Wetting the bed can be an embarrassing issue for children and their parents, but it’s actually very common. “Nocturnal enuresis” or nighttime incontinence (the medical terms for bedwetting) is involuntary urination and it’s estimated that more than 5 million children experience it. Historically, we waited for children to ‘outgrow’ bed wetting, however, the experts say that the psychological implications of waiting years to be ‘dry’, can be very detrimental to a child’s well being.
I have worked with many families to support bed-wetting children however what has struck me recently is how it is often a “taboo” subject. Adults are regularly reluctant to discuss it at the school gates. The parents often present in clinic with a real sense of “shame”. As if somehow, somewhere along the line their parenting skills were lacking and this is the result. The children too are embarrassed and ashamed by this perceived “lack of control” on their part. Sleep overs and school trips that their peers are enjoying for them become complicated and stressful events to be avoided or if absolutely necessary, endured. Family relationships often become strained.
So what to do? Well, the human body is a complicated piece of equipment. There is just no getting away from that so just as a rattle in a car engine may have more than one cause so it can be with bed-wetting. In my experience bed-wetting most usually falls into one of two categories;
1. an emotional response to trauma
2. due to problems in the connection of nerves – In my clinic I’ve noticed that bed wetting as a result of trauma tends to affect both sexes whereas it’s normally boys who present with a delayed physical response to the urinary urge. Why this is I don’t know… However what I do know is that the pituitary gland which is at the base of the brain is designed to produce an anti-diuretic hormone called Vasopressin. This hormone normally releases at night and therefore the body produces less urine. The appropriate nerve signalling between the pituitary gland, the bladder and a part of the brain called the hypothalamus ensures the release of vasopressin as part of the body’s natural body clock and triggers the desire to wake if the bladder becomes full. In some children, this process seems somehow to have gone a bit awry. It would appear that at a crucial period of nerve development the appropriate growth of nerves connecting the hypothalamus to this reflex means that these nerves don’t “talk to each other” as expected.
Now, it may be that your child’s Vasopression production has been tested and you’ve been told all is fine, however, providing the cause isn’t “emotional due to trauma”, in my experience this can be subjective, as sometimes it’s not the amount produced but the way the body responds to it. For example, have you ever made a phone call and you can hear the person at the other end but they can’t hear you? It’s a bit like that. You may have a strong “signal” at one end but not at the other and however much you “shout” the other person can’t hear you…
There can be other “physical” reasons for bed wetting such as chronic constipation, incomplete or infrequent emptying of the bladder during the day and/or a urinary tract infection but I am presuming that a trip to your GP will have already ruled those out.
So, what to do? Well, there are lots of ways to cope “physically” – plastic sheeting on the bed, lifting children onto the loo while they are asleep or using a “sleep alarm”. All, however, are more “coping” rather than “curing” strategies. Some parents cut out all fluids after a certain time, but a “thirsty” child is surely less likely to have a good nights sleep and the impact of that on family life can be just as bad as the bedwetting… but here are a few “alternative” suggestions which I have found effective when working with clients:
Pears – Encourage your youngster to eat more pears. The variety is unimportant. Ideally, 3 small pears a day for 7 days then reduce to 1 a day for at least 6 weeks. Pureeing them can make it that little bit easier, then you can mix it in with other foods or try poaching them until well cooked and deliciously sweet and serve as a dessert.
Cinnamon – try adding liberal amounts to a milky drink after tea and even better sprinkle on their poached pears. As pre-packed powdered cinnamon tends not to be of great quality, buying the quills and powdering yourself can be more effective. Some children are happy to chew on a cinnamon quill/stick.
Chamomile tea – a small serving soon as they get in from school
Red Peppers – encourage your child to eat between 3 and 5 red peppers a week for approximately 6 weeks. Raw or cooked or a mixture of both.
Bach Flower Remedies – such as Cherry Plum, Mimulus and Rock Rose may all help. It does though depend on the reason for the bed-wetting, some remedies are more suited to emotional rather than physical causes.
Essential Oils – some essential oils, well diluted in a warmed carrier oil such as almond or apricot kernel and massaged gently on the abdomen before bed can help.
The biggest change by far I have seen has been from the use of a specific type of Reflexology. How many sessions a child may need depends on the root cause but the results are frequently impressive. Another plus is we often find other “niggling” conditions such as intermittent eczema flare ups and the frequent catching of colds improves as well and better still I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love reflexology! Once we have a handle on it an occasional “top up” is all that is needed and eventually, these too can be phased out. In a session, the child also learns about “magic buttons” they can use, on their hands (that’s reflex points to you and me), to prolong the effect of a treatment, which they often find interesting and fun.
You may have noticed that I haven’t really delved into bed-wetting as an “emotional response to trauma” and by trauma, I don’t necessarily mean “abuse” (sexual or otherwise) although sadly that is sometimes the case. Sometimes though something as joyous as the arrival of a new sibling can be perceived by an infant or child as “trauma” and trigger a response. Hence why the subject is very emotive and takes time, patience and understanding to unravel during sessions, however, post treatment, the results are extremely positive.
So, if you aren’t keen on “waiting it out” until your child “grows out of it” (and unfortunately some don’t until well into their teens) then perhaps why not give the suggestions in this article a try and if you’d like to have a confidential informal chat to learn more about how I may be able to help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Until next time, wishing you oodles of….
Health and Healing