Take Crying Seriously

by Author Chris White, MD – ICPA.org:crying

Let’s be honest—crying is tough on the nervous system. It’s designed to be. When children have an unmet need that is beginning to cause a disruption in their nervous system, they cry, or get really whiney, as a direct reaction to the discomfort. The crying then enters us through our senses—mostly through sound, but visually, as well, if we see their contorted faces and the tension in their bodies. Then it travels from the sensory areas of our brain, into the limbic system and down into our bodies, all resulting in this feeling: “Something is wrong, and I have got to fix it now!” Since crying usually is the signaling of a dysregulated nervous system—usually that some need of the child’s has not been met—it is important that we pay attention to our instincts and respond by going to the child and finding out what is wrong.

Whether the crying is coming from your infant because he is hungry, or if he is colicky and needs to release the tension accumulated from the day—in either case, go to him. Perhaps it is coming from your clingy toddler who is in her rapprochement phase of development—pushing hard for independence in some moments, but seemingly terrified of you leaving the room in others. Still, when she lets out those blood-curdling screams that seem so dramatic when you’re just going downstairs, respond to her anyway. Her fear is real.

Or maybe your 5-year-old just took a spill on his bike in the driveway and is starting to bawl. You saw the whole thing and know he isn’t gravely injured; go to him anyway. He may need for you to be close by to help move easefully through the tears, and digest the shock of the bike crash.

In each of these cases, your child’s nervous system is doing what it is designed to do: make distress calls to his caretakers when he feels he needs some help. It is important to take these distress calls seriously by finding out what your child needs.

But don’t take crying too seriously.

Many times I see parents become dysregulated themselves whenever their child cries. They come running in, yelling, “What’s wrong?!?” and find that the child was simply frustrated because he was unable to get a toy to work right, and was a little overtired, so his frustration bubbled over into tears. The dysregulated mother may then get irritated with her son and say, “Why are you having a hissy fit over something so small? Pull yourself together!” What great advice, for both child and mother!

Even in a situation like this, where a child’s crying is over something relatively minor, she still needs comfort and to be brought back to a state of better regulation. More frustration and anger are not going to help. Discharging your own dysregulated emotions will only add to the child’s sense of frustration and lack of support.

In other situations, I have seen parents go running to their kids whenever they cry, as if trauma will ice over their nervous systems forever. They explode onto the scene with an intense, anxious fretting and nervous dancing around, trying to make everything perfect so the child won’t experience any discomfort. These parents seem to be afraid of tears, and will do anything to keep their children’s state “sunny and 75 degrees” at all costs. Their anxiety is, in itself, somewhat dysregulating, and their children get the unspoken message: They are fragile, they can’t handle the bumps and bruises of life, and they’ll always need Mommy nearby to make things right. These kids grow up believing that they are made of glass.

As a parent, do your best to “get yourself together” before dumping your own anxieties or frustrations on your kids. Try to understand your own histories around crying and other states of dysregulation like frustration, anger or an intense compulsion to make everything go right. Inquire into why your particular nervous system reacts the way it does. Most likely, it formed this way in an attempt to protect you from a lack of attunement you experienced as a child. Have compassion for yourself: We are all still children in so many ways.

If you are one of those moms or dads who gets intensely activated by hearing your child cry (I know I still do from time to time, especially if I am awoken from sleep!), there are some things you can do to help soothe your limbic reactivity.
The next time you hear your child cry, remember:

• Crying is a communication of need; rarely is it anything serious.

• Crying is also, oftentimes, the intelligent response of the nervous system when tension needs to be released. The movement of tears and sobbing are ways the body cleanses itself of toxicity and potentially “frozen memories” that might otherwise get stored as trauma.

• Whatever the cause of the crying, you will be of sounder mind and more spacious heart if you begin getting yourself together as you move toward your child.

Try these things to help get yourself together the next time your child’s crying revs up your nervous system:

• Even as you reflexively get up to go to your child, mentally note the intensity that your body and mind are experiencing. Feel the electricity or warmth or tension in your body as you continue to move to your child’s side for support, and remind yourself that this is how the body is supposed to react to crying.

Grounding down is a great way to smooth out the intensity and stay level-headed as you move to help your distressed child. Inhale deeply into the belly, and then, as you exhale, imagine the breath going down from your belly, through your pelvis and legs, and exiting down into the earth. Make the exhale as long as possible (this activates the calming parasympathetic nervous system) and release it through an open mouth with a little Haaaaaaaa sound from the back of the throat. This will leave you in a clearer state of mind, and feeling more “warrior like” to meet whatever challenge presents itself.

Get spacious. Even as you arrive to find out that nothing too serious is wrong—that no major fire needs extinguishing—take your child up in your arms and begin breathing deeply as you hold him. Again, try to gently emphasize the exhale, as this is very calming—to both your system as well as your child’s. And as you are holding him, let the exhale and your awareness dissolve outward in all directions, creating a feeling of vast space to hold this difficulty. In my experience, all difficult feelings run their course more quickly and gracefully when I give the difficulty room to breathe and allow Kai (my son) to be exactly where he is at emotionally, and allow his nervous system to heal itself in its own way, in its own time. Get spacious and trust the process.

Let it flow. As you hold your child, you will probably feel the natural response of your heart—its kindness and sensitivity and compassion—flow from you into all pain and suffering: your child’s and your own. There is no need to work hard to make everything all right; no need to fret and try to placate or distract her from the tears. Just stay grounded, stay spacious, and let the natural kindness of the heart pour from you effortlessly.

Step by Step

Over the next two weeks, pick one of these suggestions to work with when your child cries. You might start with simply becoming aware of how your body feels when you hear your child cry. Once awareness is established and becomes second nature to you, try adding “grounding down” or “getting spacious.” Or if you often feel you need to distract your child from his tears—to give him a treat or something else to focus on—consider instead simply giving him room to have his tears in your loving arms. Your quiet confidence will ignite and support his innate capacity for resilience.

Crying is usually a signal of some unmet need, and therefore deserves to be taken seriously and responded to. But if we allow the fear-based part of our nervous system to spread a wildfire within us, we won’t be able to respond in the most effective, loving and spacious way possible. Develop a basic trust in the nervous system and its cycles of tears. Your openness and confidence will help your children mature into healthy, vibrant, courageous beings.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

Ear Infections: Causes and Holistic Care

by Linda Folden Palmer, DC– ICPA.org:ear infections

Causes of Ear Infections

Middle ear infections are on the rise. The ailment, also known as otitis media, has become far more prevalent in children throughout the twentieth century, increasing 150 percent between 1975 to 1990 alone. This dramatic increase illustrates the parameters of wise antibiotic use and its abuse, while at the same time revealing the effects of breastfeeding and formula.

