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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Natural Therapies for Keeping Kids Healthy: Local Practitioners Prescribe Preventive Wellness Care

Jul 31, 2012 07:37PM ● By Linda Sechrist

In 2002, the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics included a supplement on alternative medicine, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The data was impressive: 38 percent of U.S. adults reported using complementary health care practices, including acupuncture, dietary supplements and chiropractic medicine, for wellness and prevention. With the growing popularity of these modalities, now commonly used in conjunction with mainstream medicine, it is natural for parents to inquire if they are safe for children as part of a plan for maximizing the natural strengths of the body and its capacity to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery.

Natural Awakenings recently queried several local natural health practitioners about how children can benefit from holistic approaches to health and well-being. Their answers offer insightful reassurance.


The most up-to-date survey results, published in 2008 by NIH, indicated that 150,000 children had used acupuncture in 2007 for headaches, back and neck pain, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Local acupuncturists John Patton, founder of the Healing Arts Center, in Naples, and Phyllis Weber, owner of Gulf Coast Acupuncture & Herbs, are quick to agree with well-known author and physician Dr. Andrew Weil, who suggests that the reason acupuncture hasn’t been more popular with children in the U.S. is mainly because youngsters tend to be afraid of needles.

Patton and Weber’s answer to the fear factor is acupressure, a sister treatment to acupuncture that focuses on the same pressure points and meridians. Rather than using needles on their young patients, they gently press key healing points to avoid over-stimulating a child’s bio-energetic system.

Both agree that acupressure is effective for building up a child’s immune system and keeping it strong. “This is important in the early years, when a child’s immune system is working to ward off all sorts of childhood illnesses,” says Weber.

According to Patton, it’s a win-win proposition for parents to introduce children to complementary alternatives at an early age. “Children are quick to respond to natural solutions such as herbs and homeopathies, as well as proper nutrition and supplements, which most acupuncturists are familiar with,” he says.


For promoting health and as a treatment for common ailments, many families throughout the nation are using chiropractic as an integral part of wellness care, as noted in a NIH cross-sectional survey of chiropractors and parents of pediatric patients.

Southwest Florida chiropractors, such as Dr. Matt Bergtold, owner of Advanced Chiropractic Health & Awareness Center, Dr. Chip Shemansky, owner of Gulfshore Chiropractic Clinics and Dr. Michele Pelletiere, owner of Pelletiere Family Healing Center, support the recommendation of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA): a chiropractic examination during a child’s first year of life is integral to providing them with a head start in good health.

Bergtold and Shemansky advise that they adjusted their own children shortly after birth, and Pelletiere notes that she did the same for her nephews. “Spinal trauma can occur during birth, as well as from tumbles while learning to sit up or walk,” says Bergtold, who points to an ICPA survey of parents which indicates improved sleep and immune function for kids who saw a chiropractor.

Shemansky considers chiropractic adjustments a necessity for children that participate in contact sports or those which call for repetitive movements, such as running. “It also helps to prevent injuries and increases your child’s ability to perform better,” he says.

“Adjustment of the first cervical vertebrae can be effective as an approach to chronic earache in young children,” advises Pelletiere, who clarifies that children’s Eustachian tubes are shorter and aligned horizontally from the ear to the inside of the mouth, making it easier for bacteria and viruses to enter the inner ear. As youngsters grow, these tubes begin to naturally angle downward and drain better, sometimes lessening the occurrence of earaches.


The Public Health Dental Program of the Florida Bureau of Family and Community Health advises parents to schedule their child’s first dental exam before the age of 1. Parents of newborns may not realize that as soon as a baby’s teeth break through the gums, they are susceptible to decay. Early treatment—beginning at age 2 or younger—can save most children from the physical and psychological consequences of dental neglect.

Baby teeth also play a significant role in a child’s overall health. Without the front baby teeth, it’s hard to bite into foods like carrots and apples. Teeth help a child to chew and strengthen facial and jaw muscles.

Dr. Bradley Piotrowski, a board-certified periodontist who practices in Naples, notes, “Baby teeth hold the place for permanent teeth that are still forming in the gums, so it is important not to lose those teeth prematurely. Self-esteem and the comfort of the child are also important considerations.”

Mental Health

The National Alliance on Mental Illness advises that one-half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, which is why Lea Leonard and Kimberly Rodgers, licensed clinical social workers in Collier County, believe that parents should consider psychotherapy for children through the important lens of prevention.

Rodgers indicates that unresolved childhood issues trouble many of the adults that use her services. Addressing issues at an early age, or as close to onset as possible, can prevent more severe behaviors like substance abuse, emotional disturbances such as suicidal ideation, clinically diagnosed mental disorders, or even criminal behavior. “With early prevention, children have the opportunity to live a happy, successful life,” says Rodgers.

Leonard advises that changes in a child’s behavior—nightmares; clinginess; apprehension of things or situations the youngster had not previously feared; and regressive behaviors such as bedwetting, thumb sucking or difficulty with bedtime—are indicators that psychotherapy might be helpful.

Children can naturally express their feelings through play therapy, find validation with an objective therapist and learn healthier ways to cope with their emotions. This is especially effective for children that are experiencing difficulty with a transition (such as divorce, death, birth of a sibling or relocation) or are exhibiting other emotional or behavioral concerns. A child that is a victim of bullying, or is the bully, can also benefit from therapy.

More than two centuries ago, Benjamin Franklin wisely noted, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Natural health practitioners agree that his advice is still good today—simple and safe preventive measures work best for keeping children healthy.


Local Resources for Holistic Pediatric Care


Acupuncture Center of Naples, Edgemont Office Park, 5683 Naples Boulevard, Naples; 239-513-9232.

Axis Natural Medicine, 7680 Cambridge Manor Place, Suite 100, Fort Myers; 239-288-0900.

Goldman Chiropractic & Acupuncture, 1001 Crosspointe Drive, Suite 1, Naples; 239-254-0003.

Gulf Coast Acupuncture & Herbs, 971 Michigan Avenue, Naples; 239-841-6611. 6300 Corporate Court, Suite 104, Fort Myers; 239-936-4199.

Healing Arts Center, 971 Michigan Avenue, Naples; 239-262-6828.

Liu’s Acupuncture Center, 803 Myrtle Terrace, Naples; 239-403-9077. 8971 Daniels Center Drive, Suite 304, Fort Myers; 239-939-1222.

Lotus Blossom Clinic, 6710 Winkler Road, Suite 2, Fort Myers; 239-277-1399.

Nicholas A. Shirghio Acupuncture Clinic, Airport Professional Center, 3811 Airport Road North, Suite 206, Naples; 239-777-7063.

TAE Healthy Aging, 3811 Airport Road North, Suite 203, Naples; 239-430-6800.


Advanced Chiropractic Health & Awareness Center, LLC, 860 111th Avenue North, Suite 7, Naples; 239-260-5644.

Goldman Chiropractic & Acupuncture, 1001 Crosspointe Drive, Suite 1, Naples; 239-254-0003.

Gulfshore Chiropractic Clinics, Castello Professional Park, 1044 Castello Drive, Suite 213, Naples. Bonita Community Health Center, 3501 Health Center Boulevard, Suite 2430, Bonita Springs. 239-948-5727.

Pelletiere Family Healing Center, Sunshine Plaza, 9138 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs; 239-949-1222.


William E. Lovett, DDS, 860 111th Avenue North, Suite 5, Naples; 239-593-4911.

Roger J. Pint, Jr., DMD, Bonita Dental Studio, 9200 Bonita Beach Road, Suite 111, Bonita Springs; 239-676-8730.

Bradley Piotrowski, DDS, MSD, 1044 Castello Drive, Suite 202, Naples; 239-263-6003.

Dr. Mark L. Stites, DDS, Naples Dental Wellness, 444 Tamiami Trail North, Suite 6, Naples; 239-263-2636.

Mental Health – Psychology and Social Work

Lea Leonard, LCSW, CTS, BCN, Wings of Change, 791 Harbour Drive, Naples; 239-287-0810.

Kimberly Rodgers, LCSW, RPT-S, Monarch Therapy, LLC, Quail Plaza, 4500 Executive Drive, Suite 105, Naples; 239-325-9210.

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