Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Cortisone's Ill Effects on your Child's Skin

By Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
The irony with Cortisone cream is that it is probably doing more harm than good.  While it may provide short-term relief it can be associated with Dry, Burning, Cracking and Itching sensation  Long-term use can thin the skin and make it more susceptible to damage.
Cortisone will also hide the true picture of your child's skin condition making it appear better and clearer than it really is.  This creates another set of problems in itself.  Here is a common scenario in a clinical setting that occurs all too often.
  • Mother and child present for natural treatment
  • We establish the need to adjust diet, provide specific nutritional supplements as determined by individual needs and recommend that cortisone cream be stopped.
  • Treatment goes well for 1 week but in the second week of treatment the skin looks worse.  Mother contacts clinic with these concerns and questions if the prescribed remedies are the cause.
  • We explain that the cortisone effect has worn off and now the true picture of the skin is revealed.
  • Mother naturally asks why the dermatologist did not explain this?
  • Re-assurance is given that the natural medicines will do no harm and that what is required now is patience, persistence and diligence with the regime of natural medicine. 
  • Mother feels relieved and grateful that her concerns have been heard and that her child is on the way to recovery.
The take home message here is that a re-bound effect is likely be experienced when cortisone is stopped.  Your child's skin is likely to appear worse that it was previously because the suppressive treatment has worn off.  Now the real work begins but it is not in vain of.  The evidence base for natural medicines is growing all the time and its ability to help manage chronic ailments is well documented.  So from here on in, its health, happiness and good vitality.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Helping Baby Eczema Takes Time and Requires Patience

By Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
As a practitioner I try to communicate to parents and carers that treating baby and child eczema within a holistic framework takes time.  There is no quick-fix to a problem that involves many organ-systems.  Often we are working to correct functional problems associated with chronic inflammation and immune dysregulation.  Parents and carers need to have patience in order to reach the ideal of healthy skin.

This takes a methodical approach and may require additional tests such as mineral status, food sensitivity and stool analysis.  Clinicians also need identify the roles that diet, lifestyle and stress play in baby and child eczema. Once all the relevant history is obtained a treatment plan can be devised according to individual needs.

         One cannot expect that which has taken generations to acquire to disappear overnight

Successful treatment of baby eczema in a holistic framework is not a simple matter of taking a pill or using a topical cream.  It requires commitment and dedication on many levels.  Certain foods must be avoided while certain foods will need to be used.  Environmental factors such as clothing, bedding, detergents and cleaners need to be assessed and the potential of enviro toxins like xeno-estrogens and xeno-biotics must be explored. Many of these concepts are new to parents and carers, it takes time to educate and provide quality reference materials and information.

Often, the approach requires whole-family dietary and lifestyle changes.  This is no easy task.  Cooking techniques and ingredients may need to be altered and shopping lists may require amending.   Make no mistake, this takes time to get right and implement in day to day busy family life.

On top of this are the remedies that the child or baby will need to take.  I often make a joke that the medicine won't work if it sits on the shelf.  It sounds obvious but it requires certain dedication and attentiveness when using a holistic approach.  It can be quite a regime to implement several remedies over the course of a day, several weeks or months at a time.

The take home message is that successful treatment of baby and childhood eczema using a holistic model takes time and patience.  There is a sound and well proven methodology in place that will help your child immensely if the program is followed.  The parents that seem to attract the most success appear to be the ones who educate themselves in the holistic natural medicine.   Eczema is a complex and multi-factorial condition that requires a comprehensive and integrated approach to achieve success.  It thrives on a complete team; practitioner, parent/carer and child/family, all working together with the intention of providing the best outcome for those concerned. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Understanding Chronic Ear Infections

By Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
For children unfortunate enough to suffer these painful and debilitating infections natural medicine offers a clear path to ceasing the vicious cycle.  Chronic ear infections are an indication of reduced numbers of beneficial bacteria in the Ear, Nose and Throat passages. This causes the immune system to be compromised.  Babies are born sterile and rely on the passage through the birth canal and the consumption breast milk to acquire their beneficial bacteria.  Babies also develop beneficial bacteria populations when they come into contact with other people such as dad or other relatives.  Children rely on these beneficial helpers for robust and appropriate immune reponses.  So what causes these bacteria numbers to be reduced?
Things that will reduce beneficial bacteria and increase numbers of pathogenic species include dietary sugar (either by itself or in the form of refined foods), unnecessary antibiotics and paracetamol use, (both of which are heavily sweetened with sugar syrups) and the advent of overtly sterile environments due to overuse of antibacterial cleaning products.  When pathogenic bacteria increase in number they compromise the immune response. In the case of chronic ear infections this may lead to recurrent episodes or other upper respiratory complaints like sore throats, tonsilitis and swollen glands.

