Rachel Streiff was tired of the returning ear infections in her children, with no solution except another trip to the doctor for antibiotics.
"It just seemed to me that nothing was a permanent solution. I was kind of at my wit’s end," she said. "I just thought I can’t do this anymore."
When her 4-year-old son, Carson, got yet another earache, the Tempe mother went to a naturopathic physician. Streiff followed the naturopath’s advice to use homeopathic remedies, and Carson’s ear infection cleared up without antibiotics, and without diarrhea from the drug.
"They’re really in there to treat the root cause," said Streiff, whose son and daughter now see a naturopathic physician exclusively. Streiff is nearly seven months pregnant and getting her prenatal care from a naturopathic physician. "I trust naturopathic medicine more than I trust conventional medicine."
Streiff is among a growing number of parents turning to alternative therapies for their children, said Matthew Baral, a naturopathic physician in Scottsdale and professor of pediatrics at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Tempe.
"My practice is growing every week, and it seems mainly because parents see their children aren’t getting any better," he said.
Parents are bringing their children in with many of the same chronic conditions — asthma, ear infections, allergies, attention deficit disorder — and prescription drugs are not helping, said Baral. In many cases, their conditions seem to be getting worse.
"There are a lot of chronic conditions we don’t seem to have a good handle on," Baral said. "We are not addressing the root cause of a lot of these conditions."
Naturopathic physicians are looking beneath the scientific surface of ailments, probing a patient’s lifestyle, environment, and eating and sleeping habits. First-time visits usually last more than an hour.
"They want real details on your (child’s health) history. They want dates and ages," Streiff said. When Baral took the health history of Streiff ’s 8-year-old daughter, Natalie, he discovered she was allergic to dairy products, a source of her health problems, Streiff said.
Baral said nutritional problems are often a key factor in children’s medical conditions, yet diet can be overlooked or underestimated in conventional medicine.
Nonetheless, he said, parents can be hesitant to take their children to a naturopath, usually because they don’t know about alternative therapies.
Another barrier is health insurance, which may not cover visits to a naturopath. Streiff said she made the initial investment in naturopathic care for her children because in the long run, it will pay off.
"I’m banking on fewer doctor’s visits in the future," she said.
Find a naturopath
To find a naturopathic physician with a degree from an accredited school, visit the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association online at www.aznma.com or the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences at www.scnm.edu.