a food allergy free diet alone, without medication, which is remarkable.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition I see frequently and know it to respond well to naturopathic treatments, including food allergy elimination.  In a study published in the Lancet medical journal, 14 out of the 21 patients with IBS who went on a hypoallergenic diet for one week became symptom-free.

Celiac disease is a special type of food intolerance where the immune system not only reacts to gluten, but it can send out anti-bodies that affect healthy tissue, like the intestinal lining, the brain, the thyroid and more.  Screening for this food reaction is available through an MD or an ND through blood testing, and a diagnosis can be confirmed by a biopsy taken by a specialist.  Anyone with digestive issues should be tested, but so should people with autoimmune, neurologic and psychiatric conditions. For people with Celiac disease, avoiding gluten containing food, such as wheat, can be life changing.  While true Celiac disease is uncommon, more people have non-celiac gluten intolerance or a simple wheat intolerance.  These people also fare better off wheat and / or gluten containing foods.

While it may take some careful testing and experimenting to figure out which foods are contributing to a health issue, it is certainly worth the additional effort.  When I coach my patients on how to avoid their food allergies and enjoy healthy alternatives, they are often thrilled that something so simple can make such a difference to their wellbeing.

Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a naturopathic physician whose practice is in downtown Courtenay.

Healing Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury

The human brain is a remarkable feat of engineering.  But with the consistency of Jello, it is quite vulnerable to damage from injuries.  Every year about 200,000 Canadians suffer concussions.  Sports injuries and car accidents are two common causes of brain injuries, but for seniors, concussions are more likely to be caused by a fall.  The good news is that the brain can recover from minor concussions within a short time. But for multiple concussions or more traumatic brain injuries, the path to recovery can be long and winding.  Post-concussion syndrome can persist for years without the proper help.  Research is showing that there are many ways to enhance healing of the brain. No matter how long it’s been since the brain injury, it’s never too late to jump-start more repair of those delicate structures of the brain that run our mind and body.

Concussions are difficult to diagnose with imagine like an MRI or CT scan, and the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome can be easily attributed to other things.  I often ask my patients about concussions and sometimes find that they do indeed have symptoms of post-concussion syndrome such as:  fatigue, memory loss, cognitive issues, headache, depression, anxiety, irritability, sleep issues, sensitivity to light or sound, issues with sight or hearing, nausea, dizziness and more.

The best approach after a brain injury is to minimize the damage and promote brain healing as soon as possible.  To do that, we have to understand how the brain cells actually get damaged with brain injury.  Then we can use treatments that target those processes. Most medical professionals are not versed in strategies to address what’s really going on in concussion and brain injury, and so these processes are left to damage the brain especially in the critical first few days after concussion.  We need to institute neuroprotection strategies that promote healing, and it’s never too late to start.

Neural inflammation is a significant cause of loss of brain cells, and the connections between them, after head injury.  There are a number of natural products that help to regulate neural inflammation such as curcumin, the DHA portion of fish oil, and green tea. Aerobic exercise also has tremendous benefits to the brain.

We also want to decrease oxidative stress on the brain cells by ingesting higher amounts of anti-oxidant rich foods and medicines.  Berries are rich in antioxidants and Vitamins C and E can be helpful too.

The blood brain barrier (BBB) is intended to only allow certain things to enter the brain from the blood, but after brain injury, there can be a breach in this filtering system.  Toxins then can enter the brain and cause more damage.  Alpha lipoic acid is excellent for healing the BBB and is also an antioxidant.

Mitochondria are the furnaces of the cells, producing needed energy.  The brain cells are particularly dependent on mitochondria for energy. Brain injury can damage the mitochondria and especially lead to brain fog and fatigue.  To heal from brain injury, we need to ramp up the mitochondrial function by taking supplements such as coenzyme Q10, B vitamins as well as eating whole foods and exercising.

We want to stimulate that parts of the brain that can regenerate by enhancing neural stem cells. Humble nutrients like Vitamin D and melatonin can help accomplish these goals.