When beneficial flora become low in number the body tries to compensate by producing excess mucous. This can be seen as a warning sign.  If your child tends to be constantly battling a running nose or sounds raspy or congested then this should be seen as the immune system struggling. It may also be related to food allergy and sensitivity. The recurrence of ear infections are often due to a condition called'"Glue Ear'". This is an accumulation of bacteria-laden fluid in the Eustachian tube.  It can affect hearing, speech quality, balance and co-ordination and learning. Glue Ear is highly common and unless resolved will result in repeat ear infection. This is one reason why antibiotic fails to help chronic ear infections.  The other is that the bacteria develop resistance partly because antibiotic syrups have a high sugar content which actually help the pathogenic bacteria grow stronger.  In order to successfully treat chronic ear infection the underlying cause must be addressed .

How Natural Medicine can help resolve these infections.
  •  Remove foods that create mucous: Dairy, Sugar and refined processed foods.  In some cases this alone has resolved glue ear and prevented the return of ear infections.
  • Give a therapeutic probiotic: Administer this by tipping the contents of a capsule onto the child''s tongue just befor bed.  It will provide a localised anti-bacterial effect allowing the immune system to fight back.
  • Reconsider antibiotic use: studies between children given antibiotic therapy verses no therapy for ear infection found the recover rate to be the same!
  • Seek to use alternatives to counter a fever greater that 38 degrees (100F) Herbal teas and  tinctures, homoeopathic medicines and mineral therapy are safe and work wonders. Unlike paracetamol they are not laced with sugar. Also, rmember that fever is a beneficial body response and should be encouraged unless dangerous.
  • Keep your child warm: Keep a hat on your child''s head and keep their chest warm.  Use warm fluids and offer soups.  French onion soup is particularly good for ear complaints.
  • A few drops of warm olive oil or Mullein oil can help ease the pain and reduce the inflammation.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Top Ten Influences which damage Immunity

1. Sugar and everything containing it: sweets, soft drink, ice-cream etc.
2. Processed carbohydrates: cakes, biscuits, chips, snacks, breakfast cereals, white breads
3. Chemically altered and artificial fats: margarines, butter alternatives, cooking and vegetable oils, processed foods prepared with these fats.
4. Lack of quality proteins in the diet from meats and fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds and beans
5. Exposure to man-made chemicals: cleaning and washing chemicals, personal care products, paint, fire retardants, petrochemicals, pesticides, etc.
6. Exposure to man-made radiation: electronic screens (TV, computer, play station), mobile phones, high power electricity lines, nuclear wastes, X-Ray
7. Drugs: Antibiotics, steroids, anti-depressants, pain killers, anti-viral drugs, anti-cancer drugs
8. Lack of Fresh Air and physical activity
9. Lack of sunlight
10. Lack of exposure to common microbes in the environment. Living in a too sterilised environment is strongly associated with compromised immunity.  The immune system needs constant stimulation from the microbes in the environment.

Top Ten Influences which Boost Immunity

These are taken from Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride's book Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
1. Fresh animal fats (from meats and dairy) and cholesterol-rich foods (particularly raw egg yolk)
2. Cold-Pressed oils Olive oil, Fish oils, Nut and seed oils
3. Onions and Garlic
4. Freshly pressed vegetable and fruit juices
5. Regular consumption of greens: parsley, dill, coriander, spring onion, spinach etc
6. Probiotics supplements and fermented foods
7. Contact with animals: horses, dogs etc. Having a pet in the family can do a lot for children's immune status.
8. Swimming: in unpolluted natural waters: lakes, rivers and sea
9. Physical activity: in the fresh air!
10. Sunlight exposure and sensible sunbathing.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Dairy Free Diets provide Necessary Calcium

By Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
As a health provider I work with many parents who are advised to cease their child's dairy intake for health reasons.  Naturally, a lot of parents are concerned that their child may be missing out on calcium and ultimately adversely affecting their health. 
To help put minds at ease I thought parents may find it useful to learn that “dairy free” does not necessarily mean calcium deficient.   I have added a list below outlining recommended daily intake (RDI) for age groups as well as non-dairy food options.  The news is great and should help parents feel more comfortable that removing dairy from the diet will not lead to adverse health outcomes.  

