All posts in Naturopathic Medicine

Solving the Riddle of Seasonal Migraines

freeimages.co.uk medical imagesMigraines can be a debilitating health problem, triggered by a variety of factors from sleep habits, to diet, to the weather. Many sufferers claim they seem to become more prone to migraines at certain times of year –during the changing seasons, or in the spring and summer when they may also be plagued with seasonal allergies.

The frustrating thing about migraine sufferers is that many don’t take the time to seriously consider all of their options for prevention and symptom relief. It’s definitely worthwhile to explore natural therapies as a means of better understanding, minimizing, and preventing your migraines, not to mention nixing the dependency on potentially harmful medications often used to manage symptoms. Here are just some of the therapies that migraine sufferers frequently respond to.

Chiropractic care
Many headaches and migraines start in your spine. When your body is misaligned your nerves get very irritated, and communicate quickly with your brain. For some clients, spinal adjustments are an effective way to reduce the pressure on those unhappy nerves. Chiropractic care also helps restore mobility to patients who experience consistent and debilitating muscle tension. Blood flow to and from the brain may also be restricted when muscles are tight in the base of the skull, which can contribute to headache and migraine symptoms. The cumulative effects of rigidity and restriction can lead to severe headaches – so it’s important to target the problem at its source, rather than just treating the resulting migraine. Consider your posture, alignment, and date of your last adjustment. Could a poorly aligned spine, stressed nerves or strained muscles be an underlying cause of your migraine? A chiropractic consultation can help you find out!

Massage Therapy
Seeing a massage therapist isn’t a luxury- for many it’s a highly effective treatment option. Headaches frequently result from tension and stress, which are manually targeted during a massage session. Your therapist will also help to improve circulation throughout your body, which can draw blood away from the head, reducing pressure that contributes to headache. It’s also incredible to see the effects of loosening and treating muscle tissue. If you have a muscle injury, chances are you’ve been carrying yourself differently. An adjusted or irregular posture of any kind can cause soreness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. So give massage therapy a try –the combination of targeted manual therapy and the valuable opportunity to reduce stress might be just what you need to manage or minimize migraines.

Naturopathic and Nutritional Counselling
Food sensitivity and allergies might also be causing your migraines. A holistic health practitioner can help you begin an elimination diet or food diary to uncover patterns in your eating that might cause headaches. Many sufferers of migraines know which foods they need to avoid in order to help prevent a killer headache. Don’t worry- this isn’t arbitrary. A nutritionist or ND can help you identify which ingredients are giving you grief- whether it’s a popular additive like MSG, or a less widely identified substance like tyramine. Tyramine, which is found in aged cheese, processed meat, canned soups and several other foods, has been known to trigger migraines in certain individuals. Without some health counselling however, you might never identify something like this as a potential source of your suffering. It’s worth looking into- The sooner you know your problem foods, the sooner you can begin adjusting your diet and lifestyle so you can enjoy more long-term management of your migraines.

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Decoding and Managing Cravings

A juicy burger. Salty fries. A cold, sugary soda.

Have we sparked a craving? Food cravings are unfortunate road blocks in many people’s diet plans. While some cravings are circumstantial and easier to resist (like salivating at the smell of a bakery) others can be persistent, frequent and much more physical by nature (like craving a cup of coffee in the morning). For those who eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, cravings should be minimal and controllable, but of course this isn’t always the case. Here are a few common cravings, what they mean for your body, and how you can deal with them.

pretzels1. Salt:
Your body requires a very small amount of salt each day. As an electrolyte that helps your body maintain regular, consistent fluid levels, salt is an important ingredient in your biological balance and health. Often we crave salty snacks, or foods that have an exorbitant sodium content that we may not even be aware of (check your canned soups as an example!)

Why do we crave it? Cravings for salt are often the result of your body’s conditioning. A high-sodium diet makes your body accustomed to lots of salt. When you try to cut back, your body reminds you. Excessive perspiration and dehydration can also trigger salt cravings, since our bodies lose sodium and other minerals when we sweat. It is also possible that salt cravings can be an indicator of more severe consitions associated with our endocrine / hormonal system so make sure to speak with a Health Care Professional if symptoms are unexplained or persistant.