The middle ear is the part of the ear that is enclosed behind the eardrum. A tiny tube, called the eustachian tube, drains any fluids from the middle ear into the throat. Colds and episodes of allergic runny nose, due to airborne allergens or allergies to cow’s milk or other foods, block this eustachian tube with mucus and inflammation. When this tiny mucous-membrane-lined canal is closed off, inflammatory fluids build up in the middle ear cavity (serous otitis media), sometimes referred to as effusion. Over time, passage of nasal and throat bacteria into this tube, from pacifier use or especially when a child is lying on his back, can seed the middle ear. Bacteria can then multiply to large numbers when finding a friendly fluid-filled middle ear environment, creating painful infection (acute otitis media).

The major source of these infections is threefold: the withholding of protective mother’s milk; antibiotic treatment for mild or non-bacterial ear conditions; and inflammatory reactions to certain foods, particularly cow’s milk.

The occurrence of otitis media is 19 percent lower in breastfed infants, with 80 percent fewer prolonged episodes. The risk of otitis remains at this reduced level for four months after weaning and then increases. By 12 months after weaning, the risk is the same as in those who were never breastfed. In addition to providing general immunities to the infant, breastmilk also provides specific antibodies that prevent otitiscausing bacteria from attaching to the mucous walls of the middle ear.


Misguided Concerns About Infection

The presence of fluid in the middle ear from chronic or acute conditions reduces a child’s capacity to hear. This fluid muffles sounds but does not damage the hearing mechanism, so hearing returns once the fluid is gone. While permanent hearing damage does not occur from acute or chronic otitis, chronic interference with hearing can delay language development.

In some cases of acute infection, treated or not, the eardrum may rupture. While fear is generated around this possibility, the rupture allows the pus to drain and the middle ear to dry, most likely resolving the infection. The eardrum will then heal with some scar tissue, just as it would have after tube insertion. This scar tissue, found in many an eardrum, typically affects hearing very minimally or not at all. (Drainage from an ear can also be an outer ear infection. This is common after swimming, and the condition will respond to ear drops. Drainage from the ear for more than two days, especially when associated with hearing loss, requires prompt medical attention.)

The major concern with ear infections is that infection could develop in the mastoid air cells behind the ear. This rare condition is called mastoiditis, and is primarily of concern because of the proximity to the brain. Mastoiditis, seen as redness behind the ear and protrusion of the outer ear, can occasionally lead not only to permanent hearing loss, but to brain damage as well. Although claims are made that the incidence of mastoiditis has been greatly reduced since the introduction of antibiotics, this is not clear from a review of the literature. After the advent of antibiotics and CT scans, however, it is apparent that serious complications of acute mastoiditis have been reduced, and that the number of mastoid removals (mastoidectomies) has been reduced as well. In fact, antibiotic therapy for cases of mastoiditis appears to be valuable for preventing surgery in 86 percent of cases.

Just over half of all mastoiditis cases occur following bouts of acute otitis media. While there are other causes of mastoiditis, fewer than 4 percent of the rare deaths from mastoiditis complications occur in cases that originated as ear infections.

Some mastoiditis is blamed on poor antibiotic treatment of ear infections; other cases are blamed on antibiotic therapy itself. At the 1998 meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology, it was reported that serious cases of mastoiditis are rising as a direct result of strongly resistant bacteria developed through the common use of antibiotic therapy for ear infections.

Additionally, “masked mastoiditis,” in which the clearing up of the visible symptoms of the middle ear infection mask the existence of the mastoiditis, is a highly worrisome, occasionally seen condition that is directly caused by antibiotic treatment of ear infections. The behavior of the bacteria that promote this condition makes it very difficult to discover, and the condition has a high rate of dangerous complications.


Antibiotic Ills

The standard treatment for acute middle ear infections is antibiotic therapy. Alas, antibiotics are prescribed very often when simple fluid buildup is present without infection, as described earlier, or when the eardrum just appears red, suggesting inflammation. At times the eardrum can appear very red just from crying, allergies or a fever of other origin. It is impossible to accurately diagnose infection without puncturing the eardrum and taking a fluid sample. This leads doctors to suspect infection based upon the presence of symptoms, and prescribe antibiotics.

One-third of all ear infections are viral, and the distinction cannot be made upon examination. Antibiotics do not kill viruses, and can make viral infections worse by wiping out competing bacterial flora and encouraging secondary bacterial infections of resistant strains. Although seldom recognized, a number of chronic ear infections are actually fungal in nature (candida), produced when multiple courses of antibiotics disrupt the normal floral balance and encourage fungal growth.

Many large studies have shown that antibiotic treatment provides only a small benefit over no treatment at all for short-term resolution of ear infections. A 1994 analysis reviewed 33 studies, covering 5,400 cases of acute otitis, and found that spontaneous recovery without medical treatment occurred in 81 percent of acute cases. Short-term recovery occurred 95 percent of the time when antibiotics were used.

At least one third of children on antibiotics experienced side effects. Although their rate of short-term resolution was slightly improved, there was no long-term benefit to antibiotic therapy: Medicated children demonstrate no less otitis four weeks after antibiotic treatment than those treated with placebos. In fact, there was a higher rate of returning acute ear infection seen in those who received antibiotic therapy, and the return of serous otitis was two to six times higher in those treated with antibiotics.

However, when language development is retarded due to prolonged middle ear fluid, the temporary hearing improvement provided by the tubes might be worth the risks.

Generally, fever or great localized pain accompany signs of drum inflammation (redness) and fluid buildup (bulging of drum) in a true acute infection. The most sensible modern recommendation regarding ear infection treatment is to use antibiotic therapy only in genuinely acute infections that do not resolve on their own within a few days. This regimen is currently followed in several European countries with positive results; it also reduces the development of bacterial strains resistant to antibiotics. A heating pad over the ear affords some relief, and many feel that recovery can be hastened by warm garlic or tea tree oil drops in the ear. Favorite antimicrobial supplements, such as goldenseal or grape-seed extract, may prove beneficial. Fever should not be reduced, as it is the body’s own powerful process for killing infecting microbes.

