Tag: mindfulness

Is There Evidence for That Therapy, or No?

What do you think of when you think of alternative medicine?

“…there’s no such thing as conventional or alternative or complementary or integrative or holistic medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t. And the best way to sort it out is by carefully evaluating scientific studies – not by visiting Internet chat rooms, reading magazine articles, or talking to friends.”

Paul Offit, MD on Do You Believe in Magic

Do you think of acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, Reiki, or reflexology?

And do you wonder if they really work?

Evidence Based Medicine, or No?

Unfortunately, there are many things that parents do for which there is absolutely no evidence that they can actually help their kids.

Some parents are even encouraged to do them by well meaning pediatricians, who may not know the latest evidence about:

  • If her jaundice had been much worse, she would have gotten phototherapy, not sunlight.
    If her jaundice had been much worse, she would have gotten phototherapy, not sunlight. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

    exposing jaundiced babies to sunlight – not only does it not work, unless they were in the sun all day long (this is done in some parts of the world, but under tinted windows to block UV and infrared light), it isn’t very practical and the AAP advises against it

  • changing your child’s toothbrush after they have strep throat – a study has shown it is not necessary
  • alternating Tylenol and Motrin – it isn’t necessary, promotes fever phobia, and can be dangerous if you mix up the times or dosages
  • putting kids on a BRAT diet when they have diarrhea – not necessary and doesn’t help kids get better any faster

For other therapies, your pediatrician isn’t likely to recommend them unless they are a so-called integrative or holistic pediatrician.

“Attaching the word “therapy” to the back end of an activity is an attempt to give it a status it may not deserve – and that status is subsequently used to garner insurance coverage, hospital resources, consumer patronage, and research dollars. It is also used to constrain how we think about an intervention – implying that perhaps there is some specific mechanism as work, when none need exist.”

Steven Novella on Aroma”therapy”

These non-evidence based “therapies” include:

  • acupressure – acupuncture without the needles
  • amber teething necklaces – if your baby’s amber teething necklace doesn’t seem to be doing anything, it isn’t because it’s fake and not made of genuine Baltic amber, it’s because it’s a teething necklace…
  • aromatherapy
  • chiropractic care of newborns and infants – understand that chiropractors don’t adjust real dislocations or misalignments in your spine, but instead manipulate what they think are subluxations that block the flow of energy that prevent your body’s innate ability to heal itself from working. Since these subluxations can’t be seen on xray, it makes you wonder why they chiropractors do so many xrays, doesn’t it?
  • craniosacral therapy (osteopathy) – has to do with tides and rhythms of cerebrospinal fluid, which these practitioners think they can feel and manipulate…
  • dry or wet cupping – what’s next, leeches?
  • essential oils – they don’t even smell good a lot of the times…
  • gripe water for colic
  • Oscillococcinum will not prevent flu complications.
    Oscillococcinum will not prevent flu complications.

    homeopathic “medicines” for teething, colic, gas, and the flu, etc. – do you know what’s in Oscillococcinum, the homeopathic flu medicine? It’s a mix of the pancreatic juice, liver, and heart of a duck, although it is diluted so many times, it is only the memory of those substances that remain in the little pills you take. How does that help treat your flu symptoms?

  • hyperbaric oxygen therapy – this can actually help treat folks with carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness (divers), but HBOT isn’t going to help your autistic child
  • hypnosis and hypnotherapy for pain, anxiety, and insomnia – hypnosis might work as a distraction technique, but there is no good evidence beyond that
  • magic socks – please don’t make your kids wear ice-cold socks at night, either with or without first covering them with Vicks VapoRub. It’s as helpful as putting a raw, cut onion in their socks, which your shouldn’t do either…
  • magnetic field therapy – do your kids still wear one of those magnetic bracelets to “help” their balance?
  • mindfulness – while a nice idea and it may help you relax, it doesn’t have all of the health benefits that folks claim
  • restrictive and fad diets – from gluten-free diets for kids who don’t have Celiac disease to the GAPS and Gluten Free-Casein Free (GFCF) Diet, these diets don’t help, can be difficult and expensive to follow, and can be dangerous if kids don’t get all of the nutrients they need

Have you tried any of these therapies on your kids?

If you have, do you understand that they “work” by way of meridians (acupuncture), the memory of water, like cures like, and law of the minimum dose (homeopathy), energy and spinal fluid tides (craniosacral therapy), manipulating energy fields in your hands or feet (reflexology), and spiritual energy (Reiki)?

What’s the Harm of Trying Alternative Treatments?

But even if you don’t go to a holistic pediatrician that recommends any of these therapies that don’t work, does your pediatrician discourage you from trying them?

If they do, how strongly?

Do they say it isn’t going to work, so don’t do it, or do they use more permissive phrasing?