How to manage the craving: Drink an electrolyte beverage after heavy exercise. Learning about proper endurance exercise hydration and electrolyte protocols are helpful for routine exercise. If your salt craving isn’t related to sweat, try  something crunchy and flavourful like seasoned rice crackers, a small handful of nuts, an algae product or dill pickle.  Follow up your snack with a big glass of water.

2. Sugar:
Sugar is another ingredient that hides in many foods and habits. Minimizing your sugar intake isn’t just about avoiding sweets like pastries and candy. It means being mindful of the sugar content in everything that you eat-from granola to peanut butter to juice.

Why do we crave it? When we consume a lot of sugar it causes a spike in blood glucose levels. You’ve likely experienced this- you eat something sweet and immediately feel good. Your energy rises and peaks and you may even feel happier. But shortly afterwards, your blood sugar dips again. This is the unfortunate reality of refined sugar; it sends your body on a roller coaster. When your blood sugar drops, your brain starts thinking it needs more refined sugar. Your craving returns. The cycle continues.

sugar cubesHow to manage the craving: Read your labels! Avoid products that have sugar added. Choose natural sweeteners like stevia or a touch of honey. You may also try satisfying cravings for sweetness with flavours. Add a pinch of cinnamon to your coffee instead of a sweetening agent. Use vanilla or nutmeg in oatmeal instead of brown sugar. And if you need a sweet fix, choose a tasty fruit like strawberries or watermelon. Remember to always balance out sweet fixes, even healthy ones, with some protein or healthy fat. This helps keep your blood sugar more stable and avoid the rollercoaster effect.


3. Caffeine:
For you coffee-addicts, you may find that your caffeine intake requires much more willpower to control than those cravings for sugar and salt. In truth, a single caffeinated drink triggers a significant reaction in your body, producing for many people a “rollercoaster effect” similar to that of sugar.

Why do we crave it? Caffeine triggers neural activity that stimulates the release of hormones. These stimulate your adrenal glands to produce that burst of energy you might experience after a dose of caffeine. When the “high” ends however, you may experience lethargy, restlessness, and an inability to concentrate. It’s a combination of taste and effect that brings most of us back to caffeinated beverages on a regular basis. With enough consumption however, your body will reach a state of adrenal exhaustion. It will require more caffeine to reproduce that desired high.

coffee mugHow to manage the craving: Ensure that you are getting enough sleep so that you aren’t depending on caffeine as a major source of energy. Try alternatives like herbal tea and natural coffee alternatives such as chicory. Any caffeinated beverage should be taken in moderation, to avoid putting your body through the unnecessary stress responses that caffeine can produce. Speaking to a Naturopath is a good way to identify if your adrenal glands need support and the best way to use herbs and lifestyle modification to help get your energy levels back up…sans caffeine!

 

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Seasonal allergies in young children

Springtime has finally arrived and after a long, cold winter we’re all rejoicing. While the weather is still inconsistent, overall warmer temperatures mean that many people are experiencing the unwelcome return of seasonal allergies.

Baby_allergiesSeasonal allergies occur when your body reacts to airborne particles, most commonly pollen. At this time of year so many different things are in bloom- flowers, trees, weeds, plants- that a whole new host of spores and particles have been reintroduced into the air we breathe. For those who are allergic, these substances are met with a defensive reaction by the body. Upon contact with the allergen, allergy sufferers will experience a release of histamine as the body tries to shut out the particles that it perceives as harmful. The result is any combination of a runny nose, sinus congestion, itchy ears, nose, throat, and watery eyes. All of these symptoms are your body’s way of keeping airborne toxins out.

As adults we know to brace ourselves for allergy season, and it’s a time of year when many will reach for over-the-counter relief. As Modern Mom reminds us however, babies and children suffer from allergies too, and require safe and gentle forms of treatment. If your child is showing symptoms of an allergy, take a look at the different environmental factors that could be to blame.

Allergy symptoms in children

Springtime allergies can produce many of the same symptoms in young children and infants as adults, along with hives, fussiness, and impaired breathing. You may notice your child rubbing his or her face and presenting with a red nose and red, swollen eyes. A common sign of allergies in children that Dr. Heins notes is a palmed wipe up the nose- this is commonly referred to as the “allergy salute.” Children with allergies may also present with darkening around the eyes, which we’ve dubbed “allergic shiners.”