The value of surgical insertion of tubes through the eardrum to treat chronic ear conditions is widely debated. There are many risks involved, including a much greater return of infection once the tubes are gone.
In conclusion, medical treatments complicate the picture of middle ear infections without providing long-term benefits. Removing the chief causes of middle ear infections should be the preferred goal. This can be achieved by providing breastmilk, avoiding overuse of antibiotics and recognizing, treating and avoiding exposure to allergens, especially food allergens.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

Co-Sleeping Myths

strong>by Author Macal Gordon – ICPA.org:co-sleeping

Common Co-Sleeping Myths

The recent Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) finding that adult beds are inherently hazardous is both misleading and inaccurate. Parents should know that this recent campaign is sponsored and financed by the Juvenile Product Manufacturing Association (i.e. crib manufacturers), an organization that has everything to gain from parents choosing to buy cribs. Parents should also know that perhaps millions of parents sleep safely with their infants every year. A recent study persuasively documented that babies who sleep on their backs with a non-smoking, non-drinking, parent who did not abuse drugs show no greater risk than solitary sleepers.

Dr. McKenna, professor of anthropology and director of the Mother-Infant Sleep Lab at Notre Dame, gives the following safety suggestions: “Infants should sleep on firm surfaces, clean surfaces, in the absence of smoke, under light (but comfortable) blanketing, and their heads should never be covered. The bed should not have any stuffed animals or pillows around the infant and never should an infant be placed to sleep on top of a pillow. Sheepskins or other fluffy material and especially beanbag mattresses should never be used. Water beds can be dangerous, too, and the mattresses should always tightly intersect the bed frame. Infants should never sleep on couches or sofas — with or without adults — where they can slip down (face first) into the crevice or get wedged against the back of a couch.”

If they sleep in your bed, they’ll never leave. This has never been studied or documented, and anecdotal evidence from co-sleeping parents does not bear this out. Many co-sleeping parents report that their children become willing to leave, with little or no persuasion, on their own around age two or three, as they mature physically, emotionally and cognitively. These families also report that there are many ways to help children find their own sleeping space.

Co-sleeping families tend not to see things in terms of habits that need to be broken, but as patterns that can be established, but that continually evolve and change. For co-sleeping families, laying the foundation for security and closeness takes precedence over early independence.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

The Benefits of Co-Sleeping

strong>by Author Macal Gordon – ICPA.org:co-sleeping

What Research Shows

When it comes to research about co-sleeping, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that there is research to suggest that there are benefits to parents and infants who share a bed (or room) through the night. The bad news is that, beyond the research into the connection between co-sleeping and SIDS prevention, there’s not much being done which inquires into its qualitative or long-term aspects. Until this type of research is done, we must continue to draw from the good work that is being done within the American culture, as well as from studies conducted in other cultures abroad.

Benefits for infants:

Co-sleeping promotes physiological regulation

The proximity of the parent may help the infant’s immature nervous system learn to self-regulate during sleep. (Farooqi, 1994; Mitchell, 1997; Mosko, 1996; Nelson, 1996; Skragg, 1996) It may also help prevent SIDS by preventing the infant from entering into sleep states that are too deep. In addition, the parents’ own breathing may help the infant to “remember” to breathe.(McKenna, 1990; Mosko, 1996; Richard, 1998).

Parents and infants sleep better

Because of the proximity of the mother, babies do not have to fully wake and cry to get a response. As a result, mothers can tend to the infant before either of them are fully awake. As a result, mothers were more likely to have positive evaluations of their nighttime experiences (McKenna, 1994) because they tended to sleep better and wake less fully (McKenna &Mosko, 1997).

Babies get more care giving

Co-sleeping increases breast feeding (Clements, 1997; McKenna, 1994; Richard et al., 1996). Even the conservative American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) admits to the breast feeding advantages of co-sleeping (Hauck, 1998). Mothers who co-sleep breast feed an average of twice as long as non-co-sleeping mothers (McKenna). In addition to the benefits of breast feeding, the act of sucking increases oxygen flow, which is beneficial for both growth and immune functions.

Co-sleeping infants also get more attention and protective care. Mothers who co-sleep exhibited five times the number of “protective” behaviors (such as adjusting the infant’s blanket, stroking or cuddling) as solitary-sleeping mothers (McKenna &Mosko, 1997). These mothers also showed an increased sensitivity to the presence of the baby in the bed (McKenna).

Long-term Benefits

Higher self-esteem. Boys who co-slept with their parents between birth and five years of age had significantly higher self-esteem and experienced less guilt and anxiety. For women, co-sleeping during childhood was associated with less discomfort about physical contact and affection as adults (Lewis &Janda, 1988). Co-sleeping appears to promote confidence, self-esteem, and intimacy, possibly by reflecting an attitude of parental acceptance (Crawford, 1994).

More positive behavior.In a study of parents on military bases, co-sleeping children received higher evaluations from their teachers than did solitary sleeping children (Forbes et al., 1992). A recent study in England showed that among the children who “never” slept in their parents bed, there was a trend to be harder to control, less happy, exhibit a greater number of tantrums, and these children were actually more fearful than children who always slept in their parents’ bed, all night (Heron, 1994).
Increased life satisfaction. A large, cross-cultural study conducted on five different ethnic groups in large U.S. cities found that, across all groups, co-sleepers exhibited a general feeling of satisfaction with life (Mosenkis, 1998).

What Parents Suspect

Co-sleeping promotes sensitivity. Many parents who co-sleep feel that they become more attuned to their baby and child. They feel that their sensitivity to the needs and patterns of their baby translate into daytime sensitivity as well.

It reduces bedtime struggles

Parents of co-sleepers know that children who sleep in their parents’’ room have no reason to be afraid of bedtime. As they grow older and move into their own rooms, they have positive, secure images of sleep time. They have no reason to equate bedtime with being alone.

It fosters an environment of acceptance

Underlying the choice to co-sleep is a willingness to accept a child’s need for the parent both day and night. A parent essentially communicates that while the child is small and needful, the parent will be there to help the child and address their needs. Co-sleeping parents tend to believe that this willingness to respond to the child’s needs carries over into the daytime, and this powerfully contributes to the overall relationship with the child.

Co-sleeping is just as safe or safer than a crib

Existing studies do not prove that co-sleeping is inherently hazardous. The elements of the sleeping environment are what dictate the level of danger to the infant. When non-smoking parents who do not abuse alcohol or drugs sleep on a firm mattress devoid of fluffy bedding, co-sleeping is a safe environment. In addition, it is likely that there are many children whose lives have been saved by sleeping next to their parents. There is anecdotal evidence, for instance, of mothers who have noticed their child not breathing and were able to stimulate them to breathe.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

Wellness for Children

by Author Jane Sheppard – ICPA.org:wellness

In raising healthy children, it’s not enough to just focus on the physical aspect of health. To be truly healthy, a child’s emotional health must be nurtured and strengthened. Developing a mental attitude of wellness is also essential. When we adopt an attitude of wellness, we take on a belief that being well is a natural, normal state. Our goal is to have outstanding, vibrant health, not just to be free of disease. With a wellness attitude, we know that we have control over our own body and how healthy it will be.