Promote the lymphatic drainage in the brain called glymphatics. Like a Zamboni clearing the effects of ice skating on an ice rink, the glymphatics of the brain clear away the normal waste products that build up in the brain daily.  This is even more important post brain injury. Sleep is the time when these mechanisms ramp up the most, so I help my concussion patients enhance their sleep.
The nerves of the brain are intimately linked to the chemistry of the digestive system.  Chemicals produced by the gut bugs, or intestinal microbiome, travel to the brain and influence mood, thinking and more.  Having a healthy digestive system will help brain function and naturopathic physicians are an excellent resource for tools to enhance gut health.

Other treatments for concussion are also getting much needed attention.

Brain training can help make new connections in the brain.

The ketogenic diet, while somewhat arduous, has been shown to help a number of brain diseases, including post-concussion syndrome.

Neurofeedback is a sort of visual gym for learning to retrain and re-pattern disrupted brain activity (and is available in Comox).

Functional Neurology practitioners can help target the part of the brain that is malfunctioning and provide specific stimulation to heal those parts.

Cold laser therapy to the skull has demonstrated benefits to many patients at a Toronto clinic and human clinical trials are underway.  This painless treatment has been shown in animal studies to enhance brain healing after traumatic brain injury.  I have treated over 1000 people for various health issues with laser therapy as it helps to gently but quickly regenerate damaged tissue throughout the body.

Reducing electromagnetic fields that may not affect people with healthy brains, but may be one more stress on an injured brain. Turning off wireless at night and removing cordless phones from the bedroom are a good way to start.

There is hope.  No matter how far out from a brain injury, there is always reason for hope.  With the right treatment, people can improve significantly even years after a brain injury if they are willing to invest in their brain health.

To learn more about how this type of multifaceted approach might be able to help you, contact naturopathic physician Dr. Deidre Macdonald, ND at 250 897-0235 or via getwellhere.com

To learn more about how this type of multifaceted approach might be able to help you, contact naturopathic physician Dr. Deidre Macdonald, ND at 250 897-0235 or via getwellhere.com

Asthma in Children, Let's Treat the Cause!

Asthma takes away the freedom to enjoy a deep breath.  That is something no child should have to experience.  Seeing your child struggle to breathe is a heart-breaking experience for parents.

Asthma is caused by swelling in the airways. When an asthma attack occurs, the muscles around the airways become tight and the lining of the air passages swells. This reduces the amount of air that can pass by.

The main goal of naturopathic treatment of asthma is to treat the underlying cause of the problem.  A child with asthma has an immune system that is hyper reactive.  On a biochemical level, the immune system is releasing histamine and inflammatory chemicals in response to normally benign situations / triggers.  Therefore, naturopathic physicians endeavor to promote the regulation of the immune system.

First, let’s explore the role of the immune system in asthma.  White blood cells play a role in the genesis of asthma and allergies.  One type of white blood cell, the type 2 T helper cells (Th2) play a triggering role in the activation of allergies and inflammation.  They trigger the formation of IgE antibody which cause allergies, plus they tell mast cells to release histamine.  The combination results in the allergic inflammation that drives most cases of childhood asthma.

Genetics play a role in who gets hyper-active Th2 cells, but evidence shows that the part of the immune system that lives in the lining of the intestines plays a role in activating the Th2 allergy producing cells.  Eighty percent of the immune system hangs out in the intestines, assessing what you’ve taken into the body.  It is here that all incoming material is marked friend or foe.  This labeling process can become deranged if there is too much stress or inflammation in the intestines. The intestines can be inflamed by improper diet, food allergies, and toxins.  One of the key triggers of a disordered immune response is an imbalance in the intestinal bacterial called the intestinal microbiome.  The intestinal microbiome is such an important determinant of immune function that it is the number one area of research in all of medicine today.  Imbalances in the microbiome can be caused by antibiotics use, high sugar and carbohydrate diets,  and c-section births.  Good bacteria in the intestines normally teach the immune system how to self-regulate.  Without that function, the local immunity gets fired off randomly and allergies are triggered.  Studies show that probiotics (good gut bacteria) enhance gut maturation in infants, and decrease the risk of atopic disease:  asthma, allergies, and hay fever.  Therefore, the naturopathic approach to asthma starts with a program to reduce the immune reactivity in the digestive system by reducing stresses on the intestines, such as food allergies and enhancing the intestinal microbiome.

