Pediatric Functional Medicine
Published on February 24, 2019
by Dr. Caitlin Gordon

Pediatric Functional Medicine

Published on February 24, 2019 by Dr. Caitlin Gordon

three little girls sitting next to each otherI believe in sparing kids from unnecessary medication and medical procedures. We can do so much to protect our children’s health (especially from antibiotics) by educating ourselves on safer natural options. Education on safe alternatives helps us avoid succumbing to fear-driven marketing when it comes to pediatric healthcare.

Children, like adults, benefit from addressing symptoms with the goal of treating the underlying cause. Children don’t always have the self-awareness to make sense of how they’re feeling and the myriad of contributing factors. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to find a skilled medical practitioner to help put the puzzle pieces together. Working with a functional medicine clinician can save your child from unnecessary medication or procedures.

Below are the tests I use most frequently in my practice to help identify root cause factors in your child’s symptoms. It’s also important to address stress in the family. All the symptoms listed can be due to emotional stress. Conflict and even unspoken tension between primary caregivers, between siblings, and social conflict outside the home needs to be addressed.

Pediatric Functional Medicine Testing

Testing takes the guesswork out of designing safe and effective interventions for your child’s health. Children heal quickly in response to changes in diet and environment.

GPL Toxicity Panel

This is a urine test that looks at markers of chemical exposure. I recommend this test for children who live in areas near fracking/natural gas extraction, superfund sites, busy streets, factories, or other sources of water and air pollution.

If there are parents, grandparents, or siblings with autoimmune diseases, asthma, allergies, ADHD, or cancer I recommend this test as well.

The following symptoms may be related to toxic environmental exposures:

  • ADHD
  • Hyperactivity
  • Behavioral issues
  • Emotional regulation issues
  • Headaches
  • Sinus or respiratory irritation
  • Rashes
  • Developmental delays
  • Sensory processing symptoms
  • Sleep disturbance

OAT Panel

This is my favorite pediatric functional medicine test. The Organic Acids Test (OAT) is a urine test that looks for markers of fungal and bacterial overgrowth in the gut. This test also checks on nutritional status, detoxification and metabolic functions, and some genetic disorders. We know that imbalances in the gut microbiome are intimately linked with behavioral and neurological symptoms in addition to more obvious digestive health symptoms.

I recommend this test for children with the following symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Eye-poking
  • Obsessive or compulsive behavior
  • Aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Bed-wetting
  • Bowel or urinary issues
  • Yeast infections
  • Eczema, hives, rashes
  • Asthma
  • Frequent strep, ear infections, sinus infections

Food Sensitivity Testing

This is a blood test that measures both IgE histamine reactions (itching, diarrhea, rashes, etc) and IgG immune system responses to 88 different foods.

I recommend food sensitivity testing when you have already done an elimination diet with your child. An elimination diet would remove at least gluten, dairy, eggs, and soy from the diet. Because food sensitivity testing is imperfect and there can be false positives and false negatives, it is important to be able to compare test results with the elimination diet experience.

Food sensitivity testing can be very helpful when there is already a known food allergy, like gluten, as this often predisposes children to other sensitivities. Other risk factors include children with asthma, skin issues, drug allergies, and seasonal allergies.

Common symptoms of food sensitivities:

  • Behavior changes after certain foods (within 48 hours)
  • Stomachaches
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Frequent gas
  • Eczema, hives, rashes
  • Headaches
  • Asthma, cough, sinus infections

If you need guidance for how to take your child through an elimination diet, you may schedule a functional medicine consult and I will design a plan and explain how to implement it.

Pediatric Treatment Options

When it comes to pediatric functional medicine, children are treated differently than adults. Treatment options do include child-safe supplement, vitamin, and herbal options, but are often more focused on dietary and lifestyle changes. Both gut-healing protocols and detox protocols can be incredibly helpful for rebalancing physiology.

Children are exposed to a tremendous onslaught of chemicals early on in life through water, air, food, medication, and vaccines. It often leads to immune system dysfunction which can be remedied with tailored efforts to reduce the total toxic load on the body.

I often recommend working with a somatic-based psychotherapist. This is particularly helpful if parents are in romantic relationship that is dysfunctional as this is so impactful on children. Incorporating mindfulness techniques into parenting and daily routines helps with a plethora of pediatric symptoms as well. These pediatric functional medicine resources are always included in treatment plans when appropriate.


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