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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Parenting

Fight Childhood Obesity by Teaching Healthy Eating Behaviors

Obesity Campaign Poster

Obesity Campaign Poster (Photo credit: Pressbound)

 

According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. Obesity is the result of too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed, and can be affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes. Additionally, children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Obesity increases the risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

 

The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings,  faith-based institutions,  the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries. Regardless of age, everyone needs the same nutrients, just in varying amounts. The responsibility to teach children how to make healthy food choices largely falls on the parents, and as any parent can attest, this proves a daunting task.

 

Healthy Eating for Toddlers & Preschoolers

 

After the first year of life, children’s growth slows and they require less food. When planning portions for this age group a good rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of food for every year of age. It is better to serve a small amount of food and allow them to ask for more than to overwhelm them with a large initial portion. Children thrive on routine and will do best when following a regular eating schedule.  It is always best when children learn to eat what the rest of the family is eating instead of being provided with a special meal, keep in mind however when new foods are introduced, it may take up to 10 times of the food being introduced and tasted for the new item to be accepted. With this in mind, children may be more accepting of new foods when they are introduced with a familiar favorite, so include food that you know the child will eat at each meal. Children are less likely to accept foods that were introduced during a negative meal situation, so making meal time an enjoyable family affair reinforces positive eating behaviors. Parental modeling may be the most influential factor when children are learning what to eat, so be sure you are practicing the good eating behaviors you would like your children to adopt.  Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is imperative in establishing healthy eating patterns for life and involving young children in planting and growing vegetables is an excellent way to draw the child’s interest healthy eating. This period of growth is a wonderful time to begin to establish physical activity habits. Physical fitness established at an early age can lower the risk that the child will become overweight or obese.

 

Obesity Campaign Poster

 

6-12 Years of Age

 

This stage is often referred to as the “latent time of growth” because the rate of growth slows and changes occur more gradually. This is also the period when inappropriate concepts of body image may take root, leading to chronic dieting or eating disorders. While energy needs may decline slightly, the quality of the diet is imperative to provide the necessary nutrition essential to school performance and physical demands and should focus on real, whole foods and limiting the amount of refined and processed foods. The school and home environments should be conducive to assisting these children in making appropriate food and activity choices.

 

Adolescents

 

The growth experienced during this can vary from child to child and metabolic rate as well as food needs will vary.  The quantity as well as the quality of the food choices is also important during this period of rapid growth. Adequate supplies of iron, zinc, calcium and essential vitamins are important to fuel the changes in body size and development.  Despite the critical nutritional needs during this stage, dietary surveys indicate that of all different age groups, adolescents have the poorest diets. It is important to stress to teens that healthy eating behaviors along with consistent physical activity can help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, provide energy to meet the demands of school and work, and will increase the overall sense of well-being.

 

©Ellice Campbell 2013

 

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