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Integrative Medicine for Children: An Overview of Testing and Treatment Options

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Integrative Medicine for Children: An Overview of Testing and Treatment Options

Did you know that 2 out of every 5 kids in the United States between the ages of 6 to 17 years old have a chronic health condition? This is a stark reality and one that needs desperate intervention. Bringing integrative healthcare practitioners into the mainstream of medicine holds exponential potential in addressing this crisis. It is also a desirable avenue, as one study found that 80% of children with chronic health conditions utilize some form of integrative medicine. Let's dive into what integrative medicine is and how it can benefit pediatric health conditions.


What is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine is a collaborative form of healthcare that focuses on the whole person. This philosophy of medicine considers the person’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual states and how these areas impact the health concerns they seek to care for. There are a variety of integrative healthcare practitioners, including physicians, chiropractors, herbalists, naturopathic doctors, various therapists, traditional Chinese medicine providers, acupuncturists, and nutritionists. 

Providers in this area utilize many forms of complementary medicine but are often still knowledgeable of when Western medicine intervention is necessary. This form of healthcare empowers individuals to play an active role in their health and wellness because it emphasizes understanding your own body and how all areas of life impact your health. Integrative medicine is an opportunity to incorporate natural medicine and lifestyle changes which can improve a child’s health while also helping to empower them to lead a healthy lifestyle into their adolescent and adult life. 

What Are The Benefits of Integrative Medicine for Children?

Integrative medicine for your child’s health is an added layer of care. Research in the field of integrative medicine has revealed a positive correlation to health outcomes, patient satisfaction, and a reduction in cost spent on overall healthcare. Historically speaking, integrative medicine is most commonly used with children to treat musculoskeletal pain conditions, colds, stress, anxiety, ADHD, and insomnia. Integrative health care is beneficial in helping establish a healthy gut, which in turn can address and support conditions such as constipation, diarrhea and treatment of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) in kids. 

Over the last few decades, we have clinically seen a peak in conditions involving neurocognitive and behavioral issues. With 1 in 36 children diagnosed on the autism spectrum (ASD), integrative medicine can assist in functional medicine testing, looking at concomitant conditions ranging from environmental toxicity, gut dysfunction, and nutrient deficiencies. Complementary interventions such as behavioral therapy and integrative nutrition can also be supportive care for those with ASD. Additional. In recent years, there has been a spike in adolescent depression, with teens being highly impacted. Utilizing exercise therapy like yoga and lifestyle modification through dietary changes and sleep can address symptoms of depression. Integrative care through herbal medicine, supplemental nutrient support, homeopathy, and acupuncture can also effectively treat depression in kids. With these conditions in mind, many integrative practitioners will either run functional medicine tests or refer to providers who can. 

Functional Medicine Labs Integrative Medicine Practitioners Use For Children

There are various functional medicine labs available for pediatric patients. Here are six common functional lab tests that integrative doctors may order.

Comprehensive Stool Test

A stool test can look at overall gut health, analyze microflora imbalance, or be used diagnostically to find a pathogenic infection. These tests can be helpful in cases of constipation, diarrhea, SIBO, and even cognitive and behavioral issues. Doctor’s Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis will look at gut flora diversity and inflammation and can detect the presence of infectious pathogens. This test will also give both natural and conventional treatment recommendations to address pathogenic microbes like E. Coli or Candida. 

GI-MAP + Zonulin by Diagnostic Solutions is another great stool analysis test that looks for gut pathogens and provides a quantitative measurement. Knowing how to present an invading microbe is, is helpful for treatment and re-assessment. This test also comes with a Zonulin marker, which is an indicator used to test for leaky gut. 

Food Sensitivity Testing

What your child is consuming could be unknowingly contributing to their pains, gut discomfort, poor sleep, anxiety, or hyperactivity. An IgG Food Sensitivity Panel blood spot can look at 184 different foods and determine if your immune system is having a delayed sensitivity reaction. Working with a naturopathic doctor or holistic nutritionist who can assist you in a food elimination plan, gut healing protocol, and potential reintroduction of food items could be key components in your child's health. 

Micronutrient Panel

A deficiency in vitamins and minerals can contribute to issues to symptoms of ADHD, insomnia, autism spectrum disorder, and many health ailments.