The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, tells parents that amber teething necklaces don’t work and pose a risk for strangulation and choking, but then gives advice for “parents who choose to use these necklaces.”

Since they don’t work, why not just tell them to save their money and not use them?

Do you ever wonder, what’s the harm in using these things that don’t work?

“Rather than getting distracted by alluring rituals and elaborate pseudoscientific explanations for how they work, we should focus on maximizing the non-specific elements of the therapeutic interaction, and adding that to physiological or psychological interventions that have specific efficacy.”

Steven Novella on EMDR and Acupuncture – Selling Non-specific Effects

If your pediatrician knows that homeopathic medicines aren’t going to work, but tells you to try them if you want, what are they going to let you try next – black salve, coffee enemas, colloidal silver, dry needling, earthing, faith healing, iridology, psychic surgery, slapping, tapping, or shamanism?

In addition to kids actually being harmed by many of these alternative therapies and by missing out on real medicine that could have helped them, putting so much focus on these non-evidence based “treatments” is a waste of time and money that could go towards really helping people.

And be many of the folks who pursue and push these types of alternative treatments also push myths and propaganda about vaccines or seek to skip or delay their child’s vaccines, choosing to follow a follow a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule that leaves their kids at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.

Don’t be fooled.

Learn to be skeptical, stick to the evidence, and stick with medicine that works.

What to Know About Evidence Based Medicine

There is plenty of evidence that alternative therapies don’t work and can do harm. Stick with medicine that works to keep your kids safe and healthy.

More on Evidence Based Medicine

Mindfulness for Kids and Parents

Have you ever heard of mindfulness?

These kids don't look like they need any help focusing on the present moment - having fun playing with each other!
These kids don’t look like they need any help focusing on the present moment – having fun playing with each other! Photo by Todd Fahrner

Once upon a time, you probably would not have if you weren’t Buddhist.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation.

“Most of the time, we are lost in the past or carried away by the future. When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace, and love.”

Thich Nhat Hanh on The Long Road Turns To Joy

But much like yoga, an ancient Hindu practice, mindfulness has become popular without understanding its spiritual ties.

Benefits of Mindfulness

Why practice mindfulness?

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

You can actually find some studies that have found all kinds of benefits of mindfulness, from increased immune functioning to boosting your memory and attention span.

Now, I would view any of those benefits with a lot of skepticism, but the benefits that do seem plausible include decreasing stress and anxiety and improving your sleep, etc.

“Mindfulness meditation on breath, perhaps the most well-known type, involves sitting quietly, resting or closing your eyes and bringing your attention to your breath. When your attention drifts away, which it is likely to do, simply usher your attention back to your breath without judgment.”

AAP on Just Breathe: The Importance of Meditation Breaks for Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics even suggests that mindfulness meditation can be helpful for children, although it is a clinical report from the Section on Integrative Medicine that is examining “best-available evidence.”

Does Mindfulness Work?

Many of us would like mindfulness to work.

Stress and anxiety are big problems today, both among kids and their parents. Their pediatricians too. So should we all start reading books on mindfulness?

Or go to a mindfulness group parenting class or start mindfulness-based cognitive therapy?

“Despite existing methodological limitations within each body of literature, there is a clear convergence of findings from correlational studies, clinical intervention studies, and laboratory-based, experimental studies of mindfulness—all of which suggest that mindfulness is positively associated with psychological health, and that training in mindfulness may bring about positive psychological effects.”

Keng et al on Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies

Considering that many reviews have been critical and the one with the most praise could only find a suggestion of positive associations, although I have always liked the idea of mindfulness, I am skeptical of its use as a medical treatment.

“I think the best current summary is to consider mindfulness like yoga, or a specific form of exercise. There is evidence that doing yoga has specific health benefits. However, those benefits are likely not specific to yoga and are universal to exercise. It is therefore more accurate to say that exercise has many health benefits, and yoga is a form of exercise.”

Steven Novella on Is Mindfulness Meditation Science-Based?

Can we just say that being mindful is a way to help you relax?

And being able to relax has some health benefits?

Give mindfulness a try if you want. Just don’t expect miracles and realize that with all of the distractions that you likely have in your life, being truly mindful is going to be much more difficult than you could ever imagine.

And while you can sell mindfulness, it is now a billion dollar industry, you can’t really buy it.

You can start with turning off the TV unless you are watching a specific program. And putting your phone down when the kids are around. Basically, get away from always trying to multitask and focus on who you are with or what you are doing at any one moment.

And learn about breathing

What to Know About Mindfulness for Kids and Parents

There might not be much proof that it works, but mindfulness might be worth a try if you are just looking for a way to help you and your kids relax.

More About Mindfulness for Kids and Parents