Ouch! The Pains of Growing
Have you had the experience of parental helplessness when your child wakes up in the middle of the night crying from leg pain? Ever tried to console a teething baby? There are several common conditions especially unique to growth during childhood. These can be distressing to both you and your child but, happily, there are effective preventative and treatment measures available to minimize the impact and discomfort.
There are two concerning trends in children these days: those who are extremely under-active and spending too much time on electronic devices and those who are over-scheduled and pushing their bodies hard while going through major growing stages. Combined with these situations is often a deficient and devitalized diet that is not supplying enough vitamins and minerals to support growth, along with inadequate or non-existent essential fatty acids (omega 3s) and probiotics (acidophilus, fermented foods). To top it all off children are often not getting adequate sleep!
First focus on food
Children of all ages need nutrient dense foods. Have you ever wondered how a small kid or lanky teenager can seem to consume double or triple what you eat as an adult? Even children who may not be that active require more calories and nutrients to supply the body with what it needs to make more muscle and bone tissue, and expand their blood supply. And don't forget all the changes that happen once puberty hits!
Try to offer kids a diet that includes vitamins A, D, and E; minerals such as magnesium, calcium and selenium; bone broths, good quality fish oil, eggs with soft yolks, grass fed beef and other organic meats; and fermented food such as sauerkraut and raw dairy products, if possible. Raw cheeses are available in Canada although raw milk is another matter and more difficult to obtain. Avoid processed foods such as sugar, white flour and pop, not only because they are devoid of nutritional value, but also because they create problems such as promoting cavities and imbalances in bone mineralization.
The strength of teeth, bones, cartilage, growth plates and more start in the womb, so keeping your own nutrition optimal before conceiving as well as during the pregnancy and while breastfeeding cannot be overstated. You are always giving your child the best start in life by feeding yourself well as a mother and, if aches and pains visit anyway, the following remedies can be a soothing solution.
Every parent has had to endure their baby's suffering while teeth are coming in. This can start as early as 3 months or as late as a year. The timing is not as important as the pain your child appears to be experiencing, although the age can inform the appropriate prescribing of a good homeopathic. Teething is commonly accompanied by dribbling, chewing on fingers, red swollen gums, irritability, clinginess, sleep disturbances, facial rashes, lack of appetite, and bowel changes.
Homeopathics for teething
There are many homeopathics that can be helpful for teething. Camilia is a common homeopathic combination from Boiron that parents often have success with. You may want to consult a naturopathic doctor or homeopath if your child (or you!) is having great difficulty at this time.
The baby is often very pudgy, tends to be constipated and normally happy and content. The teeth may come in later and slowly and may seem to take forever to arrive. When teething occurs they may seem lethargic, difficult and stubborn and make a chewing motion in their sleep grinding their teeth and gums.
Indicated when the baby is quite inconsolable, has a one-sided hot red cheek and may have greenish stool.
May be helpful if the child is extremely distressed by the pain, but not as irritable. She sighs, sobs, cries and may tremble and wake from sleep with piercing cries.
The child suffers from extremely painful dentition and restless sleep. The gums are severely inflamed and red and the teeth can decay as soon as they come through.
Weepy, whiny and clingy! Painful teething that feels better from cold water and fresh air. These babies will respond positively to being taken outside and carried.
Breath can be smelly and teething is very painful with a lot of crying. They feel better from biting gums together hard or chomping down on anything and everything!
Restlessness, hot, red cheeks, uneasy sleep and pain can be severe.
Herbs are a safe, gentle, and versatile way to treat common children's illnesses and complaints.
Herbs for infection and fever
- calendula flowers
- elder flowers
- lemon balm
Herbs that calm, relax, and decrease pain
- chamomile flowers
- linden flowers
- willow bark
- wintergreen leaves
These can be mixed and used in teas, glycerites (herbal extracts that use glycerine instead of alcohol), or popsicles. Freezing the tea as ice cubes or popsicles, or saturating and freezing a washcloth are all great ways to then apply to the gums for relief.
Calming teething tea
Mix ½ tsp each of
- catnip leaves (Nepeta cataria)
- chamomile flowers (Matricaria recutita)
- passionflower leaves (Passiflora incarnata)
- lemonbalm leaves (Melissa officinalis)
- ¼ tsp Peppermint leaves (Mentha piperita)
Bring 2 cups of water to a simmer, remove from heat, add herbs and steep for 15 minutes, strain and give 1 cup to child.
*For child under 6 months use a dropper and dose according to Clark's Rule
Child's weight x adult dose (which would be 3 cups/day) all divided by 150. So for a 20 pound baby it would be (20 X 3)/150 = .4 cups/day (just under half a cup)
Combine 4 drops of clove essential oil (Syzygium aromaticum) with 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil (olive oil, coconut oil) or even pasteurized honey. Try it on your own gums first, adjust as needed, then rub on infant's gums. This can numb the pain.