There are nutrients that can also help stabilize the immune system. Specifically, they can help prevent the mast cells from releasing histamine and prevent the inflammatory reactions that follow.  For instance, vitamin D is typically low in asthmatic children.  In Canada, most children become deficient in Vitamin D in the winter.  I advise supplementing vitamin D to all my patients in the Comox Valley.  There are potent herbal antihistamines that are both safe and effective.  Fish oil and other herbs like curcumin have anti-inflammatory effects as well as many side benefits.  Certain mushrooms have been found to help calm down the hyperactive immune system by the regulating the overactive Th2 system in allergic children.  Homeopathic medicine can be very helpful for children.  An individualized homeopathic prescription by a naturopathic physician or homeopathic practitioner can help to strengthen the constitution of the child and reduce asthma symptoms.

If we determine that there are specific airborne allergens that are dominant triggers (such as dust, pollen, grass, cats) then we can start a process of allergy desensitization called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT).  This safe, non-injection, mercury free allergy desensitization technique has been shown to reduce allergies in 85% of people.

There are pros and cons to using conventional asthma medications.  Asthma symptoms are caused by bronchospasm and by inflammation of the airways.  The salbutamol or Ventolin (“the blue one”) works on the bronchospasm, while fluticasone or Flovent (“the orange one”) is an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) that works on the inflammation in the airway.  Puffers can certainly help manage asthma symptoms and buy some time while we are working to solve the problem in a more long term manner.

Many children can overcome asthma if we treat them from the inside out and strengthen their immune system with a comprehensive naturopathic medical approach. The naturopathic approach to asthma is to firstly determine what allergic and other triggers are driving flare ups of asthma.  Secondly, we work on reducing exposure to those triggers and use natural medicines to reduce the allergic and inflammatory reactions.  Thirdly, we need to endeavor to balance the immune system by working with the deeper systems of the body to treat the underlying causes of the immune hyper-reactivity. 

For more information or to book an appointment with Dr. Macdonald, please contact her office at 250 897-0235 or via www.getwellhere.com

Unravelling the Mystery of Autism

The idea that autism is a mysterious brain disorder with no treatment is outdated.  There is evidence that the digestive system of autistic children is profoundly different and that those gut changes affect the brain. Dr David Suzuki’s video, “Autism Enigma” explains the link quite nicely.  Naturopathic physicians are well versed in the biological treatment of autism. Thankfully, there is hope and help for parents desperate to help their children.

Individulized testing can often illumnate the unique biochemistry of an autistic child.  Treatments that target restoration of the intestinal flora are critical.  While autistic kids are known to be picky eaters, introducing hypo-allergenic foods can calm the gut and reduce opioid-like effects on the brain. Specific nutrients have been shown to help enhance brain function in autism and Asperger’ Syndrome.  Each child is unique and special and deserves an individualized protocol to help them become the best they can be.

Ear Infections – Solve them Forever

A sharp, throbbing or dull pain in the ear, loss of hearing, nausea, vomitting or dizziness characterizes an acute middle ear infection. The pain is due to inflammation, swelling or infection. Acute ear infections are usually preceded by an upper respiratory infection, allergy or food sensitivity. Chronic otitis media is constant swelling affects 20-40% of children under six and account for over 50% of pediatric visits.

Abnormal eustachian tube function is usually the underlying cause. The eustachian tube regulates the pressure in the middle ear and protects it from nose/throat secretions, bacteria and fluids. Swallowing causes active opening of the tube and since it is smaller and more horizontal in children, it is susceptible to blockage. Obstruction leads to accumulation of fluid and an infection if bacteria start to grow. Obstruction results from an abnormal opening mechanism or collapse due to an allergic/sensitivity blockage with mucous or infection.