Children with chronic disruptive sleep, especially with issues falling asleep, could benefit from a Melatonin Profile test. This salivary test includes three salivary collection tubes for one of each evening, nighttime, and morning sample. Information from this test will provide a snapshot representation of your child's melatonin release in relation to their sleep cycle.

Organic Acid Test

An OAT is a urine test that will look at categories of intestinal health, some vitamin and minerals, neurotransmitters, and oxidative stress. This is a recommended option for kids that are chronically ill or have neurocognitive conditions that are impacting their well-being. The results of this test can be helpful in cases of anxiety, depression, diabetes, or chronic inflammation. 

Environmental Pollutants Profile

Every day we’re exposed to toxins in the air and water. Some of these environmental toxins can compound in the blood and tissues. Studies have shown the direct impact that toxins such as pesticides can have on the body. To explore if your child has been exposed to environmental toxins, such as the pesticide organophosphates, which are known risk factors for ADHD, take this easy at-home urine test.

SIBO Breath Test

Commonwealth Diagnostics offers a pediatric-specific breath test that analyzes hydrogen and methane gas levels after ingesting a lactulose solution. Results can reveal the presence of these gases, which at certain levels is indicative of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. SIBO can be a contributor to constipation, diarrhea, stomach pains, and other signs of GI discomfort in kids. 

Treatment Options in Integrative Medicine For Children

There are a variety of complementary modalities to incorporate within integrative care. From nutrition to chiropractic care, there are natural therapeutics that can support or promote wellness. 

Nutritional Therapy 

Integrative nutrition utilizes “food as medicine”, meaning that food is more than just the calories and categories. What a child’s diet consists of becomes the building blocks to foundational health. With this in mind, it’s essential to take into account the macronutrient balance (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) while also considering the food quality and an individual's response to food items. 

A general recommendation put out by the USDA is My Plate. My Plate recommends that kids ages 2-18 should eat a recommended amount of calories based on their age group, and consumption should include a variety of nutrient-dense foods in the categories of fruits and vegetables, proteins, whole grains, and dairy. Where the government nutrition recommendations are lacking is when it comes to individualized nutrition through a holistic, integrative lens. Whether a child is suffering from depression, anxiety, ADHD or they are having sleep issues, constipation, and diarrhea, there are dietary factors to consider. A step further than the USDA recommendations would be to follow a Mediterranean diet that has shown to be beneficial for many of the above-mentioned conditions. This way of eating includes fresh and local seasonal produce, healthy fats such as olive oil, fish, nuts, legumes, unprocessed grains, a variety of spices and herbs, eggs, chicken, and minimally processed dairy and red meat (8,14,46). 

Herbal Medicine and Supplements

When looking to support a child with natural products during times of illness, discomfort, or prevention, there are a handful of commonly used herbs and supplements. It’s important to keep in mind dosing when using natural medicines with children. Utilizing Clark’s Rule, which is taking the child’s weight, dividing it by 150, and then using that number to multiply by the adult dosage for the appropriate individualized dose. 


This plant has an active ingredient called curcumin which is highly beneficial in cases of gut inflammation and musculoskeletal pain. This plant can be used in a variety of ways, from encapsulated, liquid extract, or as a spice in foods. A therapeutic dose would be based on the individual child by using Clark’s Rule, but there was one study looking at the use of turmeric titration in kids with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which reached a dose of 2 grams twice a day. 

Digestive Support

There are a few key herbal medicine and supplements that can assist with gut health in kids. Peppermint is a great plant used for digestive complaints in children. From cases of nausea and vomiting to horrible abdominal pains, utilizing peppermint can be beneficial. Probiotic supplementation can flood the microflora and digestive tract with good bacteria, which helps keep a healthy gut microbiome and thriving immune system. Additional digestive support, especially in cases of constipation, would be fiber. Eating high-fiber foods, especially insoluble options such as oats, whole grains, beans, and flaxseed, can be helpful in easing constipation. The recommended daily dose for children ranges from 19 to 38 grams/day, depending on age and gender. 