Treatment Strategies

file000107727382Dr. Heins’ best preventative health tip for allergy sufferers is nasal rinsing after school or before bed. This helps to literally wash out the allergens and reduce the histamine response in your child. Companies like HydraSense make baby-safe saltwater misting sprays and nasal rinses that are gentle and effective.

Use a vaporizer to keep air moist in your nursery or child’s bedroom, and consider elevating one end of your crib mattress to help with congestion during naps and at night. For an older child, encourage that they sleep on an extra pillow to slightly elevate the head. Just be sure that the neck is supported and doesn’t sit at an extreme angle.

You can also limit allergy symptoms by minimizing your outdoor time and keeping windows shut when the pollen count is high. Depending on the severity of the allergies, Baby Center recommends washing hands and faces when your child comes in the house from outdoors and removing clothing so it can be added to the laundry immediately.

Remember that babies are very sensitive and haven’t had as much exposure to various airborne substances, so keep a close eye on your child to avoid mistaking allergy symptoms for a cold.  If your baby has hives or a rash, consult with a health care practitioner who can help you determine if the allergen is more likely airborne or ingested. Naturopaths can run allergy testing panels and use modalities like homeopathics to great effect- these are safe in infants and children, and can help push the immune system to better handle environmental aggravants.

Wishing you a safe and sniffle free spring!

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Hormonal Imbalances 101

We often only think about hormones in terms of side effects. Despite their importance to our body’s functioning, they tend to go unacknowledged until they begin to cause us grief.

woman_stock photoHormones are key to the performance of many processes and capabilities of the body, including our fertility, digestion processes, and thyroid function. Since they play such a multi-faceted and important role, a number of unpleasant side effects can present themselves when our hormones fluctuate.

So what causes our hormones to get out of sync or off the charts? Human hormone levels are highly sensitive to a variety of factors. These include oral medications you may be taking, the things you’re eating, and lifestyle factors such as stress. Hormonal imbalances can also result from major physical changes that are facilitated by hormonal releases (such as reproductive process and the onset of puberty). When these factors come into play against your natural hormone levels, eventually your body may struggle with overall hormone regulation and control. At this point, a treatment method is often needed to restore balance.

Symptoms of hormonal imbalances include:

  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite

If you’re consistently experiencing these symptoms, a saliva or blood test can determine whether you have a hormone imbalance and its severity. While many people fear they’ll have to take synthetic hormone doses to treat an imbalance, this isn’t always a necessary or ideal solution, particularly when an imbalance has been triggered by lifestyle factors.

Some of the dietary strategies used to treat hormone imbalances include:

  • Enriching meals with protein, fibre and iron by incorporating more lentils and beans.
  • Eating more foods that contain phytoestrogens, a compound in plants that resembles the human hormone estrogen. Soy and flaxseed are great choices.
  • Increasing soluble fibre intake.
  • Ensuring that you’re getting enough vitamin D and calcium.

If you think you may have a hormonal imbalance, have a consultation to find out if a natural, nutrition-based approach is best for you.

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Mending the Body with Moxa

There are a lot of funky words that Western communities have had to acquaint themselves with when it comes to alternative medicine and health: yoga, reiki, pilates, Ayurveda, feng shui. Here’s a word you might not be quite so familiar with: moxa. Associated with acupuncture, the buzz word is short for Moxibustion, a traditional Chinese practice that targets a range of ailments including digestive disorders, arthritic pain, and asthma.

The Chinese believed that the application of heat and even burning to targeted parts of the body can increase circulation and encourage restorative properties. In fact, some traditional moxa treatments actually entailed burning and blistering the skin at targeted points on the body. Don’t worry though- today, Western versions of the treatment will typically only involve warming the areas of the body to be treated. Instead of directly applying a flame or lit paper to the skin, modern moxa keeps heat close to the body without contact.

Moxa 101

Here’s how a moxa treatment session will typically go: rolled leaves of plants like mugwort, ginger and mulberry are crushed and either wrapped in paper like a cigarette, or densely packed to resemble a cigar. At Thrive Health, Dr. Heins uses the latter, avoiding potential for burning paper accidents. The “cigarette” is lit at one end and depending on the practitioner, the stick is either held above the body or carefully placed on the skin. Sometimes the moxa stick is rotated or tapped against the skin as well. At Thrive, our moxa treatments never touch the skin, but have the same intended soothing effect. Patients find moxa to be deeply relaxing.

