How these local parents are taking a natural approach to treating their children’s illnesses
Tammy Fisse had nearly given up on finding a treatment that would help soothe her daughter’s eczema. From the age of 6 months, Harper had a red rash covering her body that itched so badly, it kept her awake for most of the night. Fisse felt discouraged with the countless lotions and creams that doctors had prescribed, as none of them had worked. Through a Google search, Fisse located a possible solution for Harper’s insufferable rash.
She started seeing Erin Kenning, a holistic practitioner who uses acupuncture and Chinese medicine to promote healing in the body. After three months, Harper’s eczema improved dramatically. “I did not think that this was going to be our cure,” says Fisse, who lives in Metairie with Harper, now 3. “But with the tips she has given us and the things that she’s done, it’s very hard to be skeptical with the results that we see.”
Eczema, along with ear infections, asthma and croup, are just a handful of the common childhood ailments treated traditionally with antibiotics, steroids or other prescribed drugs. While the vast majority of parents believe that traditional medicine has a place, some feel disillusioned with the end results, which often include side-effects from the medications.
And at times, parents find themselves back at the doctor with their children suffering from the same illnesses weeks later. As such, many parents are looking beyond the mainstream medical community and seek out holistic treatments aimed at both discovering the problem and finding a solution.
Taking an alternative approach
Kenning, who owns Nola Family Acupuncture in River Ridge, treats Harper by using the Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique, or NAET. The method helps to identify and reverse allergic reactions in the body that cause conditions such as eczema, she says. During each session, Harper holds a small vial that contains an allergen, while Kenning performs acupressure on her hand, foot and spine. Most patients need 15 to 20 treatments before completing the process, Kenning says.
In addition to NAET, Kenning has suggested that Harper maintain a gluten- and dairy-free diet, and that Fisse go chemical-free in her house by eschewing certain detergents and cleaning supplies, for example. She also recommends food-based supplements to balance any resulting nutritional deficiencies in her patients’ diets.
“With all symptoms, the goal is two-fold,” Kenning says. “One is to alleviate whatever issues or symptoms the patient is coming in with, and the other is to get to the bottom of it and fix things at that level so that the symptom does not perpetuate.”
Adults and children come to see Kenning for myriad reasons, sometimes driving up to three hours one-way, she says. Their issues range from immune and digestive illnesses to more complicated neurological conditions. One 9-year-old boy had a severe form of Tourette syndrome, with tics shaking his body almost every minute. The tics completely stopped after a series of NAET sessions, Kenning says.
Medicine isn’t always a cure-all
Like Fisse, many of the parents who seek out Kenning are disappointed with traditional medicine because they are not seeing results and their children are caught in a perpetual cycle of medications.
“My motto has always been nature first, drugs last, and I think, unfortunately, that we have gotten to a place where we have this a little bit backwards,” Kenning says. “If more people knew about natural medicine and trusted it, in terms of a first line of defense, there would be much less of a need to run to the doctor.”
Growing up, Ashley Waguespack had never heard of holistic medicine, as both of her parents worked in conventional healthcare. Yet, when the Thibodaux resident began her career as a pediatric occupational therapist, many frustrated parents began asking her for alternative resources for their children who had autism or ADHD. This prompted Waguespack to research the natural side of medicine, eventually leading her to Irene Sebastian and her integrative medicine practice in Metairie.
Now, Waguespack says she rarely uses her pediatrician except to receive a diagnosis. She takes her three boys – Patrick, 7, Samuel, 9, and William, 11 – to Sebastian to treat all of their illnesses. She has successfully cured ear infections, anxiety and croup, all without the use of prescription drugs, Waguespack says.
Treating the person, not the disease
While Sebastian has a medical degree, the doctor mostly practices homeopathic and functional medicine. Homeopathic medicine dates to the 1700s and was founded on the idea that something that can cause a disease can also cure similar symptoms in someone who is sick. Functional medicine focuses on imbalances in the body.
“In homeopathy, we do not treat the disease, per se,” Sebastian says. “We treat the person with the disease.” And though children may have similar ailments, each child may require a different remedy, she says. Sebastian asks about the ailment, such as the accompanying symptoms, past medical history, and changes in the child’s usual habits and temperament. “Only by looking at all of these aspects of the child’s illness can I determine the indicated remedy,” she says.
Sebastian allows that there is definitely a time for conventional medicine, especially when dealing with acute illnesses and traumas. However, for the rest of what it can treat, modern medicine is not always curative and often just manages the symptoms, she says.
As is the case with many alternative therapies, Waguespack pays out of pocket for Sebastian’s services. She is not overly worried about this added expense, as her visits to see Sebastian have become infrequent now that her boys have fewer health problems. Waguespack attributes this to her family’s change to natural health. “It’s been very empowering to know that there is another way to help them through different things and not run to the Tylenol for every little ache and pain,” Waguespack says.
Sarah Herndon is a mother of three and frequent contributor to Nola Family Magazine.
While the decision to look for alternative therapies ultimately is up to you as a parent, the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to keep their pediatricians involved in the process. The AAP notes that a pediatrician can advise of any risks of interactions with a child’s other medications and can also be helpful in evaluating the responsiveness to the actual treatment.