We can teach and help our children to grow up with an attitude of wellness. Children have much more control over their own health than you may think. The mind is a very powerful mechanism with miraculous control over health and healing. The more children learn to use the extraordinary powers of their minds, the healthier and happier they will be. They may also live longer than someone who takes a passive approach to health.

Children can learn that negative, unhealthy lifestyles are choices that contribute to sickness. We all know what a struggle it can be to encourage children to eat the foods that we know are essential for health, and to avoid junk food. When our children are very young, we can pretty easily restrict the things we know to be unhealthy for them. However, as they get older, telling them that they cannot have sugar or other problem food is not productive. They will feel deprived and will probably rebel. Anything that is forbidden is tempting.

Children need to know they have a choice—they can either choose good health and wellness or opt for poor health and sickness. They need to be taught the facts so they are able to make educated choices. Talk to them about the effects that food has on their body. They can understand that sugar lowers their immunity, making them more susceptible to sickness, as well as contribute to tooth decay. You can explain to them how eating healthy foods will give them more energy and make them feel better. This can be taught in very simple, fun and creative ways. It may take a while to actually sink in, and at first the lure of scrumptious tasting sugar and white flour “treats” that all the other kids are eating may be too much to refuse, but eventually the time and energy you put into health education will pay off. If children are raised with a respectful attitude of wellness, as they get older they will most likely choose to turn down things that they know are not healthy for them. Respectful is a key word, meaning not nagging or shaming them about food.

As they get even older, they can be taught that smoking cigarettes or taking drugs is their choice to opt for sickness. Telling them to “just say no” and forbidding them to smoke or take drugs is not enough. They need to understand the health consequences and realities of putting these substances in their bodies. Children are very intelligent, but they need to be reminded that they are powerful and they have choices. They can understand the consequences of their choices.

Talk to your children about how strong their bodies are and the extraordinary things their bodies can do. Show them how their bodies can miraculously heal a cut, how their heart works and how they can strengthen their heart through exercise and healthy food, how their immune system fights off germs and other invaders, and how getting enough sleep makes them feel better throughout the day. All these things can be taught in fun and imaginative ways with drawings, stories, etc. Children are fascinated with their bodies and they want to know how they work.

Dr. Wayne Dyer tells us in his book, What Do You Really Want For Your Children?, “the more children learn from you to rid themselves of attitudes which foster sickness, the more you are helping them to enjoy life each day. They will actually live longer and more productive lives if they learn wellness as very young children.” Parents frequently make statements that reinforce a sickness attitude. Did your mother ever tell you that if you don’t wear a scarf, you’ll catch a cold and be sick? A wellness approach would be to say, “You are so strong and healthy that you probably won’t develop a cold, even if the other kids do, but here is a scarf to keep you warm and comfortable outside”. Dr. Dyer also cautions us to resist taking frequent trips to the doctor and using medications for everyday aches and pains and common ailments such as a cold. When we teach children that there is a pill for every complaint and that a doctor visit is part of every cure, we disempower them and set them up to rely too heavily on drugs and doctors throughout their lives. They need to know they are in charge of their own health.

In order to teach our children to choose health, we must model wellness and take charge of our own health. Wellness is not just having an absence of symptoms. It’s asking yourself how you can attain outstanding health. It’s making exercise and stress reduction a daily part of your lifestyle, choosing healthy foods and modeling this behavior for your children. As Dr. Dyer puts it, “It means simply being as healthy as you possibly can be, and being determined not to allow your wonderful body, the place where your mind currently resides, to deteriorate unnecessarily.”

There has been much research on the relationship between illness and attitudes. The research suggests that even cancer and heart disease are strongly related to a person’s inner attitudes. Dr. Harrison tells us in his book, Loving Your Disease, that “Predispositions to disease are often not passed on in a physical sense but rather through the messages parents give their offspring and the living habits and diet they pass down”.

Dr. Dyer recognizes the obvious elements of wellness that include diet, exercise, and eliminating negative lifestyle habits. In addition, he suggests two elements that will help children as much as the physical components. These elements are using visualization and having a sense of humor. They are just as important as diet and exercise.

Positive imagery or visualization is a powerful tool that children can use to help them become capable, healthy and vibrant people. Visualization puts the imagination to work to help achieve a desired outcome. It is the process of creating positive thoughts and images in the mind to communicate with the body. It is one of the strongest and most effective ways to make happen what you want in your life. Children can be taught to regularly see themselves in their minds as being radiantly healthy, vibrant, and actively participating in whatever activities they want to do. Positive imagery or visualization is very helpful for children who are overweight or who have acne or other skin diseases and need to establish a better self-image. Verbal affirmations can be used with imagery. A good affirmation for a child to say regularly is “I am good to my body and my body is good to me” or “Every day I am feeling better and growing more vibrantly healthy”. Children can also use visualization to help their body to heal. Studies show that there are significant remission rates among people healing from cancer who use visualization as part of the healing process.

Laughter is a strong healer and health builder. Dr. Dyer tells us that “when children laugh they are actually releasing into their bloodstream chemicals which are necessary for the prevention and cure of disease”. Have fun with your children. Be a little crazy and silly and laugh as much as you can. Each good belly laugh means that you and your children are becoming more physically and emotionally sound.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

Brushing Up: Smile! You’re About to Change Toothpastes

by Brian Wimer – ICPA.org:natural toothpastes

If you are one of the majority of Americans that dutifully brushes with Colgate Total® on your dentist’s recommendations, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. What is first in the eyes of the dental dictocrats may be the last thing you want in your mouth.

American Dental Association (ADA)-approved Colgate Total® claims to be the only toothpaste “clinically proven” to “protect both above and below the gum line.” It has a patented formula for “12–hour” protection against cavities, gingivitis and plaque, due to the active ingredients: fluoride and triclosan (paired with gantrez, an adhesive copolymer).

Let’s start with fluoride. Now, listen closely: fluoride might cause cavities. Sounds like heresy, doesn’t it?

But this has been known since 1942, when Proctor & Gamble’s own initial clinical studies found a 23% increase in dental caries among children who used their fluoride toothpaste. The reason: for fluoride to bond to teeth, it must remove calcium—that’s called fluorosis.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which currently runs de-fluoridation programs for the World Health Organization, says: “Agreement is universal that excessive fluoride intake leads to loss of calcium from the tooth matrix, aggravating cavity formation throughout life rather than remedying it.”

Sorry, water fluoridation is quite likely a bust. And that’s not news.

In 1999, the New York State Department of Health completed an unprecedented 45-year study comparing children in Newburgh, New York, which had fluoridated water for 45 years, with Kingston, New York, which never had fluoridated water. Conclusion: there was no significant difference in the amount of cavities between the two cities, but statistically there was more dental fluorosis in fluoridated Newburgh.