One of the most common causes of ear infections is food allergies/sensitivities. These lead to inflammation and blockage: they need to be identified quickly using VEGA (electro-accupressure) or Elisa testing (blood) to be accurate and thorough. If the trigger foods can be identified and minimized, recurrent infections can be avoided.

As an infant, breast-feeding is encouraged to develop the immune system, minimize early introduction of food sensitivities, but the suckling develops the muscles, which help drain the tube. Always have the child tilted to feed. Make sure adults smoke outside, since passive smoke increases the incidence. There is typically a seasonal increase in the fall and winter due to increased exposure to viruses and bacteria. Daycare increases the risk again due to increased exposure to colds which cause increased mucous buildup.

It is extremely important to identify any vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as Vitamins C, E and the Bs, Beta carotene, zinc and selenium. Optimal nutrition is very important and supplements may be recommended.

It is also important to strengthen the immune system by avoiding over-consumption of sugar (desserts, Pop, candy, chocolate) and drinking four to six glasses of water. Herbs such as echinacea, garlic, mullein, yarrow, oregon grape, St. John’s Wort and thyme can be used in ear drops or internally.

As you can see, there is no reason to have repeated ear infections and the sooner the cause is determined the happier your child will be!!

Healthy Foods Kids will Love

Parents all want their children to be as healthy and happy as possible. We know that good nutrition is essential to achieving those goals, but getting children to eat healthy foods can be a challenge in a world of junk food. These tips will help your family to set up good nutritional habits that will help establish a lifetime of health for your children.


The only drink kids really need is water. I encourage parents to minimize the use of juice, as juice is high in sugar and not nearly as nutritious as eating fruit. A great way to get fluids into kids on hot summer days is to make herb tea, chill it and sweeten it with Stevia. A nice tea to try is Celestial Seasonings Black Cherry Berry (it has no artificial flavours). Stevia is a safe, natural sugar substitute that comes from a plant whose leaves taste sweet without having any sugar or calories. It is very concentrated so a few drops go a long way. Another favourite in our house is “Shrek Juice”. It is a smoothie made with spinach, pears, soy milk, stevia and a touch of ginger. (Thanks to Zen Zero for the recipe.)


Whole fruit is rich in antioxidant nutrients, enzymes and fiber. Fruit juice, dried fruit and fruit leathers just concentrate the sugars and do not have the nutritional value of the whole, fresh fruits.

  • It is a good idea to make fresh fruit readily available for snacks and “dessert”.
  • Popsicles can be made at home by freezing fruit smoothies. Try watermelon puree with blue berries floating inside!
  • Smoothies can be a nutritious snack. Fruit, tofu, yogurt, stevia, berries all can be blended in your own unique creations.


Many parents struggle to get enough vegetables into their children. Creativity and persistence pay; you need to keep exposing kids to a variety of vegetables to allow their taste buds to get used to them. Remember, kids love to eat vegetables if they are involved in growing them. Some ideas to incorporate more veggies into your kids diets are:

  • Mash broccoli or other vegetables into spaghetti sauce.
  • Celery boats filled with peanut butter, cheese, humous, or canned salmon or tuna.
  • Melt cheese on cauliflower or other veggies.
  • Put veggie dip out before dinner when everyone is hungry.
  • Little princesses like Annie’s raspberry vinaigrette as a pink veggie dip.
  • Start dinner with a salad course. 

Whole grains and beans:

  • Brown rice has nutrients and fiber while white rice has very little. Make brown rice a staple in your house and the kids will never know what they are missing.
  • Make brown rice more interesting by making a pilaf with nuts, chopped veggies, corn or peas, and spices
  • Another nutritious whole grain to serve instead of rice is quinoa. It is relatively high in protein and best of all it cooks in 15 minutes. Quinoa is available at Edible Island whole food store in Courtenay.
  • Burritos are a popular way to incorporate beans and rice. Just add salsa, avocado and cheese for a yummy dinner, or make ahead and freeze for a quick after school snack that the kids can microwave.

