Chinese Medicine Children
The Melbourne winter has hit and it seems like everyone, especially kids are getting sick! At winter time, children are prone to fever, cough and ear infections. This article reflects on my studies as a Chinese Medicine practitioner. It aims to educate you on how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) advises wellbeing for babies and children alike.
I was very fortunate to be taught TCM Paediatrics in my Masters at RMIT. This was from the depth & wisdom by the renowned Peter Gigante. Gigante has been supporting children with Chinese TCM for over 20 years in Melbourne.
I find this topic personally fascinating, why do some children get more sick than others?
Why do some always get ear infections?
Or tummy ache or cough?
Is it just constitutional or is it the diet, lifestyle, emotional and environmental surroundings?
Influencing Health Factors
In Chinese Medicine, the main foundations are nature and nurture. Nature is the genetic aspect, what the health of your parents and their reproductive cells were. In Australia, we liken this to the saying of “coming from good stock”. If a parent was sick or deficient, before or during conception this can affect the child’s health. As can a mother having a weak and difficult pregnancy.
This aspect refers to the environment. What kinds of food has the child been fed? Has the child been overmedicated? A good sleeper? In good health? Plenty of outdoors and sunshine? Both genetics and environment determine the epigenetics of the person. It’s not only your genes, but how they become expressed.
Peter Gigante on Children’s Health
From my Masters studies, Peter brought forwards some interesting points to the table.
New ways of parenting aren’t always more successful.
For example it is common here in Melbourne to see young children dressed in a t-shirt and shorts in the middle of winter. My 88 year-old grandmother still scolds me if she sees my skin peeking out of my denims. Traditionally people took keeping babies and little ones warm very seriously. Warm food and clothing.
Prevention is more important the treatment
Nurse your child as best you can, i.e. trying your best to breastfeed, have a healthy and well pregnancy, eat nourishing foods, get enough warmth, sunlight, play, cuddles etc. Allowing your child to rest and recuperate when they are ill. Sometimes there is so much to do, but you just need to have a very lazy and snuggling morning with your loved one. Especially winter mornings!
Relate to Nature
Where possible, get outside and consider safe natural treatment and methods. Organic and free range foods, filtered water, fresh air inside the house. Natural methods are preferred and are beneficial, they tend to do less harm.
Preconception Care & Beyond
Ideally at conception both the parents are at optimal health! This is essential to know. Especially considering may people leave baby making to later in life. Rates of infertility are increasing. It is alarming not only because people may miss out on parenting. More so given that if it is difficult to conceive, there are higher risks for the health of your child. Once conception occurs, the wellbeing of the child is drawn from the mother. This explains why there is a great emphasis on health in pregnancy. Post-partum is a special time to nourish both baby and mother, to ensure a great start to life for baby.
The Chinese have been practicing Tui Na massage on babies and children for millennia. It is a gentle way to relax, promote good circulation and immunity in kids. Chinese Medicine advocates that regular massage of children assists with their energetic organ development.
Encopresis Case Study by Peter Gigante
Peter shared an interesting case study of a 5 year-old girl with encopresis. Encopresis is involuntary defecation, that can be associated with an emotional disturbance or pyschiatric disorder. She had this for half her life. She had seen an extensive list of paediatricians, psychologists and occupational therapists. Within three treatments of massage and herbs, along with massage at home, her mother was able to manage this girl’s extreme case of involuntary defaecation. Massage is amazing for babies and children. It can aid strong development and recuperation during illness. Babies and children can respond exceptionally well.
The child should be protected from extreme emotions such as anger and shock. Keeping them loved and protected, is significant. As I am always learning as a mother, they are only children and sometimes we expect too much of them!
This is a big one for children and us! As children have weak digestion, we give them easy to digest food to support and strengthen digestion to transform and transport food well. Children with weak digestion are more prone to phlegm (can be seen as mucus in stools, very dribbly when not teething, chronic snotty nose, skin problems, diarrhoea, asthma).
Spleen & Stomach
It is the Chinese Medicine understanding that the Spleen and Stomach organ energies control digestion and assimilation. The Stomach is the extraordinary fu organ (that fills and expels). It holds the food and likes wetness. The Spleen energy organ is the fire beneath that cooks the food and distributes it. Therefore, anything that disrupts the function of the Spleen/Stomach or the digestion is harmful to the body’s energy as a whole. A child’s digestive system is insufficient, especially when they are under 6 years old. Apparently this is the average age a person’s digestion matures.
“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
Give them more bland and slightly sweet foods such as rice with a bit of chicken and vegetables or porridge with a little cooked fruit and cream/yoghurt. Rich foods with lots of salt, sugar, oil such as chocolate, juice, salty chips are very difficult to digest. Rye sourdough bread is always a good one, keep the food stodgy such as potatoes, rice, pasta or oats as the main substance. Do remember that high quality salt, such as Celtic Sea salt are important to their development. Essential fats such as coconut oil, grass-fed butter and ghee are very good for them. As are organic fruits and vegetable, and good sources of protein. Home-made meals are preferable to ready-made snacks.
Why do some children develop allergies? From a Chinese medicine perspective this originates from the Spleen & Stomach energy. What we know as the gut. Children with a weak gut are more likely to develop allergies as the gut is too weak, cannot develop appropriate enzymes to deal with the food. For a more detailed understanding go here.
We are constantly offering food all day long to children. It is best to keep it to regular mealtimes with three meals, morning tea and afternoon tea. Sometimes they will be hungrier during growth spurts which is fine. A famous proverb in China says,
“If you want a healthy child, let the child experience a little hunger and know a little cold”.
The rationale for children’s meals follows: predominately grain.
What kinds of grains?
I personally prefer rice and oats. Breads that are spelt sourdough. Not too much wholegrain as they have a mineral-blocker called phytic acid. Then grass-fed meats, enriched by vegetables and assisted by fruits. Some nuts and seeds, remember the essential fats. An idea diet for children.
Cold & Raw Food
We are evolving into an orthorexic society and people are gung-ho on food diets and trends. Extreme diets which cut out major foods groups such as strict vegan diets or raw-food diets can cause problems. Especially if you live in a place like Melbourne where the winter is beautifully bitterly cold. Long-term vegan and vegetarian diets can cause blood, yin and yang deficiency. Long-term raw food diets can cause internal cold. For Chinese Medicine children, diet is a major aspect.
Cold drinks and raw foods should be minimal in a child’s diet. We would never give a baby cold milk! Excess cold causes phlegm and slows digestion. You can give your child small amounts of raw food, ideally seasonal. It’s winter now so pears, apples and carrots are ideal. Cooking apples and pears is a lovely way to enjoy fruit in the Melbourne winter. Tropical fruits such as watermelon and cantaloupe are too cooling.
Chen Wen Zhong of 1252CE observed,
“Things that grow in the shade do not grow strongly”.
Considering we have a Vitamin D deficiency epidemic in Australia, very much so in Melbourne, this rings true. We all need some sun and so do our kids.
Chinese Medicine Children
At Femme Vital in Fairfield, Melbourne, expect the experienced, gentle and tailored treatment and advice from a mother herself. They don’t have to have acupuncture! Children’s wellbeing can be supported with supplements, Chinese herbs and lifestyle suggestions.
At Femme Vital, expect the best holistic health consultation, coaching, tailored treatment and advice with 12 years experience supporting wellbeing with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
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