Integrative medicine is grounded in the definition of health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Integrative medicine is an approach to care that addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Integrative medicine uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimum health.
“Stress” is something all human beings, children and adults experience on a daily basis. Our bodies have hormones and chemicals that interact with our brain, nervous, immune and endocrine systems to enable us to handle stress. These mechanisms are what allow us to learn, adapt and most importantly survive. However, if the stress is severe or chronic, it can cause changes to our mind and body and may lead to significant health problems. Those health problems can be both acute and immediate, as well as chronic.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) are stressful or traumatic events that occur in a child’s life before 18 years of age. In the 1998 ACE Survey, 10 categories of ACE’s were looked at. The results from over 17,000 respondents were profound and astonishing; showing a strong association of adverse childhood experiences with negative health, psychological and social problems across a persons lifespan.
There has been more research since the original ACE Study. This additional research has shown that children’s early social and environmental experiences as well as their genes, influence negatively or positively the behaviors, development, physical health, mental health and a child’s performance in school. Research has also shown that children exposed to stressful events without the buffering presence of a caring, supportive and nurturing adult increases the risk of chronic illnesses in adulthood. Some of those chronic illnesses are diabetes, depression, thyroid disorder, heart disease and even cancer.
The good news is that if a child is raised in an environment that has a caring, stable and nurturing adult, their future success and health are significantly improved.
Stress response can be divided into 3 different definitions:
Positive Stress Response
- Brief, infrequent, mild to moderate intensity
- Necessary for appropriate and healthy childhood development
- Social /emotional buffers can be a nurturing adult that allows a return to baseline
- Positive stress is part of normal development and increases resilience
- Receiving Vaccines
- A 2 year old who stumbles while running
- First day of Kindergarten
- Taking a test
- Going to the dentist
Tolerable Stress Response
- More severe stress response than that of Positive Stress Response
- Greater magnitude of adversity or threat
- Limited in Duration
- Presence of a caring, stable and nurturing adult
- Death of a family member
- Contentious divorce
- Natural disaster
- A move
- Serious illness or injury
Toxic Stress Response
- Extreme, frequent or prolonged activation of the physiologic stress response
- No buffering presence of a stable, caring and nurturing adult
- Cause permanent changes and long lasting effects
- Brain architecture
- Neuroendocrine-Immune (NEI)
- Household dysfunction
Below are 5 proven strategies to help nurture a healthy stress response and decrease the long term consequences to health.
DIET / NUTRITION
- Include colorful fruits and vegetables in all 3 meals
- Eat breakfast everyday
- Decrease or eliminate sugar in the diet (desserts and added sugar)
- Drink more water daily
- Zero soda pop / cola
- Limit or eliminate juice all together
- Try to eat meals together as a family
- Goal should be 30-60 minutes/ day of “activity”/exercise
- Start early in a child’s life to make it a habit
- Find ways to make exercise fun
- Limit screen time
- Preferably less than 2 hours per day
- Turn computers, television, I-Phone off 1-2 hours before bedtime
- Spend more time together as a family with no technology usage.
- Set bedtime and awakening to get the needed sleep
- Go to sleep on time
- Get up daily within an hour of the same time
- Infants – 12-16 hrs.
- Toddlers – 11-14 hrs.
- Preschoolers – 10-13 hrs.
- Grade school – 9-12 hrs.
- Teenagers and adults – 8-10 hrs.
- Turn off “screens” 1 hr. before bedtime
- Important for:
DESTRESSORS – MINDFULNESS
- Mind-body methods
- Guided imagery
- Neurological feedback
- Take a breath and observe
- Be present in the moment
- Cultivate strong family bonds
- Turn off all electronic screens during meal times
- Have designated family time built into schedules
- Have meaningful, and even difficult conversations
- Develop and spend time with positive, supportive friends
- Having a pet
- Develops a sense of responsibility
- Can be a great source of unconditional love
- Take part in and develop a sense of self worth.
Examples; Boy & Girl Scouts, volunteer work, church activities.
ACE Too High- https://acestoohigh.com
American Academy of Pediatrics- www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy and policy/aap-health-inititives/EBCD pages/default.aspx
Center for Youth Wellness- https://centerforyouthwellness.org
Center on Developing Brain- https://developingchild.harvard.edu
Resilience – http://resiliencetrumpsace.org
Important Videos, Movies, and Books
- Brain Hero- https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/brain-hero
- TED MED – Dr. Nadine Burke- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95ovIJ3dsNk
- The Deepest Well, by Dr. Nadine Burke