This critical study effectively nullified the prior findings of the benchmark 10-year 1955 survey comparing these same towns. The 1955 study allegedly found 70% fewer caries in fluoridated Newburgh and stood as the ADA’s primary clinical “evidence” for the nationwide fluoridation policies that followed.

Again, the 1999 findings were no revelation. In 1988, the National Institute of Dental Research and the United States Public Health Service completed a massive $3.6 million nationwide survey to assess fluoridation efficacy. The data (unveiled by a Freedom of Information Act filing) revealed no difference in tooth decay between fluoridated and nonfluoridated communities. Similar findings had been made by public health officials in New Zealand and Canada.

Water fluoridation promotion boils down to bad research. A 2000 review of 214 water fluoridation safety and efficacy studies (which censured both fluoridation proponents and critics) found little more than a wealth of poor science. Among researchers’ conclusions, “The most serious defect of the studies of possible beneficial effects of water fluoridation was the lack of appropriate design and analysis.”

A similar summation of fluoridation efficacy studies is spelled out in a statistical overview undertaken by the University of California, Davis Department of Mathematics. “The announced opinions and published papers favoring mechanical fluoridation of public drinking water are especially rich in fallacies, improper design, invalid use of statistical methods, omissions of contrary data, and just plain muddleheadedness and hebetude.”

There’s more. Fluoride may even cause gingivitis. According to a 1998 US patent (#5,807,541) by the pharmaceutical company Sepracor, fluoride activates the very oral “G proteins” that lead to chronic gingivitis, periodontal disease and ultimately tooth loss.Besides, fluoride is poison. EPA scientists rate fluoride as “more toxic than lead, and not quite as toxic as arsenic.” That’s why all fluoride toothpaste tubes warn: “If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional assistance or contact a Poison Control Center immediately.”

Fluoride (despite ADA claims) is also a carcinogen. Studies by the National Cancer Institute’s former Chief Chemist Emeritus, Dr. Dean Burke, show that fluoridation is responsible for 10,000 cancer deaths yearly. “In point of fact, fluoride causes more human cancer deaths, and causes it faster, than any other chemical,” says Burke.Research from St Louis University, Japan’s Nippon Dental College, and the University of Texas show that fluoride stimulates tumor growth rate. The New Jersey Department of Health found the risk of osteosarcoma among males under 20 was up to seven times higher in fluoridated areas.

A 1995 peer-reviewed study by Harvard neurotoxicist Dr. Phyllis Mullinex concludes that fluoride also causes brain damage. Her findings were corroborated by more recent clinical surveys in China. Also, in 1999, 1,500 EPA scientists, lawyers and engineers signed a joint resolution to oppose fluoridation because they found that fluoride causes “gene mutations, cancer, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, bone pathology, and…decreases (of ) about 5 to 10 I.Q. points in children aged 8 to 13 years.” Robert Carton, Ph.D, a former president of the EPA professionals union who spent 15 years as a US EPA toxicologist, says, “Fluoridation is the greatest case of scientific fraud of this century, if not of all time.”

Now, let’s talk about triclosan. It’s a pesticide, technically a chlorinated aromatic, similar in molecular structure to the most toxic forms of dioxins and PCBs. It’s also the antibiotic disinfectant used in kitchen sponges and hospital soap.

Microbiologists at the Tufts University School of Medicine believe overuse of triclosan promotes the creation of antibiotic- resistant “superbugs.’’Worse still, findings presented to the American Society for Microbiology over the past several years suggest that triclosan actually helps resistant bacteria thrive, forming resilient biofilms on teeth and water pipes. Moreover, triclosan is a nonspecific biocide. It kills all microbes, the good and the bad—even those flora necessary for digestion. The copolymers used in Colgate Total® keep triclosan active for 12 hours after you brush.

Lastly, triclosan may even contain true dioxins. A report from Quantex Laboratories, in Edison, New Jersey, states, “Polychlorodibenzo-p-dioxins (dioxins) and polychlorodibenzofurans (dibenzofurans) can be found in varying low level amounts, as synthesis impurities in triclosan.” Similar findings were made in 2003 by researchers at the University of Minnesota.

Triclosan is also used in Crest®, Mentadent®, Sensodyne® and Macleans® toothpastes, all of which also contain fluoride. And let’s mention sodium and potassium hydroxides (also known as lye), the whitening ingredient in many conventional toothpastes. Lye is considered a poison by the Food and Drug Administration.

So, what to use? Try natural toothpastes, which battle cavities without potentially dangerous synthetic ingredients. Many natural brands utilize neem (Indian lilac) bark, a natural astringent and antiseptic, containing immunomodulatory polysaccharides that increase antibody production. Neem also increases lymphomatic counts of red and white blood cells, and aids in treating digestive disorders like diarrhea, hyperacidity and constipation—just what you need after a meal.

Another popular natural ingredient is peelu, from the East Asian Siwak (chewstick) tree. Peelu’s non-abrasive vegetable fiber gently cleans teeth without eroding them like chalk (widely used in toothpastes) can. Peelu also contains antiseptic tannin, Vitamin C and natural resins that strengthen tooth enamel.

Most natural toothpastes also use myrrh, an anti-microbial, astringent immuno-stimulant, beneficial against gingivitis and mouth ulcers—and propolis, an immuno-stimulating anti-bacterial resin. Many contain plaque-fighting eucalyptus, and are flavored and sweetened naturally with fennel, anise and cinnamon, all of which are herbal aids for digestion.

Auromere® Ayurvedic toothpaste contains such holistic astringents and therapeutic agents as Indian licorice root (excellent for mouth sores), pomegranate rind (an astringent), Persian walnut, Indian almond, Asian holly oak and geranium extract (an antiseptic anti-inflammatory). Weleda makes a toothpaste with calendula. Nature’s Gate® has goldenseal.

Herbal Vedic, made by Auroma™, contains banyan tree bark, wild celery (an anti-inflammatory carminative) and nutrientrich Irish moss.

Tom’s of Maine® toothpastes are the most widely available. They don’t do animal testing or use artificial sweeteners like carcinogenic saccharin or aspartame (unlike most major national brands like Colgate and Crest).

Perhaps the most innovative alternative toothpastes are those made by Jason Natural Cosmetics®. Jason Sea Fresh combines detoxifying, biologically-active blue green algae with sea salts. Jason toothpastes also use plaque-inhibiting, omega-3-rich Japanese perilla seed extract—and Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone), a naturally-occurring, detoxifying nutraceutical. They also avoid the use of caustic foamingagent sodium lauryl sulfate and humectant propylene glycol (a component of anti-freeze), both questionable ingredients of many national-brand toothpastes.