Nuts and Seeds:

Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds are natures’ perfect nutritious snack. Having a bowl of trail mix on the counter will help your kids (and you) stay away from less nutritious munchies. Make your own nut and seed mix, because most trail mixes include dried fruit that is hard on teeth.

  • Nuts and seeds are great on cereal to add some much needed protein to start the day.
  • Energy balls – often made with almond butter and coconut.
  • Sunflower seeds become sweeter and tastier after being soaked in water for 30-60 minutes.
  • Nut butters are much better for health than peanut butter. Try almond butter, tahini, cashew butter or sunflower seed butter.
  • Flax seeds are a great source of fiber and help ensure good bowel cleansing. You can sprinkle 1-2 tsp. of flax seeds (ground in a coffee grinder) on cereal, salad, or rice. Don’t heat or cook flax seeds as the oils go rancid in the heat. My daughter delights in having “golden sprinkles” on her oatmeal.


Protein is needed to provide the building blocks for growth and development. It is also important for stabilizing blood sugar. Often kids like to eat a lot of carbohydrates like cereal, breads and noodles. High carb meals result in a blood sugar roller coaster that leaves the brain fighting for fuel. Low blood sugar creates aggressive and impulsive behavior and is an often overlooked cause of attention deficit disorder. Having protein at every meal helps stabilize the blood sugar. When it comes to protein though, avoid the temptation to let kid’s taste buds get accustomed to chemically laden, high fat foods like hot dogs and sandwich meats. Good choices include:

  • Fish – the oils in fish are proven to enhance brain development. Salmon burgers are a great way to get canned salmon into picky eaters.
  • Chicken and lean beef are fine choices.
  • Eggs are handy when hard boiled. Have kids draw on the cooked eggs with crayon or you can write notes to them on the shells and pop the eggs into their school lunch.
  • If a child chooses to be vegetarian, special care must be taken to ensure adequate protein from vegetable sources like beans, tofu, quinoa, nuts and seeds. If the child is not eating dairy for any reason, calcium must be taken as a mineral supplement.

In general I recommend children’s diets also be supplemented with a quality multivitamin, a liquid calcium and a purified fish oil.
Now is the time to start your children out with excellent eating habits. Have fun with these ideas!

Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a naturopathic physician with a natural family practice in Courtenay. For information call (025) 897-0235 or check out via this website.

Parenting for Healthy Eating Habits

The choices you make around your child’s diet can influence your child’s long-term health prospects more than any other action you might take as a parent. As parents we are laying the foundation of a lifetime of eating habits. What kind of habits do you want your child to have? We know now the crucial role that nutrition plays in determining our health. In my family practice, I have seen too many children suffering from poor nutrition. Few children in this part of the world lack sufficient calories, however many children lack sufficient nutrition, and are therefore considered malnourished. Children who are well nourished perform better academically, function better behaviourally and emotionally, and have less anxiety, depression and hyperactivity.

Obesity is another result of poor eating habits. As parents we should be concerned not only about the long term health consequences of obesity (such as increased risk of heart disease and cancer) but also the effect on a child’s budding sense of self. Obese children report lower self esteem, more loneliness, sadness and nervousness and were more likely to report smoking and consuming alcohol.

Food in the modern world:

A lot has changed in the world of nutrition in the last 100 years. In the past, food was often fresh, locally grown and certainly free of preservatives and additives. Foods such as grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables fish and meats are the foods that our bodies have evolved on for 1000’s of years.

In the last 100 years, with the advent of the multi billion dollar food-processing industry, things have changed. But our body’s needs have not. We are bombarded with quick-fix and highly addictive foods laden with sugar, salt and fat. The foods marketed to children are hardly what their bodies need. Kids are big business – the food giants know that kids have a lot of market clout. That’s why they market aggressively to children aiming to program them with brand loyalty at an early age. Such advertising aims to promote products by convincing those who will always believe.