This is a commonly used hormone supplement used to support sleep. Children with insomnia or disordered sleep are often recommended melatonin as a first line of therapy. The recommended safe dosage for kids falls between 1 to 5 mg. Depending on the child’s age and exact issues regarding sleep, an integrative medicine doctor can help make a clinical decision on the best course of action for your child. 


The brain and nervous system require specific nutrients to operate optimally. One of those is omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can improve cognitive function in kids with ADHD, behavioral issues such as hyperactivity and conduct problems, or PANS (or PANDAS), which is an acute onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms with or without a streptococcal infection. Omega-3 fatty acids can be supplemented at a dose of 600-2,400 mg/day for children with ADHD. It’s recommended to consult with a holistic doctor when determining appropriate supplementation and dosing.    

Mind-Body Therapies

Relaxing and self-awareness practices can help regulate a child’s nervous system, help them slow down and process, and promotes connection to others. Meditation helps kids calm their minds and be present at the moment, which is absolutely necessary in today’s modern world full of fast-paced living and overstimulation. Combining the integrative practices of yoga with mindfulness and meditation has shown wonderful benefits for kids with ADHD. This is not the only condition that could benefit from these holistic interventions as it truly does help kids adapt to external stimuli and learn to self-regulate when needed. 


A traditional Chinese medicine practice that has been widely beneficial in integrative medicine is acupuncture. Trained acupuncturist takes a holistic approach when deciding what points to use for treatment. The treatments involve using small needle insertions at acupuncture points related to energy flow to help address the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects of a person. 

A systematic review of acupuncture in the pediatric population found it to be a safe intervention when performed by a skilled practitioner. To find a National Board-Certified Acupuncturist™ who is qualified to practice this modality, you can check this directory. Childhood conditions that could benefit from acupuncture include ear infections, colic, diarrhea, constipation, coughs, flu, allergies, asthma, eczema, anxiety, sleep disturbances, depression, headaches, painful periods, and acne. 


Homeopathy is a traditional but alternative form of medicine. This modality utilizes the principle of “like-cures-like,” which means the patient's symptom presentation can be cured with a homeopathic medicine that would ignite those symptoms in a healthy person. In addition, homeopathy utilizes the “law of infinitesimals”, which has to do with the potency of the substance being used. This second principle institutes that the more dilute the medicines (homeopathic substances) are, the more potent they are. 

With these laws of homeopathy in mind, a trained practitioner is key because there is a precise and detailed method for doing a homeopathic intake. Finding the exact remedy to use with a child is based on the child’s whole makeup and unique symptoms. While evidence-based research is not as abundant as conventional medicine, homeopathy has been clinically effective for centuries. Common acute conditions that homeopathy is used for in kids include colic, cuts, teething, and bruises. Another study showed that an individualized homeopathic approach is effective for children with ADHD. Evidence from a variety of studies reveals that homeopathy could be an avenue for complementary treatment in cases of respiratory issues, diarrhea, skin issues, and behavioral challenges. 

Chiropractic Care

Integrative care with a chiropractor is an excellent addition to whole-health pediatric care. Chiropractors are trained physicians who emphasize the body’s natural healing capacity through spinal manipulation, movement therapy, stretching, and diet. The most common area of expertise a chiropractor is known for is ailments of the musculoskeletal system. For kids, this may be muscle and joint pain

Studies show that while chiropractors are the most utilized integrative and complementary health care sought for kids, there is still limited therapeutic evidence on many of the conditions they treat, such as colic, ear infections, asthma, headaches, ASD, and constipation.

Integrative Medicine As Complementary to Conventional Medicine in Pediatrics

Bridging the gap between integrative practitioners and conventional medicine is a well-rounded approach to patient care. Families are seeking ways to improve their health and also want alternative options to drug-based interventions. As always, there is a time and place for Western medicine, but these complementary care options can help shift the paradigm to holistic care and healing. 



Integrative medicine entails a wide variety of complementary approaches and therapeutics to assist in pediatric medicine. Collaboration between conventional medicine and integrative practice would provide children with a more holistic approach to addressing the complexity of human health and healing. With the increase in chronic health conditions and the desire for more integrative care, we have an opportunity to change the landscape of what health and wellness can look like in this country. 

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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