Consider also the addition of baking soda, a low-abrasion cleanser, which chemically neutralizes the staph-generated oral acids responsible for tooth decay.

The final word: Dental health is more dependent on your diet than your dentifrice. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans per capita consume 34 teaspoons of sweetener per day. And not just in candy. Sweeteners are used in everything from breakfast cereal to pasta sauce. The worst is soda. Acidic, carbonated soft-drinks dissolve tooth structures—and their massive sugar content feeds plaque. And don’t drink too much green tea made with fluoridated water. Indeed, green tea has been shown to inhibit tooth decay. Green tea catechin (epigallocatechingallate, an antioxidant 100 times more powerful than Vitamin C ) suppresses the process by which decay-causing bacteria create plaque, and acts as an anti-bacterial, as well. But green tea contains considerable natural fluorine. Steeped in fluoridated water, green tea can put you way over your USDA recommended daily allowance of what is the new DDT at the Environmental Protection Agency.

All in all, consider your options when choosing dental products for you and your family. Make informed choices based on the literature, not the commercials, and try to find practitioners who support your choices and decisions.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

Fruits and Vegetables May Protect Kids From Asthma and Allergies

by Neustaedter, OMD – ICPA.org:Fruits and Vegetables

Children in rural Crete have an especially low incidence of allergies and wheezing (asthma). The diet among this population is typically high in locally grown fruits and vegetables. These facts led researchers to examine whether there was an association between diet and allergies in these children.

What they found can reassure and inspire us all as parents to pursue a healthy whole foods diet for our children.

The study included 690 children aged 7 to 18 years living in rural areas of Crete. Parents completed a food questionnaire that rated intake on a scale of six from never to more than once per day for each category of foods. The foods in the survey included vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, cereal, dairy products, meat, poultry, and margarine. Parents also completed a symptom questionnaire that included a current history (in the past 12 months) of respiratory and allergic symptoms.

They discovered that children with a daily consumption of grapes, oranges, apples, and fresh tomatoes had less asthma. Eating oranges, but not other fruits, was associated with less nasal allergies. Eating nuts more than three times per week was also associated with less wheezing.

Consuming margarine, however, showed a correlation with more wheezing and allergies. Other suspect food items, such as fast foods and fried foods, were not included in the study. Other studies have shown an increased incidence of asthma in children consuming fast foods.

The traditional Mediterranean diet contains a high proportion of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, and is high in essential fatty acids, fiber, polyphenols from olive oil, and vitamins E and C. In this study children with a primarily Mediterranean diet had a lower incidence of nasal allergies and nighttime coughing.

The message from this study is clearly that children with allergies may benefit from eating a diet with a high proportion of fruits and vegetables, and that this type of diet may be preventive for allergies and asthma as well. Parents would do well to make fruits available to children throughout the day, pack fruits in school and camp lunches, and avoid processed foods with added sugar and corn syrup. Never use margarine. And don’t forget to include nuts in children’s diets as well (including walnuts, pecans, and almonds).

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

The Truth About Symptoms

by Author Kevin Donka, DC – ICPA.org:symptoms

Early last week, a practice member of mine named Melissa came in for her weekly check-up. I found that she was clear (i.e., didn’t need an adjustment), so I rang the well bell and congratulated her. She got up off the table with a confused look on her face and said, “But I’m sick! How can I be clear when I’m sick? Are you sure I’m clear?”

I asked her what she meant when she said she was “sick.” “Well,” she answered, “I’m congested, I’m coughing and I feel run-down – you know -SICK!” I told her that the problem wasn’t with my assessment of her nerve system, it was with her definition of the word “sick.”

You see, traditional medical thinking calls the presence of symptoms “sickness.” But the truth is that you are sick before the onset of your symptoms. The symptoms are really an indication that your body has accurately recognized an invader or toxin and is actively responding to it by creating a fever, mucus, cough, diarrhea, etc., to eliminate it from your body.

The beginning of symptoms, what we have always called “sickness,” is really your body getting WELL!

Take this short test. If two people go to a restaurant and eat some tainted fish, then one of them throws up within an hour but the other is fine until morning when he also gets sick, which of the two has the stronger and healthier immune system? Most people would say that the second was stronger and healthier because his body was able to tolerate the poisons longer before he “got sick.” But the truth is, the first man has the stronger and healthier immune system because it was able to recognize the invader and start the elimination process sooner than the second man’s was.

The first man started getting well the same night, but the second man didn’t start getting well until the next day!

So, how could Melissa be feeling so poorly and still not need an adjustment? Being “clear” simply means that there is no interference in her nerve system. This means the body is at it highest capacity to heal – it does not mean that healing is complete.

The process is just like cleaning laundry in a washing machine. When the soap and water touch the garments, the grime is loosened, and it rises to the surface. If you were to look in a washing machine during the agitation cycle, you would be repulsed and think that your clothes were actually getting dirtier. But the truth is that they are actually getting cleaner. The thick muck must be extracted and discarded before the clothes are totally clean. If we know the washing machine is working correctly, nothing more needs to be done except to let the cycle complete itself.

Similarly, as your body is “cleaning itself” of toxins and germs, it appears at first as though you are getting worse, but you are actually getting better. If we know your master control system (your nerve system) is working correctly, nothing more needs to be done except to let the cycle complete itself.

Melissa learned a valuable lesson that day about what sickness is and what wellness is. Plus, she already knows enough to trust her body and allow the clearing process to complete itself without any outside interference from medications designed to simply make her feel better. She knows that these things only stop her body’s own natural elimination and healing processes.

Hopefully you too now know the difference between getting sick and getting well. Know to trust your body and allow the natural process of healing to occur when it needs to. And finally, make sure you continue to live your life in a way that not only prevents sickness, but also actually creates health, happiness and wholeness

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

How We Are Making Our Children Sick

by Sean Manning, DC – ICPA.org:sick

The purpose of the immune system is to allow us to live in harmony with our environment. In fact, most of the trillions of foreign cells present within our body coexist peacefully, and in some cases even contribute to our health and well-being. In spite of this, chronic diseases such as allergies, asthma, and eczema, which were rare several decades ago, have risen exponentially, especially in children, quadrupling during the last two decades.

The number of asthma sufferers in the United States is expected to double by the year 2020, affecting 1 in every 14 people and outnumbering the combined projected populations of New York and New Jersey. A growing number of scientists now believe that the routine measures taken to suppress and prevent infections actually weaken certain responses of a child’s immune system, allowing other less appropriate responses to operate without control. The reduction of childhood diseases has been heralded as one of medicine’s finest accomplishments, yet there are growing suspicions that infection intervention may be having an adverse effect; as childhood infections have decreased, chronic afflictions have increased.