The next time you feel tempted to serve your kids Kraft Dinner, remember Philip Morris, the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer, owns Kraft Foods. We need to become media savvy and teach our children to think critically about what advertising is really about: profits at the expense of our health. Let your children know that “My saying ‘no’ means I love you too much to let you have something that can hurt you”.

Healthy Eating Habits

  • Parents are leaders, teachers and role models:
    Modeling good eating habits to your children. Provide healthy choices over and over and over. Show them that you are not going to change your values because they are having a tantrum.
  • Invest time in food preparation:
    Providing your child good food takes time and effort. If you value the health and wellbeing of your family, you need to invest in it.
  • Plan ahead and get kids involved
    Menu planning can be a family affair. Delegate some food preparation to the kids. Kids will often eat the foods they choose and make themselves. Plan ahead for snacks on busy days especially on the road.
  • Celebrate healthy, natural foods
    When you model to children that you enjoy beautiful, simple, natural foods, they will follow your lead eventually.

Unhealthy Eating Habits:

One of the most important legacies we can leave our children with is a healthy relationship with food. In counselling people with health issues, I often see that the roots of their illness lie in their addictive relationship with food. For example, a diabetic who turns to sugar for comfort. A heart attack survivor who finds solace in high fat foods and chocolate bars. I see it every day. In my experience, 90% of weight issues lie in the use of food for emotional reasons instead of nutrition. The seeds of using food for comfort almost always start in childhood. Avoid the following pitfalls:

Using food as a bribe or reward 

  • Don’t make deals with food:
    • If you eat all your vegetables, you can have dessert.
    • If you stop screaming, I’ll buy you the candy you want.
    • If you are good girl you can have a trip to McDonalds.
  • Do use natural consequences:
    • If you scream in the store we will go home now.
  • Don’t celebrate successes with food:
    • What a great report card! You deserve a trip to Dairy Queen!
  • Do seek to encourage intrinsic reward:
    • You must feel really proud of yourself for getting good grades. Have a big hug!

Using food as emotional comfort

  • Don’t soothe with food:
    • Did that shot hurt? We’ll have to get you a treat.
    • Did you have a bad day? I’ll make your favorite dessert and you’ll feel better.
  • Do teach stress management skills:
    • Relaxation techniques (deep breathing), assertiveness, problem solving and self-esteem.

Consistently expose you child to healthy foods and minimize access to the addictive, processed foods. As a parent, you do your child a great service by mentoring to them a healthy relationship with food. In the next issue, I will discuss some ideas on preparing healthy foods that kids will enjoy.

Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a naturopathic physician with a family practice in Courtenay. Her office can be reached at (250) 897-0235.

Attention Deficit Disorder

By 6 years old, Jason had been labeled with attention deficit disorder. By 8 he was having trouble in school both academically and socially. The other kids didn’t understand his overly aggressive behavior and were irritated by his repeated outbursts. Teachers were frustrated by his lack of concentration and his inability to stay on task. At home, impulsive and aggressive behavior resulted in many sibling squabbles and his parents were at their wits end as to how to get through to their child. The school was pressuring Jason’s parents to pursue drug therapy for their son. His parents thought ‘we aren’t comfortable with giving our child drugs to suppress his behavior, but we have to do something to help him function better.’

That was the point that they sought naturopathic medical care. Naturopathic doctors are primary care physicians with full medical training plus extensive expertise in natural medicines. The first step in Jason’s treatment was a thorough evaluation of his mental, emotional and physical state. Next, the doctor looked carefully at his medical history to assess whether there were events that could have contributed to creating an imbalance in Jason’s body that might cause behavioral problems. Then a program was embarked upon to remove any underlying causes of those problems. Jason was tested for food allergies, which in his case were numerous. His parents observed marked behavioral improvements within weeks of avoiding these specific foods. Any slips ups (which the doctor called “food experiments”) increased Jason’s irritability and impulsivity dramatically. Other nutritional supplements were recommended to enhance brain and nervous system function, and a program was done to correct an intestinal imbalance caused by repeated use of antibiotics. Within 3 months of treatment, Jason’s parents felt that they had their son back and the teachers were reporting steady improvements. Not only were his parents thrilled with Jason’s turn around, they felt good that they had dealt with the underlying causes of their child’s problems without having to use drugs to suppress those problems.

