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Probiotics: What are they and Why are they Important?

Probiotics is the term for food and supplements that contain microorganisms that can colonize the gut, specifically the small and large intestines. We actually have billions of bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract. We now know that these bacteria have important roles in the body. They are involved in digestion, prevent infection by other disease-causing bacteria, and maintain the lining of the digestive tract. These bacteria can be killed off by antibiotics, and up to 30% of people taking antibiotics experience the side-effect known as antibiotic-associated diarrhea (1). Some research has shown benefits to ingesting probiotics during and after a course of antibiotics to prevent diarrhea, to prevent pathogenic bacteria such a Clostridium difficile (C. diff) from inhabiting the gut and causing illness, and to maintain the lining of the gut. It is especially important for infants and children to have healthy gut bacteria, as they can be particularly susceptible to these side effects. It is also important that infants and children have a strong gut barrier as they constantly put things in their mouths and are still developing their gut-associated immune system. 70% of the human body’s immune system actually lines the gastrointestinal tract, and probiotics can help develop that.

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host” (2). The supplement industry, which includes probiotics supplements, is not tightly regulated in the United States. Therefore, it is wise to ask a doctor or registered dietitian for recommendations of brands of probiotics if you or your child needs to take them in supplement form.

Probiotics are found naturally occurring in fermented foods such as:

  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Acidophilus Milk
  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi

Including some of these foods in you and your child’s weekly diet can help ensure healthy gut bacteria and optimal digestion. For more information on probiotics in foods or supplements, and when to use probiotics, contact a dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

References

  1. Mack DR. Probiotics. Can Fam Physician. 2005 November 10; 51(11): 1455–1457.
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization Expert Consultation. Evaluation of health and nutritional properties of powder milk and live lactic acid bacteria. Córdoba, Argentina: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization; 2001. [cited 2005 September 8]. Available from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/es/esn/food/probio_report_en.pdf.

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Physical Therapy Posts

Child receiving acupuncture

Is Pediatric Acupuncture for Real? – A Physical Therapist Perspective

 

 

 

I recently recommended acupuncture treatment to a client with an especially challenging case of idiopathic toe-walking. Instead of giving me the raised eyebrows I usually see when recommending alternative medicine to children, her mother eagerly set up an appointment with a well-researched practitioner of her choice. Within a month, the weekly acupuncture sessions in combination with weekly physical therapy sessions paid off. My little client, after years of walking on the balls of her feet 100% of the time, was now only toe-walking 5% of the time.

I know what you are thinking. Sticking multiple needles in children? How could I even suggest such a thing?

Child receiving acupunctureThe practice of acupuncture has been around for thousands of years. Not only has it been greatly accepted in China and eastern cultures, it has also been gaining ground in the United States. In 2011, more than a third of pain clinics across the country utilized some sort of acupuncture as therapy for various ailments. Though acupuncture has been found to be effective in treating adults, research on its efficacy in children is still in the beginning stages.  Boston Children’s Hospital, one of the leading institutions for pediatric care, has an entire service designated to acupuncture. Treatment is performed by a physician trained in both western medicine and eastern medicine, making the approach highly integrative and highly effective.

The term “acupuncture” might register thoughts of needles piercing the skin, but it actually describes a family of treatment options that stimulate anatomical points along the body. Licensed acupuncturists are actually trained in multiple components of traditional eastern medicine.  They, much like pediatric physical therapists, are taught to treat the child holistically, taking into account family and medical history, developmental factors, and severity of condition.  In my client’s case, she was treated with a technique called “cupping,” which worked to stimulate muscle relaxation and improve circulation to areas restricting her motion.  Whether through needles, cups, heat, or through other techniques, the basis of acupuncture is to encourage blood flow and promote healing.

Acupuncture has been successful in treating chronic pain and certain systemic conditions without significant side effects. The majority of pediatric patients are seen for everything from headaches and dental pain to back pain, from constipation to gastritis, from side effects of chemotherapy, to cystic fibrosis. Recent research has even supported acupuncture as a treatment of ADHD, lazy eye, and nausea in children. A specialized acupuncturist in pediatric alternative medicine often uses a variety of techniques to treat the child as a whole. The needles used in acupuncture therapy are small, sterilized, nontoxic, and tightly regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  They are nearly painless and have very few complications.

Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have recognized acupuncture as effective in treating a wide variety of health conditions. Acupuncturist training is at the Master’s degree level, which is the entry-level degree for the profession. With growing research on the effectiveness of and the mechanism behind acupuncture, insurance companies often cover the treatment when it is associated with specific medical conditions. More often than not, acupuncture is used in conjunction with more traditional therapies. I have seen its benefits in numerous individuals with some challenging chronic conditions.

Health care providers, such as physical therapists and primary physicians, serve as resources to help parents determine if alternative treatments are right for their child. Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns that haven’t been remedied by traditional methods alone. Find a qualified and licensed practitioner who meets the education and training standards set by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM).  Keep an open mind when you bring your child to see an acupuncturist who specializes in pediatric care. Remember, a child’s progress depends on a multitude of factors, and his well-being relies heavily on his health providers staying on the same page about his plan of care.

 

Do you have questions or experiences with alternative therapies? Please let us know.

References:

 

  1. Acupuncture, an introduction. National Institute of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. U.S Department of Health Services Website. Accessed at http://nccam.nih.gov/sites/nccam.nih.gov/files/Backgrounder_Acupuncture_02-20-2013.pdf on June 12, 2014.
  2. Pediatric Acupuncture. Psychology Today website. Accessed at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/real-healing/201107/pediatric-acupuncture on June 12, 2014
  3. Acupuncture. Boston Children’s Hospital website. Accessed at http://www.childrenshospital.org/health-topics/procedures/acupuncture on June 15, 2014