Age related Recommend Daily Intakes 
Non-Dairy Calcium Sources
0–6 months*200 mg
Soy Milk 1 cup - 400mg
7–12 months*260 mg

85gm Canned Salmon - 181mg
1–3 years 700 mg

Spinach 1/2 cup - 120mg
4–8 years 1,000 mg

Tofu 1/2 cup - 200mg
9–13 year 1,300 mg

85g Sardines - 325mg
14–18 years 1,300 mg

1 cup Cereal 100 - 1000mg

 Other calcium sources include Almonds, Figs, Eggs, Molasses and Green Leafy vegetables.  What’s great about the above list is that it shows how easy it is to attain the RDI quite easily.  By the time three well rounded meals have been served one can see how an age related RDI is easily met.
For all those parents out there who have children requiring dairy free diets this is great news.  It hopefully assures you that your children will get enough calcium from many other food sources and will in no way become deficient in this wonderful.  Perhaps it may be an opportunity to delve into the world of nutrition and understand that natural food sources provide a rich and bio-available source of essential nutrients. By the way, I haven't had a glass of cow milk for 37 years and I have no issues with the integrity and strength of my bones.  

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Patterns of Childhood Illnesses are Changing

Current implications for childhood illness suggests that diet and lifestyle factors play a significant role in the rise in certain conditions.  This is compounded by reduced exposure to helpful germs, reduced vitamin D levels and diets high in refined processed foods that are high in sugar and poor quality fats.

Here are some fascinating recent stats.

  • Allergies have increased by 7 times, up to 50% of kids have allergies
  • Asthma affects 36% of children in Australia.  In 1965 it affected 1.9%
  • 11% of school age children are diagnosed with ADHD
  • Autism affects 1/100 children.  In 1985 it was 4/10,000
All these conditions share an underlying immune system shift.  Largely this is driven by poor digestive function and development that is primed in the pre-natal period.  We know that babies born under stressful circumstances, who are not breastfed and introduced inappropriate foods too early are more likely to develop these conditions. We also know that certain foods, natural food chemicals and artificial additives can do similar damage.  Setting off inflammation in the digestive tract that affects brain function and neurotransmission.  

The important thing is to allow our children to develop healthy robust immune systems.  Here is a couple of tips.
  • Avoid unnecessary antibiotic overuse.  There are alternatives that are safe and effective
  • Introduce solids to babies at around 6 months.  
  • Support immune function using a child/baby specific probiotic. (don't by supermarket quality, these may be doing harm)
  • Provide a diet that is low reactive and full of fresh, seasonal organic produce with a healthy and varied array of  proteins, fruits and veg, grains and essential fatty acids
  • Allow your child to spend time outside getting sun exposure in the safe times of day

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Introducing Solids to Allergenic Babies - What's the Best Way?

By Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
In Naturopathic medicine we always support the body's ability to self-heal. Fundamental to this is Primum non nocere - First do no harm.  When introducing solids to allergy and sensitive prone babies this concept is vital.

It is important to choose foods wisely, in simple combinations and introduce then at the right time for your baby. Because allergies are inflammatory processes it is important to avoid foods that trigger inflammation, such as dairy, wheat, refined sugar and food additives such as artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners.  Babies palates are extremely sensitive, salt and seasoning is not needed.

It is important not to overwhelm your baby's digestive tract.  It is not until around 5 - 7 months that it can begin to breakdown and absorb nutrients from the stomach and small intestine.  If foods are not broken down correctly then the immune system will react prompting the development of allergy, sensitivity or intolerance.  Underweight babies or those with parents who suffer allergy, eczema and asthma would be wise to delay solids until 7 months.

6 - 9 months
Introduce 1 food at a time.  Make it pureed and dilute it with breast milk or formula if necessary.

  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrot
  • Broccoli 
  • Cauliflower
  • Avocado
  • Pear
  • Ripe banana
Watch for intolerance signs
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Mucous in the stool
  • Nasal stuffiness, Mucous, Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Rubbing nose
  • Noisy breathing
  • Ear infections
  • Clear runny nose (when otherwise well)
  • Bronchitis
  • Dry skin
  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Red around the mouth, anus or cheeks
If none of these signs are present then your baby is tolerating food well.  

Introduce foods one at a time
Foods can also be prepared in advance and frozen in ice cube tray holders in the freezer and used over the week.  On a personal level as a father of 3 and as a professional I have found babies respond extremely well and grow in all the right ways when introducing is done in this way.
Happy eating!!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Herbal Medicine to Help Resolve those Niggling Viruses

I treat a lot of children that seem to be knocked about, often for many months at a time with low grade viruses of one sort or another.  Most of the time your GP won't prescribe anti viral drugs unless the case is extreme.  Herbal medicine however is able to help your child's immune system overcome these nasty invaders by stimulating an effective search and destroy mission of these viral invaders. 
Parenting is already stressful enough without having to cope with a children that are sick a lot of the time. Many parents are relieved at the effectiveness that herbal medicine can provide and are happy to see their children bouncing back to life with renewed vigor.  Common herbs that are used to combat viruses include Echinacea spp. and Sambuccus nigra Elderflower flower

Monday, 13 June 2011

Beat Winter Colds and Flu's with Natures Super foods

Now that Wintertime is upon us it is a good opportunity to enhance our family's immune systems using a couple of key foods.