Cavities are something parents of course want to fend off in their growing children. Avoid sugar and sugary drinks, including fruit juice, as well as refined white flour products. Basically, have them eat real whole food. Many toddlers have developed cavities due to having apple juice and even milk (which has natural sugars in it) in their bottles and then falling asleep with some of the liquid in their mouth on a regular basis. Sugar, white flour and juice feed the bacteria that then eat away the enamel of our teeth.
This is of course upsetting for the parent and having the child consume more minerals, bone broths and fat soluble vitamins such as A and D in addition to a well prescribed homeopathic can make a big difference. In one case we gave the homeopathic Silica–which is for children who have a more sensitive constitution, are not as robust and have weak mineralization–to a child with very weak teeth and cavities. The child's teeth improved dramatically after that remedy along with taking mineral salts to improve his mineral status.
Mineral salts (also called tissue salts, cell salts or Schuessler tissue salts), in my opinion, should be an integral part of many treatment or prevention strategies in children. They are inexpensive, very safe and parents can easily give them to children themselves. There are 12 main types to choose from and it is recommended that you buy a good simple reference book for using them at home. They taste good and children love to take them! For very young children, you should crush them and mix into food or fluids as they come in a small white tablet form.
Calcarea phosphoricum mineral salts are for teeth that develop slowly and decay rapidly. This is the principal mineral salt remedy for the teeth and is important for teething infants, children and expectant mothers.
Calcarea fluorica mineral salts can be used when the enamel of the teeth is rough and deficient, causing rapid decay. It can be used in alternation with Calcarea phosphoricum.
In mineral salts 3X is the recommended preferred potency, however most stores carry 6X or 12X, which are also good.
Proper mineralization is crucial and starts during pregnancy. I have seen cases in my office where the child is eating well, avoiding sugar and juice, and yet they need constant cleanings and are getting cavities. This is quite possibly due to the mother having had a difficult pregnancy or improper nutrition, so remember the importance of being healthy before and during pregnancy if possible.
Nighttime growing pains
Even children suffer from sleep issues! Growing pains are a common phenomenon occurring in 1 out of 4 children with or without growth spurts, usually between ages 3-12. They will wake at night complaining of leg pains that can often be quite intense, even leading to tears. There is no swelling, redness or fever with growing pains so if these symptoms are present then you need to have your child checked out by a health care professional.
Some MDs will suggest pain killers for growing pains, but there are other options. Minerals, vitamins, EFAs, and bone broth! One study showed bone meal combined with vitamin A and D created complete remission of growing pain symptoms in all 112 children participating in the study. When 100% of participants respond then this is worth looking at! Homemade bone broth is a good, tasty substitute for bone meal and is a great way to get bio-available nutrients that your child can absorb. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, growing pains may sometimes be a result of vitamin B6 deficiency. Foods that are naturally high in B6 are turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach and bananas.
Growing pains in the legs can be resolved in some children with the minerals salts Calcarea phosphoricum and I have seen them resolve quickly in my own child with this. There are magnesium gels that can be rubbed into the leg to give relief as well as using Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) baths.
Lastly, some parents have seen growing pains resolve when taking out food sensitivities such as gluten or additives such as aspartame. It's always good to have as clean a diet as possible.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Have you noticed your child being restless or their legs jerking upon falling asleep or that they move a lot during the night? Or perhaps you and the other parent have or have had RLS? Studies show that 60% of people with RLS also had growing pains when they were young and RLS tends to run in families. This can be related to such nutrient deficiencies as magnesium, potassium, taurine or even folic acid. Some people do well with iron, although it is never recommended to give iron without a blood test first to determine appropriate levels. Again, mineral salts could be useful for this condition as they are an easily absorbable form of minerals and easy to take for all ages.
Osgood-Schlatter is a problem among adolescents who are very athletic. It is most common between 9-14 years of age and was traditionally associated with active boys at the onset of the growth spurt, but has become much more common in girls now with the increase in their participation in sports. It presents as an anterior knee pain with swelling on the upper shin bone and is basically an overuse syndrome that occurs when the body is growing quickly and needs a lot of nutrients. Again, optimal nutrition and perhaps nutritional supplements are important, especially if your child is very active. Dr. Jonathan Wright, MD, recommends using vitamin E at 400 IU per day and selenium (Se) at 50 mcg 3 times per day which usually offers results in 2 to 6 weeks.
Calcarea phosphoricum, a homeopathic remedy mentioned several times above, is also indicated for Osgood-Schlatter Disease.
Growing up shouldn’t be painful! Following this advice plus supplementing with the above-mentioned remedies can help your child avoid and conquer many of the unkind consequences of growing.
- Homeopathy for Pregnancy, Birth and Your Baby's First Year by Miranda Castro
- An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children & Infants by Mary Bove, N.D.
For a clear explanation of the benefits of bone broth and how to make different ones:
- Broth is Beautiful (The Weston A. Price Foundation)
For more information on Osgood-Schlatter Disease: