Todays Q & A expert is Suzy McCleary – a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and former paediatric nurse from AcuKids. I’m sure this interview will give you a clear insight into this wonderful therapy.
Q – How does a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach to restoring health in a child differ to a Western Medical approach?
A – Although Western Medicine is exceptional when it comes to life-threatening acute conditions & treatments which require immediate care, such as broken bones, severe infections or anything that may require surgery, its focus is often on the presenting symptoms of the illness rather than on the whole child.
In contrast the approach used by TCM to restoring health in a child, focuses on treating the underlying cause known as the root imbalance. Treatment is then customized to each child’s individual needs. It looks at the whole child (body, mind, and spirit), their environment as well as all aspects of their lifestyle. According to TCM most health problems are caused by these imbalances in the body. Treatment, including using a variety of techniques such as massage (pediatric tuina), acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine which aims to correct these imbalances by stimulating the body’s own natural healing ability. This not only clears the symptoms, but can strengthen the child’s body, prevent future flare-ups with minimal or non-existent side effects.
Q – As a Naturopath, I use a variety of techniques and tools to determine the ‘root cause’ of a presenting health complaint. What do you use?
A – There are 4 basic methods or tools used in Chinese Medicine to determine the root cause of a presenting health complaint. Known as the 4 examinations these include looking, listening/smelling, feeling & questioning.
1. The first examination is looking.
Often this takes place without the child or parent being aware that anything is being done. Together with a general observation of the complexion, hair and body shape a TCM practitioner also looks for the presence of a blue vein at the bridge of a baby’s nose. If this vein is visible it often suggests a weakness in the baby’s digestion. They are particularly sensitivity to sugar. These infants are often referred to as “sugar bugs.”
TCM practitioners also look at the eyes of the child. This is called inspecting the shen. The brighter & clearer the eyes, the stronger the health & vitality of the child.
Another specific diagnosis is the inspection of the tongue. We look at both the tongue body & the coat. This gives up a much clearer picture of the health of the child & the state of their digestion. For example, a white slimy tongue coat may suggest that the child is having difficulty digesting milk or food which can lead to poor appetite, loose bowels, frequent ear infections or a cough.
2. Another technique is one of listening & smelling.
This includes the sound of a child’s breathing, voice or any cough. We also smell the child’s breath. Breath which has a strong offensive odour “bad breath” also indicates a difficulty in digestion & that food is not moving properly through the digestive system.
3. Feeling is also an important part of a diagnosis.
This includes feeling the texture of the skin, the fontanelle in an infant, the abdomen & in a child over the age of 2-3 we also feel the pulse. This can reveal important information in determining the root cause of the disease.
4. Targeted questioning
Finally, we question the older child or parent, gathering specific information to aid in our diagnosis. There are a specific set of questions, which include asking about chills & fever, pain, sleep, thirst, appetite, urine & stool & sweating.
All of these diagnostic methods give information that helps us to determine the condition and constitution to be treated.
Q – What conditions in children do you find are most responsive to using TCM and acupuncture.
A – Parents generally seek treatment for chronic or recurrent illnesses mainly involving the digestive or respiratory system. They may also be seeking treatment for emotional or behavioural problems such as ADHD, especially if they want to avoid their child taking medication. Thankfully these conditions are all very responsive to TCM & acupuncture.
According to TCM, most diseases or illness in children begin due to a weakness or imbalance in the digestive system. This is often related to improper diet & lifestyle. As a result we often see many digestive problems including constipation, diarrhoea, tummy aches and pains, colic, wind, offensive poos, wind & fussy eating. Thankfully these conditions also respond favorably using TCM &/or acupuncture.
As TCM also address the child’s constitution, we also find it very effective for treating conditions that may result in a weakened immune system. These include constant colds, flu, chronic coughs, recurrent ear infections, recurrent upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections & asthma.
Other conditions include skin conditions such as eczema, school sores & rashes, sleeping problems & troublesome teething which all respond well to TCM treatment.
Together with acupuncture, which in children we often referred to as “taps” there are a number of other techniques we use. These includes needleless acupuncture using lasers, diet therapy, lifestyle advice & cupping. Although children can fall ill very easily, thankfully they often recover at the same rate. We are usually able to move them back to health just as quickly, usually with only minor intervention.
Suzy McCleary – Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncturist, Herbalist.
Suzy McCleary is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, registered with AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency). She has a Bachelor of Science (Chinese Medicine / Human Biology) from internationally recognised university RMIT in Melbourne.
Suzy McCleary is also a former paediatric nurse, with a Bachelor of Nursing & has a Post Graduate Diploma in Advanced Clinical Nursing (Paediatrics). She has extensive experience in the care of children & their families, working at the world renown Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, as well as numerous Children’s Hospitals around the world including Boston Children’s & Denver Children’s Hospital in Colorado.
As a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Suzy established Enhanced Health. Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in 2006 where she has treats all members of the family from infants to the elderly providing caring, gentle yet effective treatments, aimed at helping the body to heal itself naturally. Her clinic provides acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, lifestyle & dietary advice.
In 2014, she developed the children’s health blog acukids.com.au aimed at providing parents essential information & tips on helping to heal & keep kids healthy naturally. Suzy has also recently founded Acukids- Pediatric Wellness Centre, an extension of her already busy clinic, with a specific focus on children’s allergies including food allergies, eczema & asthma.