The immune system has two different aspects: the cell-mediated immune system and the humoral immune system. The cell-mediated immune system involves white blood cells and specialized immune cells which “eat” antigens, or foreign particles in the body. This helps drive the antigens out of the body causing symptoms such as skin rashes and the discharge of pus and mucous from the throat and lungs. The cell-mediated response is associated with the beneficial acute inflammatory illnesses of children, and represents the externalization, or driving out of the infection.

The other aspect is called the humoral immune system whereby antibodies—special defense proteins—are produced to recognize and neutralize the antigen. It is a persistent humoral response that is associated with chronic allergic-type diseases.

In order to be healthy, a child must keep a balance between the cell-mediated system and the humoral system, with the cell-mediated system predominating. The cell-mediated response is activated by the natural exposure to bacteria and viruses, in the way children are exposed by interacting with their friends. Through repeated exposure to infectious organisms a child develops a diverse repertoire of immune response patterns. It is the cellmediated response that protects a child from future illness, and develops the type of immune response we commonly associate with life-long immunity. The cell-mediated system suppresses the activity of the humoral system. The more active the cell-mediated activity is, the less active the humoral system is.

However, if the cell-mediated system is not properly stimulated it does not fully develop, leading to an abnormally high production of humoral system antibodies. A humoral system that is continually engaged will overdevelop, creating a hypersensitive environment. When infants are exposed to germs early, their immune systems are pushed to go in an “infection-fighting direction.” Without this push, the immune system’s shift to infection fighting is delayed, and it becomes more likely to overreact to allergens—dust, mold, and other environmental factors that most people can tolerate.

Early life experiences are believed to play a crucial role in the formation and patterning of a child’s immune system. Sensitization begins in utero and the first few months of life are crucial, for once cell-mediated/humoral imbalance occurs it tends to persist until specific measures are taken to shift the immune system back to equilibrium. There are several ways that pattern the reaction of the immune system toward either the cell-mediated response or the humoral response based on their timing and frequency. The important thing for a parent to understand is that their child’s immune system will react based on the way it has been patterned and programmed to react. If your child’s current immune capacity is poor, then it is possible to improve it by making better choices in the future.


There are numerous reports that suggest the excessive cleanliness practiced in modern society may be partly responsible for the increased incidence of allergic diseases. Repeated exposure while young to various types of bacteria and spores found in dirt, dust, and animal dander may actually protect against the development of allergies. A molecule known as an endotoxin naturally occurs in the outer membrane of bacteria. When the bacteria die the endotoxin is released into the environment. Children are exposed to these endotoxins by breathing them in, or by ingesting them when they put their hands or other objects into their mouths. The exposure to bacteria, viruses, and endotoxins is essential for the maturation of the immune system; less exposure leads to imbalanced immune responses.

Children’s early exposure to allergens and infections prime their immune systems to resist them later on. Although children in daycare seem to get sick more often than other children do, this is not necessarily a bad thing. These colds and other infections may be giving their immature immune systems a health workout, resulting in a lower incidence of asthma. Children with the highest degree of personal hygiene are the most likely to develop eczema and wheezing between the ages of two and a half and three and a half years. In 2000, a study of 61 infants between the ages of 9–24 months found that the more house dust an infant was exposed to, the less likely that they would suffer allergies.


Antibiotics given in the first year of life quadruple a child’s risk of developing asthma. Children given antibiotics after age one year are still one and a half times more likely to develop asthma than children not given antibiotics. What is particularly concerning is that every course of antibiotic treatments a child increases the occurrence of allergies and that treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics, such as streptomycin, tetracycline, and Cipro®, appear to be more likely to be associated with allergy development than is ordinary penicillin.

Antibiotics enhance allergic reactions by sidestepping the normal immune system response. Whenever the immune system successfully deals with an infection it emerges from the experience stronger and better able to confront similar threats in the future. Through the process of developing and then conquering infection, the child gets rid of acquired toxins and poisons from the body and receives a boost to the immune system. If you always jump in with antibiotics at the first sign of infection you do not give the immune system a chance to grow stronger.

Antibiotics also act nonspecifically, killing infectious bacteria as well as upsetting the normal gut flora. Substances that are introduced through the mouth are normally ignored by the humoral system. But, in order for this to occur, the normal bacteria in the intestines need to be present. Alterations in the normal intestinal bacteria levels, especially in infancy, allow food proteins and other particles to pass into the blood stream before they are broken down, where the body identifies them as a threat, contributing to a persistent humoral response and the development of allergic diseases.


Most childhood infections are caused by viruses, and thus do not respond to antibiotics, hence the development of our current vaccine program. Infections contracted naturally are ordinarily filtered through a series of immune system defenses. Naturally-contracted viral diseases stimulate a cell-mediated response, and it appears that because of this, early viral infections are protective against allergic diseases. When a vaccine is injected directly into the blood stream, it gains access to all of the major tissues and organs of the body without the body’s normal advantage of a total immune response. This results in only partial immunity, consequently the need for “booster” shots. Vaccines stimulate a humoral response so their contents are never discharged from the body, the way they would be if the disease were naturally contracted, leaving the body in a chronic state of sensitization. In a study of 448 children, 243 had been vaccinated against whooping cough. Of these, 10% had asthma compared to less than 2% of the 205 children in the non-vaccinated group, suggesting that the pertussis vaccination can increase the risk of developing asthma by more than five times.

Dietary Fat Consumption

Chicken nuggets, potato chips, and other fried foods, while convenient for parents, are relegating their children’s immune systems to behave badly. Another factor that has been identified as a contributor to the rise in allergic diseases is the increased consumption of omega-6 fatty acids and the decreased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. It has been known for many years that individuals with allergic conditions have disproportionately high levels of omega- 6 fatty acids in their blood. Omega-6 fatty acids actually suppress the immune system and promote inflammation, and allergic responses are, by their very nature, inflammatory. Sources of omega-6 fatty acids are corn, cotton, soybean, peanut, safflower, and sunflower. Omega-6 fatty acids are also present in most animal products.

Inversely, omega-3 fatty acids are known to enhance immunity, reduce inflammation, and protect the nervous system. Dietary omega-3 fatty acids have well documented immunological effects. Sources are flax, hemp, walnut, and cold water fatty fish, especially salmon. It is important to note though that the plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids are inadequate for infants and thus offer minimal benefit early in life. One study showed that children who regularly consumed oily fish were 74% less likely to develop asthma. Other studies show that fish oil supplementation is associated with improved asthma symptoms and reduced medication usage. The immune benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are likely greater during the critical stages of early immune development before the allergic responses are established, so it is recommended that women monitor their fatty acid intake during pregnancy and continue to do while nursing. Once the child is old enough there are omega-3 products designed specifically for children.