Children are being treated with drugs for what we label attention deficit disorder at an alarming rate. The number of children on drugs for ADHD has increased dramatically.. In some schools, 30% of the boys are on Ritalin-type drugs. As Jason’s case illustrates, naturopathic doctors attempt to address the cause of problems in a holistic manner. Potential physical factors that can contribute to ADD / ADHD are:

Many children have received long-term benefits from addressing these and other issues under the care of naturopathic physicians. Each child deserves to be treated as an individual and given the chance to improve their health in a real and lasting way.

For more information on attention deficit disorder or naturopathic pediatric care, contact Dr. Deidre Macdonald at 897-0235.

Children's Health – Naturally

Parents all want the best for their children. At no time is this more true than when kids are suffering with health problems. There are many options for parents to help their kids be as healthy as possible.

Ear Infections are a common but distressing illness in children. Once the standard of care, doctors now discourage the use of antibiotics. The Cochrane Review of medical research states that only about 6% of children benefit from taking antibiotics (over just waiting it out) while about 6% of children have serious side effects from them. So what is a parent to do? It is important to address the underlying cause of recurrent ear infections. Often, there is excess mucous and congestion which creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. We can “drain the swamp” by eliminating food allergies and promoting good lymphatic drainage during colds. Natural medicines to boost the immune system are also helpful during ear infections.

Bladder infections can be a problem while children are in the process of learning good hygiene. These painful infections can often be be treated with safe natural medicines like d-mannose and cranberry. If antibiotics have to be used, it is essential to repair the intestinal bacterial lining by taking a high quality probiotic formula for a few weeks after treatment.

Allergies to dust, pollen, moulds and pets can be a source of allergic symptoms like sneezing, runny nose and eyes and itchy eyes or throat. There are painless testing techniques, as well as scratch testing, to determine the source of problems. Herbal anti-histamines like nettles and quercitin not only help diminish symptoms, they are also nutritious. Allergy desensitization techniques have evolved from the days of weekly shots and now include oral techniques like Sublingual Immunotherapy.

Eczema can often be very successfully treated when we address the underlying cause and then correct it. Research and experience has shown a strong link between eczema and digestive concerns. By identifying and eliminating food allergies, restoring optimal intestinal flora and providing medical oils most children’s eczema will resolve nicely, without the endless cycle of topical steroids.

Digestive concerns – Nothing is worse than a 2 year old with constipation! Their willfulness is legendary. Taking laxatives long term is not advised, so what else can a parent do to prevent constipation and subsequent painful stools? Again, we have to search for the underlying cause of the problem. The first place to begin is to determine when the problem started, rule out anatomical abnormalities, then identify and eliminate food allergies. We often incorporate safer, natural stool softeners in the early phase of treatment as well as probiotics.

ADHD – Parents want so much to help their children be successful in school but are often wary of the side effects of the Ritalin class of medications for ADHD. What else can be done to improve concentration and learning? The brain is an organ that is affected by nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, and toxic exposure just like any other organ. Behavioural strategies work better when the brain is properly fueled with excellent nutrition and key nutritional and herbal supplements. Every child is treated according to their unique situation, but Bacopa, zinc and iron are promising aids to children’s brain and nervous system function. Specific customized homeopathic prescriptions are also a wonderful tool for unlocking a child’s full potential.

While most naturopathic physicians can prescribe prescription medications for each of these health issues, we prefer to educate parents about their full range of treatment options and endeavor to treat the underlying cause of problems rather than just mask symptoms with medications.

Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a licensed naturopathic physician who has been treating families with naturopathic medicine in downtown Courtenay for 15 years. Contact her office at (250) 897-0235 or via this website.