Alternative Medicine, Parenting

Yoga: A viable alternative to the over-medication of American youth?

English: A child not paying attention in class.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Do your kids need yoga?

In the United States5.2 million children 3-17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD, and it appears to be that somewhere between about 1.5 percent and about 2.5 percent of school-age children that are taking medication right now for ADHD.  Methylphenidate drugs (Ritalin, Metadate, Concerta, Daytrana) are the most commonly used psychostimulants for treating ADHD in both children and adults.  These drugs increase dopamine, a neurotransmitter important for cognitive functions such as attention and focus. Side effects resulting from psychostimulant medications  taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are unfortunately quite common.  . All ADHD stimulant drugs carry warnings that they should not be used by patients with structural heart problems or pre-existing heart conditions (high blood pressure, heart failure, heart rhythm disturbances, or congenital heart disease). These drugs have been associated with sudden death in children with heart problems.

ADHD drugs may also:

Ritalin

Ritalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Worsen behavior and thought disturbance in patients with a pre-existing psychotic disorder. These drugs may also slightly increase the risk for auditory hallucinations, paranoia, and psychotic and manic behavior even in patients who do not have a history of psychiatric problems.
  • Cause a mixed or manic episode in patients who have both ADHD and bipolar disorder.
  • Increase aggressive behavior or hostility. Patients beginning stimulant drug treatment should be monitored for worsening of these behaviors.
  • Slow growth and weight gain in children. Children who take stimulant drugs should have their growth monitored. If they do not gain height or weight at a normal rate, they may need to stop taking the drug.
  • They have also been associated with sudden death, stroke, and heart attack in adults with a history of heart disease.

According to the University of Indiana’s Sound Medicine, children who practice yoga, often experience healthier sleep patterns which allows them to relax more than children who don’t practice yoga. Another study conducted by the Journal of Attention Disorders found that ADHD children who practice yoga are much more likely to remain focused and are less hyperactive, which in turned reduced the amount of emotional outbursts and oppositional behavior.  Millions of America’s youth are on psychotropic drugs to treat ADD and ADHD, but for parents that would rather keep their kids off drugs, even if they are legal, yoga may offer an  effective alternative.

Yoga is generally low-impact and safe for healthy people when practiced appropriately under the guidance of a well-trained instructor. Overall, those who practice yoga have a low rate of side effects, and the risk of serious injury from yoga is quite low. However, certain types of stroke as well as pain from nerve damage are among the rare possible side effects of practicing yoga. Women who are pregnant and people with certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, glaucoma (a condition in which fluid pressure within the eye slowly increases and can damage the eye’s optic nerve), and sciatica (pain, weakness, numbing, or tingling that can extend from the lower back to the calf, foot, or even the toes), should modify or avoid some yoga poses. If accessibility or finances are an issue, there are many free resources online. To learn more about yoga for kids and to get your FREE Kids Yoga class online, please visit, Kids yoga guide. Additional resources can be found through Yome yoga, which offers free full length online yoga classes tailored to specific age groups or medical conditions. Practicing yoga does not require any special equipment or a large initial investment and can be practiced virtually anywhere.

If you are considering trying yoga, do not use yoga or any other complementary health practice to replace conventional medical care or to postpone seeing a health care provider about pain or any other medical condition. If you have a medical condition, talk to your health care provider before starting yoga. Ask a trusted source (such as your health care provider or a nearby hospital) to recommend a yoga practitioner. Find out about the training and experience of any practitioner you are considering. Everyone’s body is different, and yoga postures should be modified based on individual abilities. Carefully selecting an instructor who is experienced with and attentive to your needs is an important step toward helping you practice yoga safely. Ask about the physical demands of the type of yoga in which you are interested and inform your yoga instructor about any medical issues you have.

©Ellice Campbell 2013

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Alternative Medicine

Natural Prescription: High Blood Pressure

English: Blood pressure measurement.

Blood pressure measurement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the most prevalent vascular diseases worldwide. Elevated blood pressure increases risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease. If you have elevated blood pressure and want to avoid a lifetime of medication, there are dietary and lifestyle changes you can make now to reduce your blood pressure without prescription medications.

For adults over the age of 50, research findings show, the risks of developing cardiovascular disease doubles for every 20 points systolic pressure goes up and for every 10 points diastolic pressure goes up. Prehypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure between 120 and 139 or a diastolic pressure between 80 and 89. It is meant to identify adults who are at high risk for developing hypertension. Luckily, many with high blood pressure fall into the prehypertension to moderate range and blood pressure can be brought under control with diet and lifestyle changes. In fact, non-drug therapies are preferred over medications to treat borderline to moderate hypertension since many of these medications have significant risks associated with taking them such as fatigue, headaches and impotence.

Lifestyle factors that can contribute to elevated blood pressure include, coffee consumption, alcohol intake, and lack of consistent physical activity, stress, and smoking cigarettes. Dietary factors that have been found to influence the development of hypertension are high-salt and sugar intake, low intake of essential fatty-acids, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C. The biggest contributing factor though is obesity, so achieving your ideal body weight is the single-most important thing you could do to avoid developing severe hypertension.

Dietary Recommendations:

Reduce salt and sugar intake by reducing consumption of processed foods and incorporating more “whole” foods. The large amount of salt in the American diet, an estimated 6 to 15 grams of salt per day, is largely a result of increased processed food intake.

Increase your potassium intake- Research has shown that reducing sodium intake alone does not have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure, but rather low sodium intake and high potassium intake is more effective. To boost potassium levels, increase intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. The DASH diet study has shown that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and foods with reduced saturated fat and total fat can lower blood pressure substantially.

Eat more celery– Researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center found that the compound 3-n-butyl phthalide, found in celery can lower blood pressure 12-14%. To use celery therapeutically, adults should eat 4 ribs of celery daily.

Incorporate more of these foods- Nuts and seeds for the essential fatty acid content, garlic and onions for their sulfur-containing compounds, cold water fish like salmon or mackerel, green leafy vegetables for their calcium and magnesium, whole grains and legumes for their fiber, and foods high in vitamin C like citrus fruits and broccoli.

Try Honey water- According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, honey water helps to reduce cholesterol, maintains vasodilation, and helps to regulate blood pressure. To make honey water, add 1 teaspoon of honey and 5 to 10 drops of apple cider vinegar to a cup of hot water, drink first thing in the morning.

Lifestyle Recommendations:

Relax- Tension and stress are major contributing factors to high blood pressure. Learn deep breathing techniques, meditate, or try yoga. When combined with dietary interventions, stress reduction is an important component in a natural blood-pressure lowering regime.

Consistent Physical Activity-Engage in regular aerobic physical activity, like brisk walking, for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. If your blood pressure is elevated you should not engage in weight lifting or vigorous exercise without guidance from a physician.

Limit alcohol consumption-limiting alcohol intake to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women has also been shown effective in reducing blood pressure.

Supplementation Recommendations:

For Mild Hypertension:

Vitamin C: 500-1000 mg three times per day

Vitamin E: 400-800 IU per day

Magnesium: 800-1200 mg per day

Flaxseed oil: 1 tbsp. per day

For Moderate Hypertension:

Include the recommendations for mild hypertension listed above as well as:

Coenzyme Q10: 50 mg two to three times a day

Hawthorn Extract: (10% procyanidins or 1.8% vitexin-4’-rhamnoside) 100-250 mg per day

Follow these guidelines for one to three months. If blood pressure has not dropped below 140/105, you will need to consult your physician to select appropriate medications. If a prescription drug is necessary to treat your hypertension, calcium-channel blockers or ACE-inhibitors appear to be the safest choice.

©Ellice Campbell 2013

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Alternative Medicine

Dangerous Herbs: Bugleweed

English: Lycopus europaeus, Lamiaceae, Gipsywo...

English: Lycopus europaeus, Lamiaceae, Gipsywort, Bugleweed, European Bugleweed, Water Horehound, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The use of herbs has gained popularity over the course of the last decade,  many herbs are very well known like Ginkgo BilobaSt. John’s Wart and Echinacea while others like bugleweed are not.  Many of the herbs and herbal products have undergone clinical trials to study the safety and efficacy when in use by the general public, but some have not and may pose serious health risks if used improperly. Bugleweed is one of the herbs that has traditional uses that have not been proven in clinical trials and may pose very serious risks if patients with certain medical conditions or on certain medications ingest it.

Bugleweed is part of the Lamiaceae family, which originated Europe, Asia and North America and often grows on or near water. Bugleweed is often used to treat overactive thyroid especially in cases where symptoms such as tightness of breath, palpitation and shaking are present. It has also been used for coughs and heart conditions where there is an associated buildup of water in the body.

Herbalists have used bugleweed to treat such conditions as mild heart conditions, bleeding in the lungs from tuberculosis, excessive menstruation, to reduce fever and mucus production in flus/ colds and for the treatment of snakebites.

When taken orally it has been used to treat mild hyperthyroidism, premenstrual syndrome, nervousness and insomnia. Bugleweed is sometimes paired with lemon balm to treat patients with Graves’ disease and other forms of hyperthyroidism.  Every herb has different constituents that give it its healing power. Bugleweed has an antithyroid action, in that it has been shown to inhibit thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), Graves immunoglobin & iodothyronine delodinase. One study demonstrated pronounced peripheral T4 conversion and decreased thyroid secretion independent of TSH activation. These actions differ from those of the traditional antithyroid agents and may be due to the phenols lithospermic and rosmarinic acids. Bugleweed also displays antigonadotropic actions and an ability to decrease prolactin. A significant decrease occurred in both luteinizing hormones (LH) and testosterone levels when lycopus europaeus extract was given orally. This action is also attributed to the phenols, namely lithospermic and rosarinic.

Due to these actions bugleweed may be unsafe when used in patients taking hypertensive or hypotensive agents and in those patients taking hormonal agents.  Bugleweed may also pose risks or interact with certain drugs, for instance it is not recommended for diabetics since it may increase the risk of hypoglycemia. Bugleweed also has mild sedative effects so it is not recommended to undergo bugleweed therapy while taking sedatives. Bugleweed may also reduce the effects of thyroid hormones. Bugleweed is said to interfere with diagnostic procedures using radioactive isotopes.

Natural medicine may often offer fewer side effects than its traditional counterparts but make no mistake, nature can still be powerful medicine. Before undergoing any herbal treatment it is always recommended to seek the guidance of a well-trained herbalist. Many of the historical uses of bugleweed have not shown their efficacy  in high-quality clinical trials and may be very dangerous if used improperly by those with thyroid conditions or taking hormone therapy.

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References

Bugleweed (2010). Mosby’s Handbook of Herbs & Natural Supplements. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/ehsmosbyherbs/bugleweed

Natural Standard Database. (2011, May). Retrieved from http://naturalstandard.com/databases/herbsupplements/bugleweed.asp

Van Wyk, B. &Wink, M. (2004). Medicinal Plants of the World (pp.196) London, England: Timber Press.

©Ellice Campbell 2013

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