Moxa is believed to soothe and improve a variety of ailments and health conditions. The healing powers of moxa are derived from its perceived ability to provide the body with the necessary balancing “yang” energy. This energy is believed to direct the body’s movement and temperature. Moxa can also be useful in treating a pregnant woman whose baby is presenting breech, and for helping to ease post-birth pelvic and lower back pain.

Heating Needle Moxa

In this alternative form of moxibustion therapy, dried mugwort is rolled and placed on the head of the acupuncture needle. The practitioner then lights the roll which burns slowly in an upright position while the needle stays inserted in the target point. The heat from the burning mugwort travels through the needle and deep into the muscles. This is effective for arthritic muscle and joint pain.

As with many alternative and Eastern therapies that have been adopted by different trained Western health professionals, treatments and procedures will vary slightly from practitioner to practitioner. The patient’s condition is the primary factor in determining which form of moxa will be most effective, so your practitioner will have to assess the best course of action for your individual case.

Moxa can be a wonderful way to soothe and restore a targeted area or muscle by returning an equilibrium in energies to the body. If you want to avoid synthetic, over-the-counter medications for pain relief, moxa is definitely worth a try.

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A Guide to Naturopathic Practitioner Principles

Seeking alternative health therapies and treatments can be a leap of faith for some new patients. If you’re unversed in naturopathic medicine and holistic healing, you might be hesitant about your first encounter. Before you make an appointment, it’s important to clarify about Naturopathic philosophy to help you better understand what  Naturopathic Doctors do!

Since patient-practitioner relationships in naturopathic medicine are built on trust and connection, it’s important to have a better understanding of who we are and what some of our beliefs are, rather than simply the treatments we offer. Hopefully these will translate into some serious considerations in favour of consulting a naturopathic team, but more importantly it will help you conceptualize naturopathic philosophy.

Make yourself at home at Thrive Health!

We’re warm, friendly, and family-oriented.  Our commitment to organic, holistic and nature is all-encompassing, and extends to the atmosphere we create in our office. That means that when you walk into our clinic you should feel comfortable and at home. Your kids too!

We really want to get to know you. Before we treat you, we need some details –and we love the process of getting acquainted with patients! In addition to telling us the usual health history, we like to know about your lifestyle, work, diet and even things like your home life if you are comfortable to share. We want to know about your concerns and questions too- we’re here to learn about you as a person, not a patient.

We want to treat the problem, not just the symptoms. While we do have treatment options that help reduce discomfort and pain, we’re most interested in finding the underlying or root cause of whatever is ailing you or your child. Also critical to naturopathic philosophy is helping teach you about improving your health rather than simply diagnose. This way we build on your everyday health and long-term healing rather than simply short term treatments. Which brings us to our next principle…

We don’t just want to get you healthy; we want to keep you healthy! Naturopathic medicine is as much about prevention as it is about treatment. In fact, we believe that prevention is a powerful “drug” for many of the acute conditions and ailments that patients commonly suffer from. We’ll help you to improve your entire lifestyle to optimize your present and future health. We invest in our patients and look out for their psychological and physical wellbeing.

We (like you) try and avoid pain, side effects, invasiveness, and chemicals! It’s our goal to treat you gently, naturally and effectively. We understand that you want to minimize risk to your health, the health of your children, or the health of your unborn baby. We take these objectives seriously. Know that you’re in good hands and that treatment doesn’t have to be unpleasant; it can in fact be soothing and relaxing.

Naturopathic medicine and alternative therapies can provide you with a very unique brand of care. It’s particularly useful to examine these options if you’re in a position where traditional medicine isn’t working for you. For example if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to conceive, or looking to treat an infant or young child, you’ll likely want to avoid synthetic medicines and invasive practices. We can help you find the natural alternatives that will work best for you and your family.

Naturopathic care is also a great way to facilitate and support a journey to better health for those who experience ailments and discomfort that has lasted a long time but remained undiagnosed or  unchanged. If you’ve long suffered from fatigue, aches, pains or digestive distress and you’re tired of it, a naturopathic team will help you to start identifying the problem. Even if you are sticking to a more traditional medical treatment plan for a specific condition, naturopathic care can be an effective way to supplement your other remedies and therapies.

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Time to Butt Out: Kicking Cigarettes the Naturopathic Way

Even non-smokers can appreciate how difficult it is to treat and effectively end an addiction to nicotine.

Quitting smoking is a challenging process that is often interrupted or abandoned mid-way. When we talk about quitting, it’s common to first think of nicotine-weaning remedies like the patch as the best or only means of kicking the craving one step at a time.

Naturopathic medicine can offer a wealth of effective options for people trying to quit smoking. Even patients who are using other over-the-counter remedies can benefit significantly from supplementing their treatment with naturopathic means.

A combined approach is just plain smart, after all. Since quitting smoking usually marks a person’s commitment to ongoing health, it makes sense to make additional positive lifestyle changes at the same time. This will not only facilitate the quitting and healing process, but will also set a new precedent for taking care of one’s body.

A consultation with your naturopathic doctor can help you clarify an individualized course of action that will work best for you. Often we use a combination of botanical medicine, acupuncture and nutritional counselling. Sometimes patients benefit from psychotherapy as well, to help them understand why they smoke, and to offer the necessary emotional support during the quitting process.

Lobelia has a number of therapeutic uses, including the suppression of nicotine cravings.

Certain herbs like lobelia and avena sativa can help to suppress nicotine cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. In addition to prescribing these, your naturopath will likely recommend some dietary changes. If you’re quitting smoking, you should support your body in every way possible, which means that nutrient-dense meals are essential. It’s critical that you avoid skipping meals or skimping on your diet; behaviours that can trigger intense cravings for a cigarette. Many people say they smoke to suppress appetite, so quitting means properly addressing your body’s actual nutritional needs. Planned snacking, chewing sugar-free gum and drinking plenty of water are great ways to break the habit of reaching for a cigarette. This keeps your hands and mouth busy during the initial stages of quitting when you might feel jittery and fidgety to the point of distraction.

Acupuncture has also proven effective for many patients quitting smoking, and is used as a way to minimize cravings and restlessness. Thin acupuncture needles target various points in the body and specifically the ears, which are believed to trigger and channel the cravings. You can also enhance your treatment with massage therapy –a great way to relax yourself and refocus your mind.

A final consideration? Establishing a relationship with a naturopathic doctor or team can help to keep you accountable. The combined approach gives you both physical and emotional support, so that you have all your bases covered, so to speak, as you start the process of quitting.

If you’re going to quit, do it right! Take a completely inclusive approach to recovery. Since smoking often has much to do with appetite, emotion, stress and habit, all of these considerations should be factored into your treatment.

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Naturopathy and Conception: the Connection

Conceiving and giving birth are natural processes, but we all know that unpredictable challenges can make them feel stressful and difficult rather than intuitive. That’s why added support in the form of naturopathic or chiropractic therapy can help you on the path to starting your family.

Being in tune with your body is one of the most important elements in a successful conception. This goes beyond knowing where you’re at in your menstrual cycle though. Everything from your diet to your stress levels to the function of your central nervous system can have an effect on your reproductive system.

Adjust Yourself Properly
Stress is inevitable. When it becomes overwhelming however, it can delay pregnancy and affect your reproductive cycle. Chiropractic adjustments help to optimize your central nervous system, which is a key player in regulating stress responses in your body.

Patients don’t just benefit physically from natural health treatments; they also benefit emotionally from being able to bring questions and concerns to a trusted and informed environment. Conception and pregnancy are critical times for forging new relationships with mentors, trusted friends, family, and health practitioners. From the moment you start trying to conceive, you should be building your support network.

The Fertility Formula
Although conceiving has much to do with planning, preparation and timing, there is no exact formula to determine when you’ll be successful. For some couples, this is frustrating and a little scary if you’re anxious to get pregnant. Knowing that you’re taking every measure available to you to optimize your chances can help to lessen your worries. So what exactly can a naturopath do for you? She’ll start with an analysis of your hormone levels and immune function, and do an evaluation of your current diet and lifestyle. These factors will be useful for creating a personalized plan for your health during conception.

Many natural approaches to fertility have facilitated successful conception. Botanical medicine, acupuncture and dietary strategies can all help to regulate your hormone cycles. If you’re already involved in a medically assisted fertility treatment, these factors are still extremely important.

Bottom line: Baby-making should be fun! It’s our goal to help you feel confident and healthy as you embark on what is an exciting time in your relationship. And the support doesn’t end when you’re pregnant- That’s when you’ll want to optimize your diet, immune system and chiropractic health more than ever. There’s lots that we can do to facilitate a healthy pregnancy. We’ll continue to tailor your diet to address morning sickness, deficiencies and your new nutritional needs.

We love to follow families through different stages: from conception to pregnancy to new family-hood. It’s our goal to help keep your health optimized as a woman, an expectant mom, and as a young family!

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Surviving Colic

Many mothers know that colic can be a new-parent nightmare. Not only does the condition create a fussier baby, but it also stresses and worries parents who don’t know what to do to relieve their infant. Colic can make anyone feel completely overwhelmed and helpless.

Ditch the guilt           
Jen Singer’s article “5 Ways to Get Through Colic” has some effective pointers to keep you sane during this challenging time in your life as a new parent. First, she reminds us, give yourself credit. Colic isn’t personal. Aligning your child’s health problems with a personal sense of worth is a dangerous mistake that can lead to shame, doubt and self-deprecation. The simple truth? Colic is common and has nothing to do with what kind of caregiver you are. How you deal with it however, most certainly does! So make an effective plan to help your baby and to help yourself.

Turn to family and friends

Singer recommends turning to other parents who have experience with colic. This is a good idea for many parenting issues: find families in the same boat as you. They can offer you support and advice, or at least some commiseration. Otherwise you may feel as though nobody understands what you’re going through.

She also suggests enlisting the help of family if you’re uncertain about the source of your baby’s crying, or wondering if you’re making things worse in your mind. Leave your child with someone you trust and see if the same symptoms and patterns manifest themselves. This is a good diagnostic strategy.

Speaking of making diagnoses: be careful when you’re trying to assess your baby’s triggers. You can drive yourself crazy wondering if something you’re doing is worsening or encouraging the colic. Singer is right to tell you not to bother questioning everything- even researchers and medical professionals disagree on the source of colic. You’re better off putting your faith in methods of relieving discomfort. You can experiment with treatments and see which ones work best for your baby.

 

This too shall pass!

Let it out!
Finally, the article emphasizes how important it is to acknowledge anger and frustration. These are perfectly normal emotions and you’ll do much better to address them than to deny or ignore them. Being a new parent is hard work; you’ve already undergone massive changes and upheaval and you’re totally entitled to want to yell or cry! When you feel overwhelmed, call someone you trust and take a much needed break. This gives you a chance to work through your emotions and have a proper time-out. Emotions are never a sign of weakness; they are a sign of humanity.

You might also consider talking to a therapist to discuss some of the emotional overload you have experienced as a new mother with a fussy baby. That hour will give you a break and a chance to speak with another adult who is familiar with what you’re going through.

And finally…

(you knew it was coming)

…how about alternative health therapies to combat colic? Infant massage has been a highly effective method for coping with babies’ discomfort and helping to facilitate the digestive process. Take a workshop and discover how you may be able to sooth your baby through massage. This is also a great practice for de-stressing, connecting and bonding.

Chiropractic has been shown to provide relief to infants with colic, since adjustments remove stress on the nervous system.  When there is stress on a child’s nervous system, they can be difficult to soothe, as they have trouble with sleeping and digestion which causes discomfort. Seeing your family chiropractor to have your baby checked for nervous system stress is a gentle and very effective first-line strategy to help your child’s body heal from the inside out.

You’ll also want to watch your baby’s symptoms and consult with a physician to determine whether you’re dealing with colic or a different health issue like intolerances and allergies. If your baby has general digestive distress, many forms of health counselling may help. Consider talking to a nutrition specialist to see if gentle supplementation can be used to help your baby during the breastfeeding or formula stage. You may be unknowingly eating an aggravating food that is affecting your infant. Tailoring your diet, switching formulas or making a personalized diet plan for when you start solids. Your practitioner will also help you try changing other feeding practices like pace, intervals, and burping breaks.

To all you moms out there: did you have to battle colic?

 

 

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