The focus of science has shifted from separate entities of the immune system and nervous system to an interactive immunology model. It is now understood that there is an intimate connection between the nervous system and the immune system, and that neurotransmitters can influence the activities of the immune system. In fact, nerve fibers physically link the nervous system and the immune system and there is a constant traffic of information that goes back and forth between the brain and the immune system.

The sympathetic division of the nervous system is the part of the nervous system that reacts to stress. It is the “fight or flight” control center. The sympathetic division of the nervous system also regulates all aspects of immune function, and abnormal activity of the sympathetic nervous system contributes to the cause of conditions where a selection of humoral versus the cell-mediated response plays a role, including allergic reactions.

Spinal movement influences the sympathetic nervous system. Changes to the relative position or movement in the spine interfere with the sympathetic nervous system causing the release of stress hormones and altering immune cell function. The result is suppression of the cell-mediated immune response, and in its absence an increase of the humoral response.

Early stress and trauma is believed to play a profound role in the development of spinal dysfunction, or subluxation, causing immune imbalance. In his research, Gottfried Guttman M.D., found that spinal injury was present in more than 80% of the infants he examined shortly after birth, causing interference in sympathetic function. Tissue injury to the spine and surrounding soft tissue results in scar tissue deposition in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. This leads to decreased motion in the joints and surrounding tissues. Neurologic changes accompany the spinal insult. This leads to chemical changes and a general shift in the body to the stress response or the “fight or flight” response. Subluxation in the infant and child has been associated with stress experienced at birth, particularly as the result of interventions, and early falls or other traumas.

Restoring proper function to the spine through chiropractic adjustments removes the interference in the nervous system shifting the body away from the sympathetic “alarm” response allowing the immune system to regain equilibrium and reducing hypersensitive reactions. In one study, 81 children under chiropractic care took part in a self-reported asthma impairment study. The children were assessed before and two months after chiropractic care using an asthma impairment questionnaire. Significantly lower impairment rating scores (improvement) was reported for 90.1% of subjects 60 days after chiropractic care in comparison to their pre-chiropractic scores. In addition, 30.9% of the children decreased their dosage of medication by an average of 66.5% while under chiropractic care. Twenty-four of the patients who reported asthma attacks 30-days prior to the study had significantly decreased attacks by an average of 44.9%.

Our children are born with an immune system that is capable of operating against anything that threatens it. Our role as parents should be to support the natural responses of their body in every way that we can; in some cases, that means giving the body a chance to overcome an infection on its own with out antibiotics. In another case, it means providing the proper nutrients to restore inner balance. Most importantly, it means realizing that when a child’s nervous system has interference, the body still knows what it is supposed to do, but is simply unable to do it. Let’s start by removing the interference from the body and then getting out of its way—appreciating that the fever and congestion and vomiting are all part of the miracle that is our child’s immune system working properly, not a sign that their body is failing. The less we focus on the eradication of germs and the more emphasis we place on creating a strong, balanced body, free of subluxation, the better off our children will be.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

Getting Over Cold Medications

by Darrel Crain, DC – ICPA.org:Cold Medications

Very young children come down with colds. Agreement with this statement is universal among parents, pediatricians, drug makers, and even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But there is less agreement over whether or not medicine is helpful to little ones suffering from a cold.

“It’s important to point out that these medicines are safe and effective when used as directed…” said Linda A. Suydam, president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, quoted in The Washington Post, October 12, 2007.

“Clearly, the products don’t work and are unsafe,” said Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D., Baltimore Health Commissioner, also quoted in The Washington Post.

Could these two views be any further apart? Both of them can’t be right, so which one is making things up, the cold medicine industry spokesperson, or the doctor?

“Take a cold remedy and get over the cold in seven days, otherwise recovery will take a week,” according to traditional folk wisdom.

The American Academy of Pediatrics tends to agree with tradition on this particular point and recommends against medicating young children to treat cold symptoms. Drug makers, on the other hand, spent about 50 million bucks last year to convince parents to buy over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to treat cold symptoms. And the advertising must be working because sales reportedly jumped 20 percent last year and were expected to climb again this year—up until last week.

Fourteen infant cold medications were pulled from store shelves across the country, just seven days before an FDA committee was slated to begin investigating the drugs.

“An FDA review prepared for next week’s meeting describes dozens of cases of convulsions, heart problems, trouble breathing, neurological complications and other reactions, including at least 54 deaths involving decongestants and 69 deaths involving antihistamines,” reports The Washington Post.

Dr. Sharfstein long ago alerted the FDA to widespread problems with the drugs after a total of 900 Maryland children under 4 years of age suffered an overdose in a single year, 2004.

“Given that there are serious consequences, including death, associated with the use of these products without compelling reason to use them, why are they being marketed for children?” Sharfstein asked. “The contrast between the state of the evidence and the displays in drugstores could not be more stark.”

“There is no evidence that the products are effective for young children, and there is evidence they can be unsafe, even at the usual doses. This is not just about misuse,” he said, noting that the dosages typically used are untested estimates based on studies in adults. “That’s why we are asking FDA to clearly label these products against use by children under age 6,” according to The Washington Post.

It is an interesting paradox that doctors are in the position of pleading with the agency in charge of drug safety to try and halt medical treatment of non-medical symptoms. Their preferred recommendations sound familiar: bed rest, lots of fluids, and chicken soup. And let’s not forget vitamin C.

“Whatever grandma recommends that’s nutritious, get the kid to eat it…It’s better than all the over-the-counter stuff,” said Daniel Rauch, M.D., director of the pediatric program at NYU Medical Center, quoted in the New York Daily News, October 12, 2007.

“These medications were never designed to cure colds but only to treat cold symptoms,” said Katherine Tom-Revzon, pediatric pharmacist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx. “In children under 2, there was little evidence they were effective, anyway,” reports the Daily News.

A robust, innate immune response in both children and adults requires expression, not suppression. The symptoms of a cold are self-limiting and benign for the vast majority of well-fed people; they are part of a lifelong process of encountering microbes in the environment and mounting an innate, short-term inflammatory response that results in cellular memory and strengthened immunity.

“This is not a situation in which pediatric data are lacking and we are unable to say one way or the other,” wrote Jay Berkelhamer, M.D., in a letter to the FDA last month. Dr. Berkelhamer is the national president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In multiple studies, they have “been found not to be effective in this population at all,” according to Berkelhamer in an Associated Press article October 12, 2007.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.