  • Breakfast: Steaming hot porridge served with stewed fruits and toasted almonds drizzled with honey.  Porridge is packed with key nutrients to support our energy and nervous system.  It is simple to digest and makes a great nutritious start to the day.
  • Bust out the Citrus fruit wherever possible.  Start the day with lemon juice in warm water or squeeze a couple of oranges.  Lemon added to many foods especially green leafy veggies will help your body absorb the iron, a key mineral for your immune system.
  • Stews and Soups: make for hearty nutritious main meals.  Whether it be a classic minestrone, Sicilian lamb stew with polenta or an Asian inspired numbers such as Tom Yum, Rotti Channi, or Curry Laksa.  These are easy to digest especially if slowly cooked and importantly warming to our body. 
Take the time in Winter to enjoy hearty warming nutritious and delicious foods to keep you well.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Being too clean linked to Eczema, Asthma and Allergy!

By Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
The hygiene hypothesis.  If you haven't heard this phrase before it refers to the idea that some illness is linked to living in an overly clean environment.  This may certainly be the case with atopic disorders such as eczema, asthma and allergy.

Recent studies are now pointing toward environmental factors as contributing and predisposing individuals to these conditions.

The hygiene hypothesis suggests that certain individuals have reduced exposure to bacterial, viral and fungal antigens due to over use of cleaners, anti-bacterial agents and early life use antibiotic use.  A reduced exposure to such antigens alters the GIT landscape and skewing it in a TH2 dominant position linked to atopy. This means Eczema, Asthma and Allergy.

Interestingly, studies have shown that children raised on farms and who are around livestock have fewer atopic symptoms and a far greater chance of developing Asthma and Allergy.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Nutritional Medicine is Highly Effective for Baby Eczema

By Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
I see a great number of treatment approaches that fail to address the complete picture of baby eczema.  Topical treatment and a change of soap cannot modulate the inner physiological profile associated with baby eczema.
The condition is immune driven and involves a TH2 dominant profile.  This all stems from the digestive system which is responsible for producing 85% of the adaptive immune cells.  Common to all children and infants with this condition is nutritional deficiency.  The body is simply unable to supply the nutrient needed to correct the inflammation of the skin either because the nutrients are absent from the diet or more commonly because the digestive system is unable to absorb nutrients from the diet.  This is paramount, because until the digestive function is corrected the eczema and associated inflammation wont resolve.  A qualified and experienced practitioner will be able to use nutritional medicine for effective treatment.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Three Things you need to know about Atopic Eczema

By Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
1. If the cause of eczema is untreated the condition is likely to develop into asthma, allergic rhinitis and food allergy.
Did you know that 20% of children presenting to their GP are given a diagnosis of eczema?  If the underlying causes are not addressed 44% of these kids are likely to develop asthma and of these 66% will acquire varying types of allergies.

2. Eczema can only be resolved by treating the underlying causes
The main cause are

  • excess inflammation
  • an under active digestive system
  • an imbalanced immune system (this is related to the digestive tract)
3. Natural Medicine is capable of successfully treating and achieving long-lasting results
Given the right ingredients eczema and it's associated conditions can be put to rest.  Lets not forget the unquestionable ability of the body to self heal.  No where is this more pronounced than in children.  Generally speaking, their vital reserve is much greater than in adults and their ability to rebalance and achieve homeostasis is significant.

Simple Tips: Eczeamtic children improve greatly when allergenic foods are removed from their diet.  This first step is often overlooked as being too simple.  But in fact it takes a large amount of stress of the digestive system and starts the healing process.
Secondly specific probiotics and essential fatty acids like flax seed oil and evening primrose will help further restore function and tone-down inflammation.  The skin will undoubtably improve because of this.  Restoring digestive function by addressing any mineral and nutrient deficiencies will also help achieve long lasting results.  This is best achieved by working closely with a qualified health practitioner.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


 The intention behind this blog is to help you with current information and research around holistic eczema treatment.  I want parents and carers to have access to information that will enable their children to be free of eczema. The real success lies with information, not medication! I aim to present treatment options for those people who want long lasting success and not just symptomatic treatment.

The more I research this condition the more inspired I become in helping eczema sufferers.
 As an integrative naturopath I believe the best healthcare system in the world is one that integrates conventional medicine with complementary modalities.  Natural medicine offers real promise in the effective treatment of eczema.

I warmly invite comments from followers because I want this blog to begin a conversation.  Tell me what you've experienced and tried, what works, what didnt.